Travel Report: Parliament Square, London.
May 2019. After a fascinating afternoon exploring Westminster Abbey, it was great to finally be back out into the fresh air for a walking route that would take The Fairy and I across Westminster Bridge and its sweeping views across The River Thames and Westminster Palace. I hadn’t factored in a stroll through Parliament Square, so it was a pleasant surprise when we stumbled upon it. The square dates back to the 1860s when it was created by the famed architect Sir Charles Barry, who wanted to spruce up the area around the newly built Houses of Parliament.
May 2019. There are some kooky historical facts about Parliament Square. The city’s first roundabout was constructed here and later on, in 1926, The UK’s first traffic lights were also thrown into the mix. But today the square is famous for its grand political statues, a collection that began with a tribute to former Prime Minster George Canning in 1832. In the one hundred and eighty-seven years that have since passed there’ve been eleven more additions. The above statue is of another former Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, aka Viscount Palmerston. His sculpture was unveiled in 1876.
May 2019. Even though I hadn’t been to Parliament Square before, I instinctively knew there had to be a statue of Sir Winston Churchill and right enough here he was at the northeastern edge of the green. It was unveiled on the 1st of November 1973 by none other than his wife Clementine Churchill. The statue was created by Ivor Roberts-Jones, whose first attempt to capture Winston was roundly rejected because it made him look “too much like Mussolini”.
May 2019. Nelson Mandela joined the Parliament Square party on the 29th of August 2007. His statue was placed at the green’s southwestern edge and was proudly announced by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. This was The Fairy’s favorite statue on the square, chiefly because she’d actually heard of him.
May 2019. Parliament Square’s Mahatma Gandhi Statue came in 2015 with an unveiling ceremony on the 14th of March. Designed by the award-winning Scottish sculptor Philip Jackson, the pose used was based on an actual photograph of the great man stood outside the offices of British Prime Minster Ramsay MacDonald in 1931.
May 2019. The most recent addition to the statues of Parliament Square was that of Millicent Fawcett, a tireless campaigner for women’s rights in the 1890s. Unveiled on the 24th of April 2018, Fawcett is the first woman to feature in the square and the statue’s creator, Gillian Wearing, is the first female sculptor to have contributed. Just a week later, totally unplanned, I found myself walking into a very cool exhibition about the making of the statue at Firstsite Gallery during my visit to Colchester.
Parliament Square’s eastern side is also the location of choice for large scale protests and political rallies. You may also see protestors scattered around the streets running off the square, as we did on our way towards Westminster Bridge. This friendly, softly spoken guy has been here for over a year now and feels his anti-plastic message has become so important he recently went down to part time working hours so that he can put more time into it. He doesn’t shout or try and lure over passersby, but is open to a frank and amiable chat about the terrible damage plastic continues to pose to our planet unless drastic action is taken. For more info, check out Plastic Oceans UK.
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