10 historic stairways in London – 4. The Nelson Stair…

PICTURE: Nick Garrod (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Located in Somerset House, this grand rotunda stairway rises up through the building to the Navy Board Rooms.

The present five storey stair is a replica of what was there up until the original suffered significant damage in The Blitz during World War II. It was rebuilt in the early 1950s under the supervision of Sir Alfred Richardson using original plans which had been kept safe in Sir John Soane’s House in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The architecturally interesting stair, which is located in the South Wing, was originally built in the late 18th century to the designs of Sir William Chambers with each flight a different configuration to the one underneath (the design was apparently made to reflect something of the stairs on ships).

It was initially known as the Navy Stair but renamed the Nelson Stair, ostensibly in honour of the heroic Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson.

It’s not the only historic stair of note in Somerset House. The cube-like Stamp Stair, also located in the South Wing, is so-named for the stamping of newspapers that once took place here. Meanwhile, the Miles Stair, designed by Eva Jiricna Architects and named for Gwyn Miles, former director of the Somerset House Trust, is a stunning contemporary addition featuring a steel-mesh newel and a transparent balustrade.

Somerset House, Strand (nearest Tube stations are Temple and Charing Cross): WHEN: Daily (check website for times); COST: Free (but charges for exhibitions); WEBSITE: www.somersethouse.org.uk.

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