A Brief Guide To London's Arches And Gates

By London Historians Last edited 9 months ago
A Brief Guide To London's Arches And Gates
Marble Arch

Marble Arch vs. Wellington Arch

Lots of people don't know the difference between Marble Arch and Wellington Arch, confusing them and their respective corners of Hyde Park. The “smallest police station in London” was once situated in Marble Arch. Trawling around touristy photo pages on the web reveals that many think that Wellington Arch is Marble Arch with some clearly under the impression that they are one and the same.

Marble Arch (pictured above) is the one without the decoration on top and is sited on the north-east corner of  Hyde Park (Speaker’s Corner), which is near the junction of Oxford Street and Edgware Road.

Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch (pictured here), with the angelic charioteer statue on top is on the south-east corner of Hyde Park (Hyde Park Corner), where Knightsbridge meets Piccadilly at the corner of Green Park.

These structures, along with Euston Arch, were erected around the same time in the 1830s. Late Georgian Britain had emerged as the dominant power in the world in trade, industry and arms and was feeling proud and confident. This was particularly reflected in art and architecture, manifesting itself  in neo-Classical styles,  grandees having bizarre statues of themselves dressed as imperial Roman generals, and also these triumphal arches.

Euston Arch

Euston Arch in 1896

Euston Arch, sited in front of the old Euston station when it was first built in 1837, is perhaps appropriately more industrial and chunky-looking than its Hyde Park counterparts. There it stood until the early 1960s when it fell victim to modernism during the rebuilding of the station in the modern international style. The fate of the arch boiled down to a choice between demolition at a cost of £12,000 or re-siting at a cost of £190,000. The preservation option was fiercely fought for by the Victorian Society, led by Sir John Betjeman and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, but to no avail. Nobody, including the government and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan himself, was prepared to fund the latter option, and lacking a preservation order, the arch came down.

The good news is that most of the stone pieces of the arch were rediscovered in the 1990s dumped in the River Lea and a project to re-erect it at Euston, led by Dan Cruickshank, Michael Palin and others, is progressing well.

York House Gate

York House Gate

This one, it can be argued, is really a gate. But both Wellington Arch and Marble Arch once served as gates too, so the phrases are mostly interchangeable. York House Gate on the Embankment dates from 1626, was built in the Italianate style and placed on the bank of the Thames by George Villers, 1st Duke of Buckingham in front of his London mansion, York House. Note that Villiers Street is close by.

The stairs in front of this arch were a common feature the entire length of the London Thames before Embankment, yet the names of many of them live on. Once Bazalgette embanked the river in the 1860s, this gate became somewhat stranded, some 150 yards from the edge of the water.

Memorial arch at Guy's Hospital

Next we have a simple memorial arch at Guy’s Hospital to remember the doctors and staff who lost their lives in the two world wars.

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

Finally (for now), we have Temple Bar in Paternoster Square near St. Paul’s Cathedral, another part of London that's moved around a bit. You can read all about the story of Temple Bar here.

This article originally appeared on London Historians. You can become a London Historians member here.

Last Updated 29 January 2018