Wellington Arch

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Coordinates: 51°30′9″N0°9′3″W / 51.50250°N 0.15083°W / 51.50250; -0.15083

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.


The Wellington Arch London Wellington Arch P1130942.jpg
The Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch, also known as Constitution Arch or (originally) as the Green Park Arch, is a Grade I-listed triumphal arch by Decimus Burton that forms a centrepiece of Hyde Park Corner in central London, between corners of Hyde Park and Green Park; it stands on a large traffic island with crossings for pedestrian access. From its construction in 1826 until 1830 the arch stood in a different location nearby; it was moved to its current site in 1882–1883. It originally supported a colossal equestrian statue of the 1st Duke of Wellington by the sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt, as a result of which it has acquired the name "the Wellington Arch" in the vernacular. A bronze quadriga (an ancient four-horse chariot) by Adrian Jones has surmounted it since 1912.

Listed building Collection of protected architectural creations in the United Kingdom

A listed building, or listed structure, is one that has been placed on one of the four statutory lists maintained by Historic England in England, Historic Environment Scotland in Scotland, Cadw in Wales, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland.

Triumphal arch monumental structure in the shape of an archway

A triumphal arch is a monumental structure in the shape of an archway with one or more arched passageways, often designed to span a road. In its simplest form a triumphal arch consists of two massive piers connected by an arch, crowned with a flat entablature or attic on which a statue might be mounted or which bears commemorative inscriptions. The main structure is often decorated with carvings, sculpted reliefs, and dedications. More elaborate triumphal arches may have multiple archways.

Decimus Burton British architect

Decimus Burton one of the foremost English architects and urban designers of the 19th century. He was the foremost Victorian architect in the Roman revival, Greek revival, Georgian and Regency styles. He was a founding Fellow and, later, Vice-President, of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and architect to the Royal Botanic Society from 1840 and an early member of the Athenaeum Club, London, whose club premises he designed and the company of father, James Burton, the pre-eminent property developer of Georgian London, built. Modern architectural historians, such as Guy Williams (1990) and Dana Arnold (2004), contend that Decimus Burton's contribution to architecture has been grossly underestimated by previous architectural historians: as a consequence of the misattribution to Nash of many of his works; of his undeserved vituperation by his neo-gothic nemesis, Augustus Pugin; and of the consequent retention of his archives by his family.


1827 engraving showing the full ornamentation originally intended for the arch, including reliefs and statues. The engraving, from Shepherd's Metropolitan Improvements, was published while the arch was still under construction. Entrance to the King's Palace, Hyde Park Corner - Shepherd, Metropolitan Improvements (1828), p326.jpg
1827 engraving showing the full ornamentation originally intended for the arch, including reliefs and statues. The engraving, from Shepherd's Metropolitan Improvements, was published while the arch was still under construction.

Both the Wellington Arch and Marble Arch (originally sited in front of Buckingham Palace) were planned in 1825 by George IV to commemorate Britain's victories in the Napoleonic Wars. During the second half of the 1820s, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests and the King resolved that Hyde Park, and the area around it, should be renovated to match the splendour of rival European capital cities, and that the essence of the new arrangement would be a triumphal approach to the recently completed Buckingham Palace. [1] The committee of the project, led by the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, and advised by Charles Arbuthnot, President of the Board of Commissioners of Woods and Forests, selected Decimus Burton as the project's architect. In 1828, when giving evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee on the Government's spending on public works, Arbuthnot explained that he had nominated Burton "having seen in the Regent's Park, and elsewhere, works which pleased my eye, from their architectural beauty and correctness". [1] Burton intended to create an urban space dedicated to the celebration of the House of Hanover, national pride, and the nation's heroes. [2]

Marble Arch triumphal arch in London

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. In 1851 on the initiative of architect and urban planner, Decimus Burton, one time pupil of John Nash, it was relocated and following the widening of Park Lane in the early 1960s to where it is now sited, incongruently isolated, on a large traffic island at the junction of Oxford Street, Park Lane and Edgware Road. Admiralty Arch, Holyhead in Wales is a similar arch, even more so cut off from public access, at the other end of the A5.

Buckingham Palace Official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch

Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and mourning.

George IV of the United Kingdom King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover

George IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover following the death of his father, King George III, on 29 January 1820, until his own death ten years later. From 1811 until his accession, he served as Prince Regent during his father's final mental illness.

The renovation of Hyde Park, Green Park, and St James's Park began in 1825, with the demarcation of new drives and pathways, subsequent to which Burton designed new lodges and gates, viz. Cumberland Gate, Stanhope Gate, Grosvenor Gate, the Hyde Park Gate/Screen at Hyde Park Corner, and, later, the Prince of Wales's Gate, Knightsbridge, in the classical style. [3] There were no authoritative precedents for such buildings, which required windows and chimney stacks, in the classical style, and, in the words of Guy Williams, "Burton's reticent treatment of the supernumerary features" and of the cast iron gates and railings was "greatly admired". [3]

Green Park one of the Royal Parks of London

The Green Park, usually known without the article simply as Green Park, is one of the Royal Parks of London. It is located in the City of Westminster, central London. First enclosed in 16th century, it was landscaped in 1820 and is notable among central London parks for having no lakes or buildings, and only minimal flower planting in the form of naturalised narcissus.

St Jamess Park Royal Park in London

St James's Park is a 23-hectare (57-acre) park in the City of Westminster, central London. The park lies at the southernmost tip of the St James's area, which was named after a leper hospital dedicated to St James the Less. It is the most easterly of a near-continuous chain of parks that also includes Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens.

Hyde Park Corner place in London

Hyde Park Corner is an area in London, England, located around a major road junction at the southeastern corner of Hyde Park, that was designed by Decimus Burton. Six streets converge at the junction: Park Lane, Piccadilly (northeast), Constitution Hill (southeast), Grosvenor Place (south), Grosvenor Crescent (southwest) and Knightsbridge (west). Hyde Park Corner tube station, a London Underground station served by the Piccadilly line, is located at the junction, as are a number of notable monuments. Immediately to the north of the junction is Apsley House, the home of the first Duke of Wellington; several monuments to the Duke were erected in the vicinity, both in his lifetime and subsequently.

At Hyde Park Corner, the King required "some great ceremonial outwork that would be worthy of the new palace that lay to its rear", [4] and accepted Burton's consequent proposal for a sequence comprising a gateway and a classical screen, and a triumphal arch, which would enable those approaching Buckingham Palace from the north to ride or drive first through the screen and then through the arch, before turning left to descend Constitution Hill and enter the forecourt of Buckingham Palace through Nash's Marble Arch. [4] The screen became the neoclassical Hyde Park Gate/Screen at Hyde Park Corner, which delighted the King and his Committee, and which the architectural historian Guy Williams describes as "one of the most pleasing architectural works that have survived from the neo-classical age". [4] The triumphal arch became the Wellington Arch at Constitution Hill into Green Park, London, which has been described as "one of London's best loved landmarks". [5] Burton's original design for the triumphal arch, which was modelled on the Arch of Titus at Rome, on which the central and side blocks of the Screen had been modelled, was more technically perfect, and coherent with the Screen, than that of the arch that was subsequently built: this original design, however, was rejected by the Committee – who had envisaged a design based on the Arch of Constantine, on which Nash's Marble Arch had been modelled – because it was not sufficiently ostentatious. [6] Burton created a new design, "to pander to the majestic ego", [6] which was much larger and modelled on a fragment found in the Roman Forum, which was accepted on 14 January 1826, and subsequently built as the present Wellington Arch. [6]

Constitution Hill, London road in London, England

Constitution Hill is a road in the City of Westminster in London. It connects the western end of The Mall with Hyde Park Corner, and is bordered by Buckingham Palace Gardens and Green Park. The term "Hill" is something of a misnomer; there is barely a detectable slope and most observers would regard the road as flat. An old lane on this route was enhanced in connection with the development of Buckingham Palace in the 1820s. It formed an official route from the palace to Hyde Park. It is now closed to traffic on Sundays.

Arch of Titus Triumphal arch in Rome

The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century AD honorific arch, located on the Via Sacra, Rome, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c. AD 82 by the Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus's victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem.

Arch of Constantine Triumphal arch in Rome

The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch in Rome, situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It was erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312. Dedicated in 315, it is the largest Roman triumphal arch. The arch spans the Via triumphalis, the way taken by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph.

The arch has a single opening, and uses the Corinthian order. [7] Much of the intended exterior ornamentation was omitted as a cost-saving exercise necessitated by the King's overspending on the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace, which was underway at the same time. A contemporary account, written in anticipation of its completion to its original plan, describes what was intended:

Corinthian order Latest of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture

The Corinthian order is the last developed of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The other two are the Doric order which was the earliest, followed by the Ionic order. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, two more orders were added to the canon, the Tuscan order and the Composite order. The Corinthian, with its offshoot the Composite, is the most ornate of the orders. This architectural style is characterized by slender fluted columns and elaborate capitals decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls. There are many variations.

The entabulature is loft and elegant with a richly sculptured frieze, and a row of boldly projecting lions' heads on the cymatium, marking the centres of columns and other sub-divisions of the order. Above the entablature, on a lofty blocking course, is raised an attic, the body of which is embellished with a sculptural representation of an ancient triumph. On each of the columns is a statue of a warrior, and on the summit of the acroterium which surmounts the attic is a figure in a quadriga or ancient four horse chariot. [7]

Sculpture of the triumphal arch

The Wellington Statue on the Arch in the 1850s Wellington on Arch 2.jpg
The Wellington Statue on the Arch in the 1850s

The arch at Constitution Hill was left devoid of decorative sculpture as a result of the moratorium in 1828 on public building work, and, instead, despite the absolute objection of Burton, was mounted with an ungainly equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington by Matthew Cotes Wyatt, the son of the then recently deceased James Wyatt, who had been selected by statue's commissioner, and one of its few subsequent advocates, Sir Frederick Trench. [8] The bronze by Matthew Cotes Wyatt, which eventually crowned the arch, was, at 40 tons (40.62 tonne) and 28 feet (8.53 m) high, the largest equestrian figure ever made. [9] [10] Matthew Cotes Wyatt was not competent: Guy Williams contends that he were "not noticeably talented", and the Dictionary of National Biography that "thanks to royal and other influential patronage, Wyatt enjoyed a reputation and practice to which his mediocre abilities hardly entitled him". [8] Trench, and his patrons the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, had told the public subscribers to the statue that the statue would be place on top of Burton's triumphal arch at Hyde Park Corner; Burton expressed his opposition to this proposal "as plainly and as vehemently as his nature allowed" consistently over successive years, because the ungainly statue would "disfigure" his arch, for which it was much too large, and the surrounding neighbourhood, because it would have to be placed, contrary to all classical precedent, across, instead of parallel with, the roadway under the arch. [8] Burton had envisaged that his arch would be topped with only a small quadriga whose horses would have been parallel with the road under the arch. [8] Burton's objections were extensively endorsed by most of the aristocratic residents of London. [8] A writer in The Builder asked Lord Canning, the First Commissioner for Woods and Forests, to ban the project:

We have learnt, and can state positively, that Mr. Burton has the strongest objection possible against placing the group in question on the archway... and that he is taking no part whatever in the alteration proposed to be made in the upper part of the structure to prepare it to receive the pedestal... Mr. Burton, through the mildness which characterizes him, has not expressed this opinion so loudly and so publicly as he ought to have done.... an opinion prevails very generally, that he is a party to the proceedings, and this has induced many to be silent who would otherwise have spoken... [8]

The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, contended that another site would be preferable, and proposed, on behalf of the Crown, to offer any other site, but the statue's subscribers rejected all alternative proposals. [8] Every single MP except Sir Frederick Trench wanted the statue to be placed elsewhere. [8] Canning wrote that "the remonstrances which reach Her Majesty's Government against the proposed appropriation of the arch are so many and so strong, the representations of its architect, Mr. Burton, in the same sense, are so earnest, and the opinion of every other eminent architect, artist, or other competent authority who has been consulted on the subject is so decided [against the placing of the Wellington statue on the arch]". [8]

Decimus Burton himself wrote, "The arch would, I consider, suffer greatly in importance if the colossal statue in question be placed there, because it would become a mere pedestal. The want of proportion in the proposed surmount, compared with the columns and other details of the architecture, would show that they had been designed by different hands, and without reference for each other. ...I have desired to witness the completion of this building, as originally designed by me, and as approved by the Lords of the Treasury, yet I would prefer that the building should remain for the present in its forlorn and bare state, rather than a colossal equestrian statue should be placed upon it... I fear that if this appropriation of the building should be decided upon, a proposition would soon be made for removing altogether the facades of columns, the slender proportions of which would appear so incongruous and out of proportion compared with the prodigious dimensions of the statue". [8] Burton had realized that the disciples of Pugin and advocates of Pugin's anti-classicism would remove all classical elements from his arch if permitted the opportunity to do so. [8]

The Government placed the Wellington statue on the arch in autumn 1846; Williams contends that the product was "ridiculous". [8] The Builder contended, "down, unquestionably, it must come. As the network of timber is removed, spar by spar, from before it, so do the folly of the experiment, the absurdity of the conjunction, and the greatness of the sacrifice become apparent. Its effect is even worse than we anticipated – the destruction of the arch by the statue, and of the statue by its elevation on the arch, more complete. Every post brings us letters urging renewed efforts to remove the figure to another site". The contestation about the prospective removal of the statue became national. [8] However, the Government failed to remove the statue, despite that they had professed, when it had been placed, that they would do so if it provoked the aversion which it had provoked. [8] Foreign intellectuals who visited London identified the incongruous fusion of the statue and the arch as "spectacular confirmation" of the "artistic ignorance of the English". [8] Guy Williams writes that "[the] arch at Hyde Park Corner is a visible reminder of one of the fiercest attacks that have ever been launched in the worlds of art and architecture. The face of London might have been very different now – freer, perhaps, of the 'monstrous carbuncles' so disliked by the present Prince of Wales – if the attacked party [Decimus Burton] had been a little more pugnacious, and so better equipped to stand his ground". [5]

The quadriga London-Wellington-Arch-P1130943.jpg
The quadriga

During 1882, traffic congestion at Hyde Park Corner motivated advocacy for Burton's triumphal arch to be moved to the top of Constitution Hill to create space for traffic. [11] In response to this advocacy, Burton's great-nephew Francis Fearon compiled and published a pamphlet that advocated the removal of the Wellington statue from the arch in the event of the removal of the arch to another location: Fearon contended that the arch should be "relieved once and for all of its unsightly load". [11] The campaign led by Fearon was successful: Wyatt's incongruous statue was removed to Aldershot, and its place on Burton's arch, which was moved to Constitution Hill in 1883, [2] was occupied by a Quadriga by Captain Adrian Jones. Jones' statue is not nearly as elegant as Burton's designed statue intended for the arch, but it is more coherent with the arch than Wyatt's statue, and its figures, unlike those of Wyatt's statue, are aligned with the roadway under the arch. [11] Jones's statue is based on a smaller original which caught the eye of Edward VII at a Royal Academy exhibition. The sculpture depicts Nike, the winged goddess of victory, descending on the chariot of war, holding the classical symbol of victory and honour, a laurel wreath. The face of the charioteer leading the quadriga is that of a small boy (actually the son of Lord Michelham,[ citation needed ] who funded the sculpture). The angel of peace was modelled on Beatrice Stewart. [12] The statue is the largest bronze sculpture in Europe. The boundary of Buckingham Palace's garden was moved south, and a new road named Duke of Wellington Place was created; this separated the space containing the Arch from the rest of the Green Park.

Public access

The arch is hollow inside and until 1992 housed the smallest police station in London. Transferred to the ownership of English Heritage in 1999, it is open to the paying public: three floors of exhibits detailing the history of the arch, an exhibition titled Waterloo 1815: The Battle for Peace and high terraces on both sides of the arch with views of the surrounding area. [13] One half of the arch functions as a ventilation shaft for the Hyde Park Corner road underpass, constructed in 1961–1962. [14]

See also

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  1. 1 2 Williams, Guy (1990). Augustus Pugin Versus Decimus Burton: A Victorian Architectural Duel. London: Cassell Publishers Ltd. p. 49. ISBN   0-304-31561-3.
  2. 1 2 Arnold, Dana. "Burton, Decimus". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4125.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. 1 2 Williams, Guy (1990). Augustus Pugin Versus Decimus Burton: A Victorian Architectural Duel. London: Cassell Publishers Ltd. pp. 49–50. ISBN   0-304-31561-3.
  4. 1 2 3 Williams, Guy (1990). Augustus Pugin Versus Decimus Burton: A Victorian Architectural Duel. London: Cassell Publishers Ltd. p. 50. ISBN   0-304-31561-3.
  5. 1 2 Williams, Guy (1990). Augustus Pugin Versus Decimus Burton: A Victorian Architectural Duel. London: Cassell Publishers Ltd. p. 11. ISBN   0-304-31561-3.
  6. 1 2 3 Williams, Guy (1990). Augustus Pugin Versus Decimus Burton: A Victorian Architectural Duel. London: Cassell Publishers Ltd. p. 51. ISBN   0-304-31561-3.
  7. 1 2 Elmes, James (1827). Metropolitan Improvements in the Nineteenth Century. London: Jones and Co. p. 134.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Williams, Guy (1990). Augustus Pugin Versus Decimus Burton: A Victorian Architectural Duel. London: Cassell Publishers Ltd. pp. 85–94. ISBN   0-304-31561-3.
  9. Campbell Dixon, Anne. "Anne Campbell Dixon explores the history of Wellington Arch, which has just been reopened after a long-overdue restoration Making a grand entrance once again". Telegraph Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  10. "The Wellington Statue and Hyde Park Corner". Daily News (London). 28 March 1884.
  11. 1 2 3 Williams, Guy (1990). Augustus Pugin Versus Decimus Burton: A Victorian Architectural Duel. London: Cassell Publishers Ltd. pp. 131–133. ISBN   0-304-31561-3.
  12. "Obituary – Sir Patrick Leigh-Fermor". The Daily Telegraph. London. 10 June 2011.
  13. "Wellington Arch Things to do – English Heritage". www.english-heritage.org.uk. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  14. Ian Mansfield (6 January 2014), Hyde Park Corner’s Massive Hidden Ventilation Shaft (IanVisits blog)