Should you be visiting London and staying in or near the West End, one thing you must do that many tourists don’t – or don’t even realise they can – is visit Waterloo Place. Why? Because this wide street (to be found at the bottom of the world famous shopping destination that’s Regent Street) is teeming with statues and monuments dedicated to the heroes and statesmen of Britain’s past. Quite simply, it’s a treasure trove of UK history in stone.
Established almost two hundred years ago in the 1820s, it was intended asthe final part of ace architectJohn Nash’s triumphal way in the West End and runs south from the intersection of Regent Street and Pall Mall. It was, unsurprisingly, named after the recent 1815 Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon was defeated by the Duke of Wellington.
To its south, Waterloo Place is taken up by the palatial,Doric-colonnadedCarlton House Terraces, overlooking the elegantly beautiful St. James’s Park behind them. These two 140 metre-long buildings were the last Nash designed. The west terrace oncecontained the German embassy and thus its interior was designed by infamous Nazi-sympathising architect Albert Speer. Indeed, outside it can be found the small graveof Giro, the then ambassador’s German shepherd dog (accidentally electrocuted in 1934 from chewing electrical wires), ensuring itsheadstone is London’s only Nazi-era German memorial.
Two further, majestic Georgian buildings can be found at Waterloo Place’s centre, one of which, the Athenaeum, boasts a long frieze inspired by Athens’ gigantic ancient Greek temple, the Parthenon. Indeed, above the building’s portico stands a gilded statue of Athens’ patron goddess, Pallas Athena.
What really makes Waterloo Place stand out in the area, however, is itsadornment ofstunning statues and monuments, the most unmissable being the Duke of York Column. A full 34-metres-tall and built of granite, it’s topped by a statue of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (George’s IV younger brother; immortalised in the rhyme ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’). Built between 1831 and 1834 to a design by Benjamin Dean Wyatt, it’s so tall and magnificentthat it’s undoubtedly reminiscent of the much more famous Nelson’s Column in the similarly commemorative Trafalgar Square.
On Waterloo Place’s north side (and nowon a traffic island) is the Guards’ Crimean War Memorial. This commemoratesthe 2,000-plus soldierscut down during the Crimean War (1854-56). Designed by John Bell, it has been on this site since 1860, before its plinth (topped by an allegorical depiction of ‘Honour’) are several guardsmen cast from melted-down Russiancanons from the war.
In front of this memorial is a statue of Florence Nightingale, whom became world famous thanks to the moniker ‘The Lady with the Lamp’, after her travelling to the Crimea to improve the wounded soldiers’ conditions and her campaigning thereafter to that end. Next to herstatue stands one of Sidney Herbert, whom helped her achieve much of her transformative work.
Elsewhere can be found a statue of Britain’s first twentieth century monarch King Edward VII, built between 1912 and 1921 by the Australian sculptor Bertram Mackennal, while the statue nearest Carlton House Terrace (on the west side) depicts John Fox Burgoyne, a hero of both the Iberian and Crimean Wars. Next to this is a statue of John Franklin, the avid arctic explorer whom tried to discover a route through Canada’s Northwest Passage. He died with the 128 members of his expedition in the effort (tales suggest the final expedition ended so grimly that cannibalism may even have broken out among those whom lasted longest).
The next statue, near the Athenaeum, is ofWorld War One flying ace Keith Park. A New Zealander, he oversawLondon’s aerial defence during World War Two’s Battle of Britain. The youngest of all the statues here, this bronze effort was erected in just 2010. Opposite, is the statue of the tragic national hero Robert Falcon Scott.
Now, if you’ve been splashing the cash during your time in London (even if you’re staying in one of the several budget West End hotels to be found in the area), an alternative morning or afternoon of free sightseeing of the Waterloo Place statueswould be topped off by viewing this one. For Scott was, of course, the British explorer whom, with his party, reached the South Pole in 1912, only to find that his Norwegian counterpart Roald Amundsen had got there first – Scott and his team famously died attempting to return home. The statue was apparently created by his widow Kathleen Scott.
Next to Scott’s memorial is one dedicated to the British Army officer Colin Campbell, whose long and varied career saw him fight in the Peninsula War, the War of 1812, the Opium War, the Anglo-Sikh War and the Crimean War, as well as – most famous of all – ending the siege at Lucknow during the 1857 Indian Mutiny. A decade later, this Carlo Marochetti statue was erected. Finally, next to this statue (and again near Carlton House Terrace) stands one depicting Campbell’s fellow officer John Lawrence, who also served during the Indian Mutiny. It was erected here in 1882, not least because Lawrence went on to become Viceroy of India.