French Cannons as Street Bollards
by Ben Johnson
After the defeat of the French at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the British started to strip the French boats and reuse anything of value. When it came to the cannons however, it was found that they were too large to be retrofitted onto British ships. Determined to find a way to flaunt their victory over the French, the British decided instead to use them as street bollards throughout the East End of London.
This idea proved so popular that after the original cannons had all been used, replicas were made and these started to adorn more and more London streets. They continue to be made today, with their distinctive shape being an iconic feature of London’s streets.
Although most of the original cannon-bollards have been replaced over the years, a few still remain. The photo above (and the marking on the map) show an original French cannon from the Battle of Trafalgar; it is located on the South Bank near to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Update: Thanks to Dr Martin Evans who has contacted us with some interesting research surrounding the history and myth of the Trafalgar cannons. For more information, head over to Martin’s essay and scroll down to the chapter on the “Trafalgar Question”.