Statue of Horatio Nelson at the Bullring

Following the visit of Horatio Nelson to Birmingham in 1802, and his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805, Birmingham got a statue of him in 1809 by Richard Westmacott.

Public art: Statue of Horatio Lord Nelson

Designer: Richard Westmacott

This bronze first publicly funded statue was made in 1809 following Nelson’s visit in 1802.

Where? St Martin in the Bull Ring.

Horatio NelsonPhotography by Daniel Sturley


Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, KB (1758 - 1805)

Sculpture by Sir Richard Westmacott (1775 - 1856)

Horatio Nelson was born in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk. He joined the Navy at the age of 12, and became a captain at the age of 20. 

When Britain entered the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, Nelson served in the Mediterranean. He helped capture Corscia and saw battle at Calvi, where he lost the sight of his right eye. He would later lose his right arm at Santa Cruz de Tenerife (1797).

As a commander he was known for boldness and for occasionally disregarding his superiors. This brought him victories at Cape Vincent in 1797 and at Copenhagen four years later, where he ignored orders to cease action by putting his telescope to his blind eye and claiming he couldn't see the signal.

At the Battle of the Nile (1898) he destroyed Napoleon's fleet, thwarting his bid for an overland trade route to India. Promoted Vice Admiral in 1801, his most famous victory at Cape Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 saved Britain from invasion.

Nelson was killed at his hour of triumph by a French sniper's bullet, depriving Britain of a national hero: a complex leader who balanced a personal longing for honour and glory with compassion and respect for his men.

Nelson visited Birmingham in 1802 and was feted wherever he went.


He stayed at the Styles' Hotel on Temple Row (later the Royal Hotel) in August 1802. This is now the site of the House of Fraser (previously Rackhams). The Birmingham Civic Society unveiled this blue plaque on the Trafalgar Bi-Centenary in 2005. The plaque is on the wall of NatWest (the bank closed in September 2022).

Horatio NelsonHoratio Nelson blue plaque on Temple Row (September 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown


Unveiled on 25th October 1809, Sir Richard Westmacott's statue was the first figurative memorial to Nelson in the United Kingdom. The £2,400 required to pay for the monument was raised within six months, mainly in the form of small donations from working-class people.

NelsonStatue of Horatio Nelson at the Bullring (April 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown


Nelson stands in a uniform with one arm resting on an anchor with the prow of a miniature ship: HMS Victory.

NelsonStatue of Horatio Nelson at the Bullring (August 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown


Upon the ship is the Flag Staff Truck of the French ship Orient (1791), flagship of the French fleet sunk at the Battle of the Nile.

NelsonStatue of Horatio Nelson at the Bullring (August 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown


The statue was originally erected on the site of the Old Cross, a two storey building, built in 1703 and demolished in 1784.

Horatio Nelson1940P901. Drawing - The Bull Ring & Nelson Statue, Birmingham, 1845. Attributed to: Thomas Allom (Previously attributed to David Cox). Birmingham Museums Trust, Public Domain


The Bull Ring in the 1830s, with the Nelson monument facing St Martin's Church.

Nelson1942F83 Japanned Tray - View of the Bull Ring, High Street, Birmingham, 1830-40. By: Thomas Hollins. Birmingham Museums Trust, Public Domain


It stood outside of the Market Hall (opened nearby in 1835, roof and interior destroyed during WW2 in 1940, exterior walls demolished in 1963).

Horatio NelsonPublic Domain image of the Nelson statue at the Bull Ring, next to the Market Hall with the original plinth, lanterns and cannons, c. 1898. Unknown photographer


It has been Grade II* listed since 25th April 1952.

The statue was moved in 1961 during the first redevelopment of the Bull Ring and a carved plinth, cannon and lanterns were lost.

The 2003 redevelopment returned the statue close to it's original location north of St Martin's Church.

Nelson now again looks over St Martin in the Bullring.

The railings were replaced in 2005 in time for the Trafalgar Bicentenary celebrations which was centred on the statue.

In 2009 to mark the 200th anniversary of the statue's unveiling, a medal was struck by St Paul's Mint of Birmingham.

Horatio NelsonStatue of Horatio Nelson at the Bullring (August 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown


As of 2022, the statue is 213 years old, making it one of the oldest surviving statues to still be on public display in Birmingham.

NelsonStatue of Horatio Nelson at the Bullring (September 2022). Photography by Elliott Brown


Bull Ring and Nelson - 19th to 21st century comparison

There has been a lot of change in the last 200 years, with a lot of redevelopments at the Bull Ring. The Horatio Nelson statue was moved at least twice, during the 1960s and 2000s redevelopments.

Nelson1940P901Bull Ring, Nelson statue, 1845 by Thomas Allom. Birmingham Museums Trust, Public Domain. Modern Nelson Bullring photo by Elliott Brown in 2009.


Reverse view of the Horatio Nelson statue towards St Martin in the Bullring. Clearly the statue is now on an upper level, than it was 200 years ago.

Nelson1942F83. Bull Ring, High Street, 1830-40 by Thomas Hollins. Birmingham Museums Trust, Public Domain. Modern view to St Martin in the Bullring by Elliott Brown in 2021.


Birmingham commemorated Nelson before London

The statue of Horatio Nelson was unveiled at the Bull Ring in 1809, around 4 years after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson's Column was built between 1840 and 1843 in London's Trafalgar Square. Meaning the statue in Birmingham is at least 34 years older.

Horatio NelsonNelson's Column, London and Birmignham's statue of Horatio Nelson in 2009. Photography by Elliott Brown

Project dates

26 Sep 2022 - On-going


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