UK
06/12/2013 06:50 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Nelson Mandela: Crowds And Tributes Outside South Africa House, London (PICTURES)

The paving stones outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square were once worn down by the many feet of anti-apartheid protests, who came every week to voice their anger at the racist regime.

Now, the stones are hidden beneath flowers, framed images and draped in flags, as dozens came to pay their respects to the man whose freedom marked the end of that era.

The building was the focus of widespread anger and disgust at the apartheid regime during Nelson Mandela's imprisonment, and especially in the late 80s when the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group, formed by Norma Kitson, an exiled ANC member, maintained a non-stop picket for four years.

The Embassy repeatedly attempted to get police to remove the demonstrators, and were banned for nearly two months for splashing red paint across the pavement in front of the embassy. But so many defied the ban, the police eventually allowed the demonstrators back.

On Friday nights, musicians often gathered there to play freedom songs in solidarity with Mandela, a prisoner on Robben Island.

Last night, a small group, including Lungi Morrison, the granddaughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, came together to light candles and sing the old songs of struggle there, when the news of Nelson Mandela's death reached London.

And today, more crowds gathered there to sing, lay garlands and pay their respect outside the South Africa House.

trafalgar square mandela

Floral tributes outside South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, central London

They wore scarves in black, yellow, green, black and blue, with some heard crying "Long live the spirit of Nelson Mandela" and "Viva Mandela" as they placed their tributes down.

Joan Foster, 51 left a bunch of flowers and said she could "be here all day" explaining why she felt like she had to do so. "It's amazing how one person made so much change. How many people could say they made a nation change the way they think?"

Photo galleryThe UK Mourns Over Nelson Mandela See Gallery

Foster said she remembered watching his release from prison on television. "The excitement was killing me," she said.

Hugh Sinclair, 54, from Germany, broke down in tears as he spoke about Mandela after leaving flowers, calling him an example to the world of how "humans should be".

"I felt very, very emotional because I'd been to Zimbabwe and I'd been to South Africa when it was under apartheid and I remember how the non-whites suffered. It was an enormous relief for so many people. He is one of the truly great leaders, and I feel very thankful that we have him."

The statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square was a place for quiet reflection, with notes and flowers left by the statue's feet. one read: ''Thank you for the sacrifices you made for all of us.''

A second read: ''May God shine light on your homecoming in heaven. Rest in Peace Mr Mandela.''

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David Cameron was the first to sign a book of condolence at South Africa House in London. He wrote: "Your cause of fighting for freedom and against discrimination, your struggle for justice, your triumph against adversity - these things will inspire generations to come.

"And through all of this, your generosity, compassion and profound sense of forgiveness have given us all lessons to learn and live by."

He ended his message with a quote: "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God."