At the start of our Royal Parks walking tour you gaze up at the 18 ft statue of Lord Nelson at the top of his column. A little later as you walk from Trafalgar Square to the Mall through the right hand arch of Admiralty Arch, take a glance up and see if you can spot Nelson’s spare nose.
Why is it there? One legend is that it was put there to mock Napoleon, fixed at a height that allowed cavalry troops to tweak it as they passed under the arch. Another theory is that the nose is a reference to the Duke of Wellington, who was famous for having a very large hooter.
Some believe that the nose was stashed on the arch as a potential spare for the memorial statute of Lord Nelson, as it was feared that damage would occur when hoisted to the top in 1843.
A more recent explanation is that it is one of the Seven Noses of Soho (not that Admiralty Arch is in Soho). The belief is that if you manage to find all seven of the mysterious noses hidden around London’s historic entertainment district you will become fabulously wealthy.
All very nice but all rubbish. The pink proboscis is in fact one of an original 35 put up around central London by artist Rick Buckley in a protest against CCTV cameras.
Buckley made the plaster casts of his own nose and affixed them to important public buildings around London like the National Gallery and Tate Britain in 1997, right “under the nose” (sorry) of all seeing CCTV cameras. He painted them to match the buildings they were affixed to but most were discovered and removed fairly quickly.
Buckley didn’t claim responsibility for the noses until 2011, allowing 14 years for the urban myths to evolve. Ten of the noses survive to this day.
If you’re the nosey type you might like to sniff out the others. Seven remain in Soho: in Covent Garden (Floral Street), Endell Street (High Holborn), Shaftesbury Avenue (near the Trocadero), Great Windmill Street, D’Arblay Street, Meard Street and Bateman Street. Two noses at the Hayward Gallery and on a South Bank walkway also survive.
Look out in Floral Street as the walls have ears. But that’s another story.
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