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WALKS IN LONDON
TRAFALGAR SQUARE AND THE NATIONAL GALLERY.
TET us find ourselves again at Charing Cross, which forms the
U south-eastern angle of Trafalgar Square, a dreary expanse of granite with two granite fountains, intended to commemorate the last victory of Nelson. Its northern side is occupied by the miserable buildings of the National Gallery ; its eastern and western sides by a hideous hotel and a frightful club. Where the noble Jacobean screen of Northumberland House (on a site admirably adapted for a National Portrait Gallery) once drew the eye away from these abominations by its dignity and beauty, the vulgar and shapeless buildings of the Grand Hotel form a poor substitute for the time. honoured palace of the Percys! In the centre of the square is a Corinthian pillar of Devonshire granite, 145 feet in height, by W. Railton, erected in 1843. It supports a statue of Nelson by E. H. Baily, R. A., a very poor work, which, however, does not much signify, as it can only be properly seen from the top of the Duke of York's column, which no one ascends. The pedestal of the column is decorated by reliefs.
North. The battle of the Nile, by Woodington.
East. The bombardment of Copenhagen, by Ternouth. The noble lions at the foot of the column were added by Sir E. Landseer in 1867. Only one of them was modelled : a slight variation in the treatment adapted the others to their pedestals. Their chief grandeur lies in their mighty simplicity.
Just behind the Nelson column is a fine statue by Hamo Thornycroft to General Gordon, killed at Khartoum, 26th January 1885. The right panel of the pedestal represents Fortitude and Faith, the left, Charity and Justice. The statue, erected in 1888, is out of scale with the neighbouring figures, but is a work of art.
At the south-west angle of the square is a statue of Sir C. J. Napier by Adams ; at the south-east angle a statue of Sir Henry Havelock by Behnes. On a pedestal at the north-east corner is an
equestrian statue of George IV. by "Chantrey, intended to surmount the Marble Arch when it stood in front of Buckingham Palace. The corresponding pedestal on the north-west is vacant, and likely to remain so : there has never been a pendent to George IV.
On the east side of Trafalgar Square is its one ornament. Here, on a noble basement, approached by a broad flight of steps, rises the beautiful portico of the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. It is the masterpiece of Gibbs, the best church of its class (1721-26), and the only perfect example of a Grecian portico in London. The regular rectangular plan on which Trafalgar Square was first laid out was abandoned simply to bring it into view ; yet, in 1877, the Metropolitan Board of Works, for the sake of giving uniformity to a new street, seriously contemplated the destruction of the well
graded basement to which it owes all its beauty of proportion, and which is one of the chief features of a Greek portico. However, Parliament happily interfered, and the portico survives.
Beautiful for situation, elegant in proportion, and perfect in construction, it is precisely the kind of building that the angle of Trafalgar Square requires. It is thoroughly in its place, is in harmony with all its surroundings, and lends more grace than it receives to the finest site in Europe.” From whatever point it is seen, it impresses the beholder as a work of art, impelling him to draw nearer and examine it in detail, and unlike many other architectural structures, it does not disappoint upon examination.'—Morning Post, Feb. 1877.
The building of St Martin's is commemorated in the lines of Savage
O Gibbs! whose art the solemn fane can raise,
1 An effort is still (1894) being made to effect this injury to London.