Britain has a long maritime tradition and London, as its major port, is a focus of that. It’s still a surprise, however, to see in what unexpected places a ship might turn up. Keep your eyes open and you never know what you’ll spot in London, shipmates.

Any comments - or a suggestion for a London secret? Please e-mail me.

Ship Ahoy! 1 2

The Helmsman

This sculpture is by Andre Wallace who specialises in large outdoor works, many with a journey or navigation theme. Unveiled in 1996, it was chosen by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, councillors and local residents in a competition between five artists and ‘refers to the maritime history of the area’.

Pimlico Gardens SW1
Tube: Pimlico

Bush House

The most expensive building in the world when it opened in 1929, having cost £2m ($10m), the sculptures here are notably good. Although long linked to the BBC, it was built as a world trade centre for US businessman Irving T Bush by US architect Harvey W Corbett. It had the first self service cafeteria in London.

Aldwych WC2
Tube: Temple

Swaziland High Commission

Strange that this tiny land-locked African nation should have a ship outside its representative’s office near Buckingham Palace. The building is called Ship House and the name, and the emblem, obviously predate the occupants. Siyinqaba!

20 Buckingham Gate SW1
Tube: Victoria/St James’s Park

The Mall

Nelson, on his column in Trafalgar Square, is actually surveying his fleet. He’s looking to the Mall, where each lamppost bears the effigy of a galleon. Some say each is a different ship in his fleet, from HMS Victory to the smallest: 64-gun Agamemnon, Polyphemus and Africa, but they all look identical to me.

The Mall SW1
Tube: Charing Cross

St Nicholas Flats

This block is part of Sidney Estate which was built by St Pancras Housing Association in the early 1930s as cheap housing in Somerstown after slum clearances. St Nicholas, besides being Santa Claus, is also the the patron saint of sailors, which explains this small fleet of ships adrift in a hidden corner of Camden.

Aldenham Street NW1
Tube: Euston

Trinity House Almshouses

The almshouses were built by Trinity House in 1695 for '28 decayed Masters and Commanders of Ships, or the widows of such'. The ships are copies of the 17th century originals, marble models of 42-gun Navy warships, which are now in the Museum of London in the Barbican.

Trinity Green, Whitechapel Rd E1
Tube: Whitechapel Road

125 Pall Mall

This ship sits atop a globe and is a weathervane with a mechanism that connects to the inside to show what direction the wind is blowing.  In 1767, this was the home of the auction firm Christies, established by ex-navy man James Christie, so that might be the nautical connection to this building.

125 Pall Mall SW1
Tube: Charing Cross

Two Temple Place

A beaten copper wind-vane of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria tops this ornate office building. William Waldorf Astor gave architect John Loughborough Pearson a blank cheque to create this beautiful structure in 1895. Look for the two cherubs on the phone at the front door.

Temple Place W2
Tube: Temple