OCTOBER 21: it was my son William who reminded me. We saluted in honour of Trafalgar Day, and then I pointed the Boris bike towards Bond Street. On November 3, Bonhams will auction architect William Railton’s model of Nelson’s Column. It is a splendid object, made, not of plaster, but Bath stone, and reaching to my shoulder.
In 1805, foundry workers hauled a monolith into place at Taynuilt in Scotland they had cast some of the fleet’s cannons; in 1813, a statue to Nelson was erected in Bridgetown, Barbados (in what is now National Heroes’ Square, Nelson rubbing shoulders with Sir Garfield Sobers).
The column, often taken to be the centre of London, wasn’t finished until 1867; still, it was worth waiting for, and would become perhaps the most famous monument to a commoner in the world.
By the time work was completed, however, the subscription money had run out. The government took the project over, but-is there nothing new? imposed cuts. Nelson stands 30ft lower than Railton had intended. National pride, official parsimony what a story the model tells. Isn’t there a benefactor who could buy it for the National Portrait Gallery (the estimate is a paltry £30,000-£50,000)? I’d place it outside the attic restaurant, from which Nelson’s statue can be seen.