The statue of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson in Barbados was unveiled in Bridgetown on 22nd March 1813. It was sculpted from bronze by Sir Richard Westmacott. It is considered an excellent likeness of the British Admiral.
Very soon after his victory and subsequent death at Cape Trafalgar in 1805, plans were made in Barbados to honour Horatio Nelson’s memory.
His popularity came because Bajan planters and merchants were very grateful and relieved not to become a French West Indian colony, which would have been the alternative if Admiral Horatio Nelson had not gained victory for the British off Cape Trafalgar on the southern coast of Spain. This battle was the most decisive naval victory of the wars, ensuring British naval supremacy during the rest of the Napoleon Wars. It was also important for trade routes from Britain to Barbados.
The Battle of Trafalgar was fought on 21st October 1805, and was considered the most famous naval battle in history, and was where the Royal Navy led by Admiral Nelson devastated Napoleon’s combined Spanish and French fleet.
To show appreciation, a memorial service was held on 5th January 1806 at the St. Michael’s Parish Church (now St. Michael’s Cathedral), and within days Bajans were raising funds for a memorial statue. They then purchased the statue and land, naming it Trafalgar Square, paying tribute to the Admiral by erecting the statue.
For many years after, wreaths were laid at the statue on the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (21st October).
The Barbados statue of Nelson pre-dates Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London by nearly 30 years.
Bajans proudly believed they were the first to put up such a monument to commemorate Nelson. They were in fact the fourth, after Dublin (1809), Montreal (1809) and Birmingham – Bull Ring (1809) which was also sculpted by Sir Richard Westmacott, Bridgetown (1813) and finally London (1843).
Since the 1990s Nelson’s statue has been targeted for removal by successive Barbados administrations, because it is said that Nelson did not like Barbados and that he supported the slave trade upon which Barbados’ plantation economy was based.
Trafalgar Square in Bridgetown was renamed National Heroes Square in April 1999. Since then the major changes have been the ceasing of the traditional wreath laying on the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (21st October) and the change of direction in which Nelson now faces.
On 29th November 2017, on the eve of independence celebrations, activists splashed paint on the Nelson and added a sign in front of the statue that read: “Nelson Will Fall. This racist, white supremist, who would rather die than see black people free, stands proudly in our nation’s capital. Nelson must go!! Fear not Barbados. The people have spoken. Politicians have failed us! Happy Independence”
In late May and June 2020 following the lead in the USA of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and in the UK where the the statue of Edward Colston was toppled in Bristol and then symbolically tossed into the harbour, local Bajan activists renewed their call for the government to remove Nelson’s statue. On 20th July 2020 the Barbados Government announced its intention to relocate Nelson.
Nelson’s statue was removed from National Heroes Square in Bridgetown on Monday 16th November 2020 (International Day of Tolerance) and put into storage – probably never to be seen again!
The removal of Nelson is Barbados’ latest symbolic break with its colonial past and comes two months after the Government of Barbados announced plans to replace Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state and and for the island to become the Republic of Barbados sometime before the country’s 55th anniversary of its independence on 30th November 2021. What will be removed next…
The building of Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square, began on 30th September 1840 and completed in 1843. The 56m (171 feet) high column is made from granite and features acanthus leaves, cast from British cannons at the top. At the very top stands a 5.5m (18 feet) statue of Nelson
The erection of this monument to Britain’s greatest Naval commander was the source of much delay and politicking. Originally conceived as a bronze statue the publicly subscribed fund could not afford this and so it was made of solid granite quarried from the estate of then Duke of Buccleuch, in Scotland.
The designer of this monument was a Mr William Railton and the sculptor a Mr E H Bailey. The four bronze lions on the base were added in 1867 and were designed by Sir Edwin Landseer.
The pedestal is decorated with four bronze relief panels, each 18 feet (5.5 m) square, cast from captured French guns. They depict the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, the Battle of the Nile, the Battle of Copenhagen and the Death of Nelson at Trafalgar. The sculptors were Musgrave Watson, William F Woodington, John Ternouth and John Edward Carew respectively.