Dinner For 14 On Nelson's Column? It's Been Done

By M@
Dinner For 14 On Nelson's Column? It's Been Done
Nelson's column against a deep blue sky
"Chips? I see no chips." Image: Londonist

The Victorians held a 'rump steak dinner' on the famous landmark.

Supper clubs in unusual places are nothing new. The Victorians had a passion for such things, holding ceremonial dinners in every conceivable location — including inside a Crystal Palace dinosaur (specifically, the iguanodon).

Perhaps the maddest of all, though, took place on 23 October 1843, when FOURTEEN people dined on top of Nelson's Column.

Work on the Trafalgar Square landmark was nearing completion. To toast the success, the 14 men climbed scaffolding up to the lofty perch — then one of the highest points in London. They tucked in to a meal of rump steak, delivered by a pulley system (no waiter being foolhardy enough to make the ascent).

According to press reports, the steaks 'when they arrived at their proud eminence were found to be "piping hot," and appeared to be highly relished by the diners-out "twixt the pale moon and the Earth"'.

The diners also enjoyed a glass or two of champagne — a bold move indeed, given the precipitous drop below them. The party afterwards repaired to the Trafalgar Hotel to continue the celebrations, where we like to imagine banter of the following quality ensued:

"Waiter, waiter... I just climbed up Nelson's column and tucked into a beef steak!"
"Well done!"
"No, it was medium rare."
"Very good, Sir. Did your family join you?"
"No... the steaks were too high."

Most retellings of this story say that the diners were all stonemasons, though this is not stated in the press reports of the time. A skit in Punch suggests that the party may have been a mix of workmen and dignitaries. All we know is that Nelson wasn't among them. The stone admiral remained on the ground and would not be raised to his permanent home for another week.

Whoever they were, the 14 West End beefeaters were every bit as brave as their Tower of London namesakes.

Last Updated 12 February 2023

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