Life size bronze statue of Lord Admiral Nelson commissioned to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Nelson Statue
I n 2005, a larger than life size bronze of Admiral Lord Nelson, created by the Greenwich sculptor Lesley Pover, became a further addition to the culture of the London riverside.
The work took two years to complete and involved extensive research, as well as the creation of several metre high statues (link to limited edition statues) and a model of the Trafalgar Tavern.
The statue was commissioned for Greenwich by Frank Dowling, an entrepreneur who was passionate about British Naval History. Mr Dowling had seen Lesley’s portrait sculpture of Nelson, (link to photo, a description and info re limited edition) exhibited in The Painted Hall, Greenwich. Subsequently, after seeing a portfolio of her previous work, gave her the commission of a lifetime.
I was given a large studio by Mr Dowling, behind the Trafalgar Tavern and next to the Old Royal Naval College. I had access to Nelson’s life mask and original archives in the Maritime Museum, Greenwich. It was a huge responsibility to honour Nelson, but it was wonderful to create it right in the heart of Greenwich, with my finger on the pulse of an area saturated in Naval History.

Lesley Pover

Unlike the iconic statue in Trafalgar Square, however, this figure is entirely accessible to passers by, being set at ground level. Members of the public can stand beside the nation’s greatest hero to have their photos taken.
It has become a landmark for the millions of tourists who visit Greenwich, a World Heritage Site, each year.

Name of Piece:

  • Lord Admiral Nelson

  • Time Taken:

    • 2 Years from inception

    • Materials used:

      • Bronze

      • On display:

        • Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich

Capturing Nelson

A ten minute film called Capturing Nelson depicts the making of the statue.


In her own words...

Over twenty years ago I was commissioned to create a bronze bust of Nelson . I have to confess to not having been terribly enthusiastic about it; I knew about the Battle of Trafalgar and something about being saved from the French! I thought it wasn’t really a woman’s thing and the commission ought to go to a man, but the moment I began reading some biographies I was hooked. The portrait I created was introspective and tender: Nelson alone in his cabin perhaps, writing one of his dispatches whilst enduring the pain of healing one of his many wounds.
As there was a limited edition on the piece I approached the Royal Naval College in Greenwich and asked if they might exhibit a copy for me. They put it on exhibition in The Painted Hall and over the years I sold several copies. I later donated the bronze/resin cast to the College for their enthusiasm to exhibit it.

In 2003, an American property developer in Greenwich and passionate collector of antiquities bought two copies in bronze of this portrait and began to discuss with me the possibility of a life size statue. You know in your heart that moment when every part of you knows that you were born to do this. I was given the go ahead and began my research anew, this time going to the source by using the life mask and Nelson’s dispatches. I fell more deeply in love and was utterly captivated by the innate nobility and generous hearted qualities of the young Horatio and then awed by the single pointed focus of Nelson in battle, which make his letters and dispatches brilliant reading. For me he epitomises the archetypal warrior who has moved beyond personal greed or self interest and lives a life which he is, ultimately, always ready to sacrifice. Despite his desire for glory and a passionate love affair he was unable to resist, he knew he was in service to something far greater than personal desires. Nelson touched my heart in a way that is inexplicable. I felt I had to dive to the bottom of the ocean to find him and finding him strove to put it all in my work. After three preliminary studies, the final life size sculpture took me 6 months. It was a very lonely, sometimes painful process; part of a way of being for artists it seems...

Nicholas Audsley filmed me once in the studio in the early stages of that period. I never saw what he had created until the clay original was complete. His exquisite camera work and editing made me want to produce a film with him to document the process using his empathetic and visionary technique.
During the first year of research and preliminary maquettes, I could not find anyone to model for me who remotely had a Nelson ‘feel’. I was desperate to begin and Nicholas, as a young actor, was free, so I thought just to get the twists and turns in the body would be useful. I work intuitively, and follow any symbols which seem to float to the surface of my consciousness. Whilst working I kept thinking of Achilles and on mentioning it Nicholas immediately recounted the myth and said it had made a strong impact on him as a child. So, by accident I had found my first warrior. (I was later told that apparently the second statue to be placed on a column in London was Achilles).

Preliminary study in Herculite - Achilles

It was time to work on Nelson in full naval uniform and I was still struggling to find a suitable model. Nicholas’s younger brother Charlie had modelled for me four years previously and now 16 was free during the summer holidays. I realised I wasn’t going to find a ‘Nelson’ and that perhaps I had to do it by collating several studies. Charlie turned up to go to Angels Costumiers to hire the costume. I had not seen him in four years and when I opened the door, there was a young Nelson standing before me! Charlie himself was quite stunned when I quickly showed him the look alike portrait of him in a Nelson book.

At the costumiers there wasn’t a coat available that fit but even wearing rather baggy period garments Charlie looked very comfortable in period costume. I told the costume assistant of the project and he remarked how lucky I was to have found a Nelson lookalike. Two years on we rehired the costume for the filming; Charlie now with long hair tied back and looking every inch a noble youth, the costume fit as if tailor made.


Preliminary study in Herculite - Charlie

On the final day at the studio, when the mould makers had finished the mould, we left a now battle worn clay Nelson and went next door to the Trafalgar Tavern to have lunch (my client owns the Trafalgar and had kindly given me a temporary studio in the outhouses next to it.).
During the two years of working I always kept a print of Turner’s exquisite painting, The Fighting Temeraire beside me. In it the Temeraire is being towed away by a small black tug to be scrapped. The ship appears to be made of gold catching the reflection of the sunset, the sky a fusion of setting sun and rising moon, a symbol of unity and self realisation. The Trafalgar Tavern is a beautiful building with large bay windows looking out onto the river. Finishing lunch we heard an enormous ship’s blast. Looking out we saw a small black tug pulling a battleship, called Enlightenment; more Nelson magic...