Marble Arch

Marble Arch is a 19th-century white marble-faced triumphal arch in London, England. The structure was designed by John Nash in 1827 to be the state entrance to the cour d’honneur of Buckingham Palace; it stood near the site of what is today the three-bayed, central projection of the palace containing the well-known balcony.

ohn Nash (1752-1835) was the favoured architect of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. Under George’s auspices Nash designed and planned such landmarks as Regent’s Park, Regent Street, Carlton House Terrace, much of Buckingham Palace and Marble Arch. Marble Arch was designed to be both a grandiose gateway to an expanded Buckingham Palace and an exuberant celebration of British victories in the Napoleonic Wars – a Triumphal Arch. But the Grade I listed Arch that we see today is nowhere near as grand as Nash originally intended.

Marble Arch stood as a formal gateway to Buckingham Palace for seventeen years, but it was overshadowed by Blore’s enlarged Buckingham Palace and seen as unsatisfactory. In 1850 the decision was taken to move the Arch to its current location of Cumberland Gate where it would form a grand entrance to Hyde Park in time for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The stone by stone removal and reconstruction of the Arch was overseen by architect Thomas Cubitt who completed the entire complex process in just three months.

The removal was a success, vast crowds of people passed through the Arch en route to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and Marble Arch remained a grand and direct entrance to the park for more than 50 years. In 1908 a new road scheme cut through the park just south of the Arch leaving it completely separated from Hyde Park. In the 1960s roads were widened still further, leaving the Arch in its current isolated position, no longer part of a Royal Park. The grounds around the Arch are today maintained by Westminster City Council. In 1970 the Arch gained its Grade I listed status. The whole Arch is clad in Ravaccione, a grey/white type of Carrara marble from Italy. This was the first time marble had been used in this way on any British building. The eight enormous Corinthian columns were each cut from a single slab of marble.

North side of the Arch

The sculpted panels on this side are by Richard Westmacott who also produced the statue of Achilles nearby at Hyde Park Corner. Three female figures representing England (centre) wearing Britannia’s helmet, Ireland (left) with her harp and Scotland (right) with the shield of St Andrew.

 

London Multi-Entry Multi-Directional VVIP Visitors Guide © Simon Newbound

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