When, like me, you come from Portsmouth, an historic naval city, you are reared on stories of naval valour and victory – and they don’t come much more heroic than the story of Lord Horatio Nelson and his memorable victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. As such, when you come up to London on a day trip, a Portsmuthian has to visit Trafalgar Square, if only to pay homage to the hero himself, high up there on his column.
Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square is one of London’s most visited tourist sites. The monument was constructed between 1840 – 1843 from Dartmoor granite and was designed by William Railton. The sandstone statue of Lord Nelson is by E H Baily and the four bronze lions on the base, added in 1867, were designed by Sir Edwin Landseer.
It is not, however, the only column in the UK built to commemorate Lord Nelson. It is a relatively unknown fact that Portsmouth has its own Nelson’s Column although sadly, it is not as well visited as its London counterpart.
On the top of Portsdown Hill, looking out over Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, now home to his flagship, HMS Victory, stands a more restrained statue of the hero. The Nelson Monument as it is known was constructed in 1807 to a design by John Thomas Groves. It is modelled on a style of architecture from Ethiopia rather than from classic Rome and was paid for in its entirety by the Royal Navy. It is situated at a very specific point on the hill where it could act as a seamark for vessels entering Portsmouth Harbour. More interesting perhaps if you don’t sail – standing side by side with Nelson, you can avail yourself of one of the best views of a city I have ever seen.
Regarding access, there’s a small lay-by near the monument where you can park or alternatively, there is a larger car park opposite the nearby Fort Nelson which incidentally, is well worth a visit too.