Marble Arch is one of London’s most well-known landmarks, and its close proximity to other famous buildings means it is an ideal destination for visitors.
Designed by John Nash in 1827, the structure was originally intended to be the state entrance to the cour d’honneur of Buckingham Palace, but it was moved in 1851 and is now situated on a large traffic island at the junction of Oxford Street, Park Lane, and Edgware Road, where it acts as a gateway between Bayswater and Marylebone.
The arch is modelled on two similar monuments in other European cities – the Arc du Triomphe in Paris and the Arch of Constantine in Rome.
Construction of the arch began in 1827 and halted in 1830 due to King William IV’s concerns over its costs. Work got back underway in 1832, this time supervised by Edward Blore, who made a number of changes to the design.
Marble Arch was completed in 1833, and was considerably more ornate in its original incarnation than it is today. Detailed carvings and sculptures that sat above each archway have since been removed and placed elsewhere.
Some of the sculptures that were not included in the finished monument were included in other buildings, notably the National Gallery and Buckingham Palace.
The white marble that was used to create the arch soon became discoloured by the polluted London atmosphere.
Visitors who look closely at Marble Arch will see square panels on the north side of the ceremonial arch, which contain three figures representing Wales, England and Scotland, along with other sculptures representing Peace and Plenty.
On the opposite side of the arch there is a naval warrior holding the scales of justice, which was designed by Edward Hodges Baily.
The original bronze gates, designed by Samuel Parker, are still in place at Marble Arch. The lion, symbol of England, and patron saint of England St George, can be seen in the metalwork.
Buckingham Palace, which was completed in 1837, was soon found to be too small for Queen Victoria and her entourage. As a result, a new east range was built, enclosing the cour d’honneur.
This led to the dismantling of the arch and its reconstruction at Cumberland Gate, at the northeastern corner of Hyde Park. This was finished in March 1851, and enabled it to serve as the entrance to the Great Exhibition.
From 1851 until at least 1968, three small rooms inside the arch were used as a police station, firstly by the royal constables of the park and then by the Metropolitan Police.
The area surrounding Marble Arch has a fascinating history, even if it is not connected to the construction of the monument itself.
It was used for public executions from the 12th century until 1783, as those convicted of crimes, as well as catholics who would not renounce their faith, were hanged from a line of yew trees near Tyburn Brook.
Later on, the famous, triangular Tyburn Tree was used for this purpose, standing at the north-eastern corner of Hyde Park.
Thousands of spectators would come to watch the executions, with some paying to sit in specially-erected galleries.
Nowadays, the area surrounding the arch – encompassing Mayfair, Marylebone and often all of St George’s Fields, Marylebone – is named after it. There are a number of hotels in Marble Arch that are a short walk from the monument.
Marble Arch underground station is on the Central line and is a stone’s throw away from the monument itself, which can be reached by walking north up Great Cumberland Place.
Hyde Park, which is adjacent to Marble Arch, is home to a number of notable attractions, including the famous Serpentine Lake, the Serpentine Gallery and the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain.
Explore Hyde Park in London
- Apsley House, 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, Belgravia, London W1J.
- The Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7.
- Brompton Oratory, Brompton Road, South Kensington, London SW7.
- Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, Belgravia, London W1J.
- Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7.
- The Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7.