We care for some of the capital's finest statues and monuments, honouring famous people throughout history, as well as for some outstanding 20th-century London war memorials.
You can find statues and monuments we care for all over central London. The oldest, a splendid bronze statue of King Charles I on horseback by the great sculptor Hubert Le Sueur, has faced down Whitehall towards the site of the king's execution since 1675. Other statues in our collection commemorate monarchs from James II to Edward VII.
Magnificently sited near his London home, Apsley House, mighty Wellington Arch and an equestrian statue both honour the 'Iron Duke' of Wellington, greatest of all Britain's military heroes. Statues of famous soldiers of Britain's Victorian wars include General Gordon of Khartoum and Colin Campbell who commanded the 'thin red line' at Balaclava in the Crimea, where Florence Nightingale first came to fame. Her statue stands by the Guards Crimea Memorial, cast in bronze from Russian cannon taken at Sebastopol, in Waterloo Place.
Other statues recall more peaceful achievements: there are explorers from Christopher Columbus to Captain Scott of the Antarctic, sculpted by his widow Kathleen, and a column on the Thames Embankment remembers Samuel Plimsoll, whose 'Plimsoll line' preventing the dangerous overloading of ships brought greater safety to mariners.
Nearly a third of the London monuments in our collection remember aspects of the two 20th century World Wars. The Belgian War Memorial, also called the Belgian Gratitude Memorial, gives thanks for British help to Belgian refugees in 1914-18, and the statue of Lord Haig, British Commander-in Chief, is counterpointed by the memorial to Nurse Edith Cavell, shot for helping allied prisoners of war to escape. It is inscribed with her words, 'Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone', added at the request of the National Council of Women.
Eight statues honour great individuals of the Second World War. Harris, Portal and Trenchard of the RAF; Generals Alanbrooke, Montgomery and Slim; and allied commanders De Gaulle and Eisenhower. But far more are commemorated by our two outstanding London war memorials. The Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner remembers nearly 50,000 artillerymen killed in 1914-18: topped by a great stone howitzer and including the cape-covered figure of a dead soldier, its realism made it at first highly controversial. So was the nearby Machine Gun Corps Memorial, though also designed by a sculptor who had himself served in the trenches: depicting the boy David holding Goliath's sword, it recalls the nearly 30% casualties suffered by the corps.
But much the most famous of all our London memorials is the simple, moving and dignified Cenotaph, meaning 'empty tomb', from the symbolic casket which surmounts it. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, its prototype was a temporary wood and plaster structure hurriedly erected for the London Victory Parade in 1919. It was immediately afterwards rebuilt in stone, later becoming the primary monument to the British and Commonwealth dead of both World Wars and to British dead in subsequent conflicts. It remains the national focus of Remembrance ceremonies today.