I know you are wondering: yes, he is THAT Earl Grey, of tea fame. But oh, he was so, so much more.

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, KG, PC (13 March 1764 – 17 July 1845) was a member of the Whig Party and a long-time leader of several reform movements, most famously the Reform Act 1832, which introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system of England and Wales. As Prime Minister, in 1833 he oversaw the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. He was also instrumental in the passage of the 1833 Factory Act, which improved conditions for children working in factories, and the 1834 Poor Law, in retrospect, a regressive Benthamite “reform” which ordered that alms be only distributed in workhouses. He resigned over the issue of the religious emancipation of Ireland, which he favored.

The column was designed by Edward Hodges Baily, who also sculpted Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. It stands 134 feet tall. It was supposed to be 150 feet tall, but the subscriptions collected did not cover the last 16 feet. A spiral staircase leads to a viewing platform at the top of the monument, which is occasionally opened to the public.

In 1941 lightening struck the monument and the head fell onto the tramline below. The head was re-sculpted and replaced after World War II, in 1947.

The inscription engraved on the front reads: This column was erected in 1838 to commemorate the services rendered to this country by Charles, Earl Grey, K.G. who, during an active political career of nearly half a century was the constant advocate of peace and the fearless and consistent champion of civil and religious liberty. He first dedicated his effort to the amendment of the representation of the people in 1792, and was the minister by whose advice, and under whose guidance, the great measure of parliamentary reform was, after an arduous and protracted struggle safely and triumphantly achieved in the year 1832. The inscription engraved on the back reads: After a century of civil peace, the people renew their gratitude to the author of the great reform bill.
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