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Parliament Square was first constructed by Charles Barry in 1868, and despite its name (the 'square' part), became the first modern day roundabout in 1926. It sits flanked by Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, St Margaret's Church, the imposing Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court and numerous government offices.
Next time you’re in London and you decide to take a photo in front of that famous red telephone box that sits in the shadow of Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower), look to your right and you will see Parliament Square. Take a little time to be among some great leaders and men whose monuments are scattered around this famous square. Here’s a little history you can indulge in first.
Parliament Square will never be the same to you again!
Sir Winston Churchill
Starting in front of Big Ben, you'll find one of my favourite statues, the robust figure of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), draped in an overcoat, with stick in hand. He first took his seat in Parliament in 1900, this is where he took his oath to Queen Victoria and resigned in 1964 under Queen Elizabeth II. He served in the Cabinet during two world wars and guided Britain through its darkest hours in WWII as Prime Minister. Statue, by Ivor Roberts-Jones was due to be unveiled by the Queen in 1973, but when it came to it, she let Churchill's widow, Clementine do the honours.
David Lloyd George
Next up is Welsh MP David Lloyd George (1863-1945) who was Prime Minister from 1916-1922. It's by Glynn Williams and with Lloyd George's coat billowing and his hat held in his right hand, it seems incredibly modern and dynamic. This could be because in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty new, unveiled by Prince Charles in 2007, and true to form, he is standing on a plinth made of Welsh slate.
Jan Christian Smuts
After passing the statue of David Lloyd George you will come across a statue of a man who looks like he has been caught in the midst of ice skating. The likely-hood of this being the case is minimal as it shows Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts (1870-1950) who was the South African Prime Minister during WWII. Aside from being the only person to sign the peace treaties ending both the First and Second World Wars, Smuts has the dubious distinction of being responsible for the introduction of Apartheid to South Africa. Similar to his Welsh neighbour, he stands on a plinth made of South African granite.
Henry John Temple
Moving on from Smuts, we delve back in time to a statue that was erected in 1876 by Thomas Woolner. It is of former Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmeston (1784-1865). Lord Palmerston became enormously popular thanks to his assertive and ‘manly’ foreign policy which proclaimed Britain’s values as a model for the world to follow. He served in government for 46 years. Nicknamed 'Pam', he was by all accounts a bit of a ladies' man, and died two days before his 82nd birthday. Apparently his last words were "Die, my dear doctor? That's the last thing I shall do!".
Moving to the left, you'll find Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley, otherwise known as the 14th Earl of Derby (1799-1869) who became the first person to hold the position of Prime Minister three times and is still to this day, the longest serving leader of the Conservative party. He also helped to abolish slavery and interestingly, the statue was unveiled by Benjamin Disraeli in 1874. Disraeli is now his next door neighbour in the square. There are four reliefs around the plinth, which depict various important moments in Derby's career.
Earl of Derby by Matthew Noble
Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-81) was Prime Minister twice and a favourite of Queen Victoria. The statue is generally regarded as being an incredibly good likeness, which is perhaps not surprising seeing as the sculptor, Mario Raggi had made his bust from life, shortly before Disraeli died.
Sir Robert Peel
Next up we have Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), resplendent in a pair of incredibly tight trousers; a man, who many people forget served twice as Prime Minister. The main reason for this is that he is predominantly associated with formulating the first united police force in 1829, which is also why policemen and women today are still known in the UK as 'Bobbies'. Bob, being short for Robert of course ... in case you didn't known that. Peel became Prime Minister after Lord Melbourne under the reign of a very young Queen Victoria.
By Ian Walters
This is a man who needs no introduction, it is of course Nelson Mandela who was born in 1918 and former president of South Africa. The statue was apparently originally intended to be situated outside South Africa house by Trafalgar Square, but was erected in its current position in 2007. Mandela was there himself for the unveiling, no doubt wearing a similar floral shirt to that worn by his statue.
A bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled March 2015 at the Parliament Square, standing adjacent to iconic leaders like Britain’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. The statue was unveiled jointly by England Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian finance minister, Shri Arun Jaitley in a ceremony which also involved Gandhi's grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Born on 2 October 1869 he undertook a number of hunger strikes to protest against the oppression of India’s poorest classes. He was assassinated on 30 January 1948.
Outside the inner main square along the edges
Despite the Roman robes, Canning died in 1827, aged 57. This statue of 1832, by Richard Westmacott, was the first in Parliament Square. As an MP, Canning made his reputation as an orator in speeches against the slave trade. In 1809, he was wounded in a duel with fellow cabinet member Viscount Castlereagh.
Visitors to Parliament Square sometimes wonder why this Lincoln statue came to be placed there. Created by Irish-born sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, it's a full-size replica of his acclaimed original in Chicago's Lincoln Park.
This copy - a last-minute replacement for one by George Barnard (now in Manchester) - was presented to Britain by America in 1920 to mark 100 years of peace between the English-speaking peoples.
There are two more statues to mention: not quite within Parliament Square, the first is of Oliver Cromwell just about facing onto the square from within the railings of the Houses of Parliament. The second is of Richard the Lionheart resplendently displayed in Old Palace Yard, or the courtyard, in front of the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament).
Hamo Thornycroft’s work of 1899 shows Cromwell ‘warts and all’ and is famous for having its spurs on upside down. Wearing his Ironsides cavalry uniform, one hand is on his sword, the other holds a Bible of 1641. A leading light in the Civil War in 1640, Cromwell was made Lord Protector after the beheading of King Charles I.
Richard the Lionheart
King Richard I spent most of his reign away Crusading but was still popular at home. This statue by Carlo Marocchetti was first displayed in clay for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and a bronze copy was made in 1860 to be displayed in front of the Palace of Westminster, where it has remained ever since. The sword (now repaired) was bent by a WWII bomb.