Lost London – Euston Arch…

The original entrance to Euston Station, Euston Arch was not so much an arch as a colonnaded monumental gateway, formally known as a propylaeum, which resembled the entrance to a Greek temple.

Euston-ArchBuilt in 1837 (pictured here in 1851), it was designed by architect Philip Hardwick and inspired by the ancient architecture he had encountered on a trip to Europe – in particular the grand entrance to the Acropolis in Athens.

Commissioned by the London and Birmingham Railway as the grand entrance to the company’s new station then facing on to Euston Square (the site is now covered by the station structure), it was designed to complement the existing structure which had been built at the other end of the line in Curzon Street Station in Birmingham.

The building, which rose to a height of 21.5 metres and was built from Yorkshire-sourced sandstone, featured four columns behind which stood large iron gates. Rather controversial even when built, it led to an apparently unexciting courtyard lined with offices. There were lodges to either side.

While there had been a couple of proposals to relocate the arch – particularly after notice was given in 1960 that it would be demolished so the station could be rebuilt – none of the proposals came to fruition, and despite some intense last minute lobbying to preserve the arch by conservationists (among those lobbying were poet Sir John Betjeman and architectural scholar Sir Nikolaus Pevsner), demolition – viewed by some as an “architectural crime” – started in December 1961.

While sections of the arch was subsequently used as fill in the Prescott Channel in East London (numerous sections have since been recovered from the water), the main gates were saved and given to the National Railway Museum in York.

There has been talk of rebuilding the arch particularly since the formation of the Euston Arch Trust in 1994 (the patron of which is Michael Palin) with the aim of reusing some of the lost stonework. While rebuilding hasn’t yet eventuated, the proposed redevelopment of Euston Station in more recent years has given the project new impetus.

PICTURE: Wikipedia.

5 thoughts on “Lost London – Euston Arch…

  1. The demolition of the arch was opposed at the time (even the demolition contractor offered to number and store the stonework if a new site could be found to reconstruct it. In the sixty years since its dissapearance, calls to rebuilt this historically important piece of British railway history have never gone away.

    This is a reversable destruction, which only requies a comparatively small amount of land and a pittance of a budget (compared to so much wasted expenditure. Further more, unlike the loss of other magnificent architecture (such as the Mappin & Webb building at No 1 Poultry), the majority of the original stonework.is known to still exist, is in a reusable condition and can be accessed.* Isn’t fate giving us a rather big nug here?

    * Historian Dan Cruickshank tracked down the stones to a back garden in Rickmansworth )former home of the demolition contractor) and the Prescott Channel on the River Lee.

    PS – website for the euston arch trust appears to be defunct.

  2. I and another chap (railway buff) have taken a lot of time and trouble very recently to find out what’s going on with the Euston Arch Trust following a few articles in the Times and elsewhere. Like Michael Palin’s famous Norwegian Blue, one cannot be sure whether the Trust is a dead parrot or merely resting. It was wrong of them to re-establish it in 2008/9 or so and then do absolutely nothing further, as far as I can tell. Apparently when Betjeman had a last-ditch meeting with Harold Macmillan himself to save the Arch, the prime minister didn’t even look up from his desk. The cost of moving the arch at that time was paltry. Now it will likely be £24 million or more (took the estimate and doubled it!).

  3. From all I can see of the original design, the arch and its gates looked very impressive. So why was it controversial, even from the early days? Unnecessary development? Cost over runs? Wrong location? Inappropriate design?

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