Six Reasons NOT To Rebuild The Euston Arch

By M@ Last edited 21 months ago
Six Reasons NOT To Rebuild The Euston Arch


Sir David Higgins' High Speed 2 report included a headline-grabbing detail: a rebuilt Euston Arch. The early-Victorian landmark was famously destroyed in the 1960s despite a fierce campaign from national treasures like John Betjeman. Now it could be rebuilt, using the original stones.

Press and public attention was wholly positive, with nobody stopping to question whether there's any merit in spending money on resurrecting the arch. Just to be contrary iconoclasts, here are some reasons to leave it well alone.

It's pig-ugly

Just look at it. Brutish and overbearing, with chunky entablature that was out-moded in Roman times. It can't even be bothered to present a full set of matching columns to the world. Loser.

It's not even an arch

Our dictionary defines an arch as a 'curved supporting structure'. Is it curved? No. Is it supporting anything? Yes, but only its own preposterous bulk.

Was it ever really liked?

  • "Gigantic and very absurd", an 1851 tourist guide to the Great Exhibition, quoted here.
  • "A Brobdignaggian absurdity", Augustus Pugin, 1850s.
  • "[A] sepulchral prison-like portico", George Lynch, 1902
  • "A rather gloomy portal", The Advertiser, 1939
  • "It might have looked alright in Queen Victoria's day with green fields and all that around it, but if you ask me, it's an eyesore now", a station porter, interviewed in 1961.
  • "A ponderous, lurking cack-bastard whose only virtue is to look marginally better than the shitty Richard Seifert buildings currently adorning the front of Euston Station", Londonist, just now.

No one will give two monkeys after the fuss dies down

We've been here before. Remember Temple Bar? It was absent from the City for well over a century, before it was rebuilt to great acclaim in Paternoster Square in 2004. We suspect that the vast majority who now pass through it neither notice nor care.

It's a smoke screen

Hey everybody, good news. We're going to undo the nefarious work of evil 1960's planners and rebuild this much-loved icon. While you're all focusing on that bauble, we need to expand the station, so we'll go right ahead and demolish lots of other stuff. Like, say, the beautiful disused tube station on Melton Street, which is so handsome it makes these construction workers dance for joy.

It'll block one of London's finest bars

Mock-ups of the reinstalled arch show it squatting between the two lodge buildings on Euston Road. The one to the west currently houses the Euston Tap, which you lot voted the best pub in Euston. Rebuilding the arch would surely require it to close, at least during construction. And with the doors facing in towards the arch, it'd have to be substantially remodelled afterwards to remain as a pub.

Get that monster away from our pubs.

So, anyone want to write a riposte?

Last Updated 20 October 2016


Riposte? Nay - bang on I'd say. Also Crystal Palace rebuild preposterous.

Boris Watch

Three cheers for that. Routemaster nostalgia is all about hiding something, be it bus network cuts and fare rises or the privatisation of Crystal Palace park or, in this case, turning Euston into New Street.

The real lost glory of Euston was the Great Hall. The rest was crap, including the entire station layout - what no one will admit is that the current building is a better station, for instance it's much better integrated into the Underground. The platforms are awful, but so were the original platforms. Both the 'Arch' (really a propylaeum) and the Great Hall had to go because they were situated within the footprint of the current station building, the Arch being roughly where the gateline is down to the platforms - this would have meant a seriously compromised station, although I strongly suspect 20-30 years later a more elegant and thoughtful solution would have been possible, as at Liverpool Street.

The actual station proposed here is presumably a gloomy subterranean job under a nice big load of office blocks, with a distraction placed well outside it, nowhere near where anyone will actually see it. This is hardly the heir to Brunel at work, is it? Ironically the Birmingham HS2 station proposal is both a lot grander and genuinely incorporates the surviving Curzon St. station building in both name and structure. Some of that applied to Euston would be a genuine achievement and finally give the line a fitting station about 200 years too late.

Anyway, for most of its life there was a socking great hotel in front of it, so you couldn't see it from Euston Road anyway.

David Heath

The same image appears in
which is dated May 2009, ie pre HS2. Of course, this doesn't mean the new scheme will be any better.

Unlike you, I like(d) the Arch, I lament(ed) its loss, but I just don't think it should be rebuilt.

As Morris put it in the SPAB Manifesto in 1877 "a feeble and lifeless forgery is the final result of all the wasted labour". And I still agree with that.

(Only the second time I have used the quote today.)


...there's no reason to be so gloomy! People will like it, it'll make a good story etc. I like those pubs too, but I'm sure they'll work something out

diamond geezer

The Arch is a fairly blatant smokescreen for the vast number of apartments, shops and offices the developers would like to cram in behind, like some real estate version of the Hanging Gardens of Euston.

Perhaps the Arch could be rebuilt at Old Oak Common?


I couldn't agree more with this. Backwardlooking ugly urban clutter. I was really disappointed to see TV architect George Clark supporting the campaign to rebuild the arch as he tends to have a better sense of asthetic and the beauty of open space. What we need to do is build the highest quality new station building we can, and then ensure clear sightlines to it. This has been belatedly understood at Kings Cross where all the crappy buildings have indeed been cleared away to allow people to enjoy the striking station architecture. It would be crazy to build a great new 21st century station and then rebuild an anachronistic carbuncle in front of it.

Mark Walley

Can we have a well designed nice new station that in 150 years time people campaign to save because it's such an excellent example of early 21st century architecture? We've got some lovely old railway stations, we haven't got any lovely new ones.


Lets have a vacuum railway like NYC!!!

Mike Paterson

It is a brute of a thing, but I do like its size if not its aesthetics. I've been in favour of the thing because of the romantic story of Betjeman's failed campaign and then the quite recent re-discovery of the stones, thought to be lost. But well-argued (apart from Temple Bar collander) you've forced me to be properly objective and in truth, I don't really care either way. In addition, the Euston Arch Trust have been pretty useless.

Stu Collett

What a load of twoddle. I'll give you one really good reason - euston is a shithole and look how amazing St Pancras is now they've done it up. It blocks a pub, you're having a laugh right?!


While I think a lot of the points are made are right, I do think they miss the main point here. Euston Station is the most important station in London. It's the first real main line railway station in London (London Bridge was first - but at that time it was only for a short distance). Robert Stephenson's London and Birmingham Railway was completely revolutionary. The scale of engineering involved was immense (including two major tunnels), and in its early years Euston was one of the marvels of the world. It was also a striking landmark - Stevenson built two massive chimneys that supported the Camden Incline stationary engines, and the trains were pulled and lowered down the incline on a cable. Everyone admires the San Francisco cable cars - the mechanism used was based on the Euston incline.

The London & Birmingham Railway also changed travel. A business man could now travel from London and return from Birmingham in the same day. This was considered extraordinary at the time. And the private investors in the railway also made a very satisfactory return of 10% on their investments in the early years of the railway - so financially it was a success as well (nearly all the other railways built afterward lost money).

So the key point is that we need to have something at Euston that recognises Stephenson's achievement. And reminding people what Victorian Railway Engineers could do.

I agree that the Euston Great Hall was amazing - but this was built later. The Arch was part of the original scheme, and I reckon rebuilding it using some of the original stones would be a suitable monument. The existing pictures are not based on serious plans - so how this monument might fit into a large master plan still has to be worked through - and perhaps the room on top of the propylaeum (the correct name for the arch) could be repurposed in some way.

If people want to learn more, there are two web sites that are worth visiting

- the Euston Arch Trust at (who I do think have done a good job - getting the idea picked up by the government is pretty amazing given the costs involved)

- the Camden Railway Heritage Trust at talks more about the railway, the tunnel and associated industrial structures in and around Camden Town

If you are interested in this you might also want to buy a copy of Peter Darley's new book Camden Goods Station through Time - lots of great new and old photos of the railway and associated structures including the horse stables and tunnels - and it includes the authoritative history of the area. It's available from Peter and great value at £12 - see and if you buy from Peter the profits go to the Camden Railway Heritage Trust.


When we rebuilld it we need to get the Elgin marbles out of the British Museum and incorporate them in a new frieze on the arch and sex it up a bit..

Melvin Mayes

Bring back the Arch but build a modern Great Hall to show the progress over 175 years. Imagine the possibilities of a modern station to rival the remodeled St Pancras. I would tell the architect one thing, This building is about People, Trains and Travel first and shopping second!

Robert Andrew Grant

Not much of a 'riposte' but I quite like the idea of seeing the return of the arch - especially constructed from original, authentic materials.


This article was probably written by the kind of moron who campaigns to have 60's brutalist monstrosities like Trellick Tower preserved whilst campaigning (as they have done above) against the upholding of traditional styles of architecture. It's a piece of history that was scandalously removed by the sort of "developers" that turned places like the East End into looking more akin to East Berlin during the cold war. It's about time it was restored.

Colin Mann

London doesn't deserve to have this amazing building after what they did to it. Compare to Birmingham's still existing Curzon Street Station building at the other end of the old route. Give the 60% existing stone pieces to B'ham because they look after buildings.

Di Eselbalaam

A mean-spirited and silly article from start to finish. The Euston Arch was not "pig-ugly" at all. The fact that "arch" is a misnomer for what is a "portico" is a nit-picking irrelevance. Many of our most treasured architectural gems were derided when first built - St Paul's Cathedral, the Lloyds Building, and the Brighton Pavilion to name but three. A re-instated Euston Arch would add gravity and dignity to an otherwise undistinguished stretch of the Euston Road, and a focal point for what seems like yet another dreary steel-and-glass (yawn!)development of little aesthetic value,


"A ponderous, lurking cack-bastard..."


The real problem with Euston station is that it's in Euston. It should be on the site of the British Library. Put the terminus of the WCML as a western extension to St Pancras, and move the BL into whatever Doric fantasy you want in the wastelands of the Euston Rd. These days the whole idea of a library is a bit redundant - scan the lot, stick the physical books in storage somewhere with much lower land prices than central London, and replace it with some decent pubs with Kindles.


Personally I would like to see Euston replaced with this British-designed station

Tom Mackillop

This article is surely meant to be satirical; to illicit the modern siren voices of vandalism that brought about its destruction in the first place. Just because the Great Hall was arguably the greater loss doesn't diminish the importance of rebuilding the "Arch". The needless destruction of this building sparked the modern conservation movement. Its form and substance an important part of London's architectural and social history. Let its reinstatement be a renewed reminder to us all to help stop the mindless destruction of exceptional buildings with shabby developer schlock in the name of greater property development profits.


'No one will give two monkeys...' Who says that?

I suggest that it's either 'a monkey's toss' or 'two hoots'.

I'm rather fond of the uncommon 'two tugs of a dead dog's cock'.

Peter Kolding

It should be rebuilt because old shit is cool.

Gosia Rybakowska

No. Just remove pro-arch campaigners out of my house.


Build hs2...Chuck the arch in a park or somewhere

Professor David E. Alexander

The "Euston Arch" is a propylaeum, or monumental gateway. It was never an arch, nor was it intended to be one. Like most London buildings, it looked awful when covered with the grime of years of atmospheric deposition derived from burning coal. If it had survived, it would have been cleaned and thus transformed.

Philip Hardwick, who designed it, was inspired more by Roman interpretations than by the Greek architecture on which they were based. He designed a Doric structure which made a firm statement that was entirely in line with the idea of a grand gateway to the North. It may be heavy, but that was the intention--and an entirely legitimate one. Criticism of it should be based on its proportions, not the variations in the style of its columns. The proportions make of it a firm, forthright but harmonious structure.

With the destruction of the propylaeum, the Great Hall and all of the Victorian platform filigree ironwork, Euston Station was transformed into an arid modernist wasteland, and one that has not stood the test of time in any way, functional or aesthetic.

The loss of the propylaeum was highly symbolic: it could easily have been followed by the end of St Pancras and the Midland Grand Hotel, but the tide of national opinion turned against the philistine vandals who made the planning decisions. It would be a good idea to reconstruct the propylaeum as a celebration of this vital fact. The one drawback is that its environment has been entirely destroyed and replaced by a commercial wilderness that is as unlovely as it is dysfunctional. This is not a good place for the Great Gateway to the North to be resurrected. It would be better to reconstruct it in a more sympathetic environment and at Euston build a monument to high ticket prices, overcrowded trains and interminable delays.