Somerset House…

Somerset House is a majestic eighteenth-century edifice that was built on the banks of the River Thames at the site of a former palace. Originally an office complex, Somerset House is now a center of the arts.
The massive building provides space for a multitude of cultural and artistic organizations. There are also several rooms reserved for the display of temporary art exhibitions but the highlight of Somerset House is the Courtauld Gallery,

Somerset House, Thames facade

Somerset House

a museum with a fine selection of art from such famous artists as Botticelli, Van Gogh, Rubens, Brueghel, Cézanne and Goya.

History

Somerset Place

When King Henry VIII died in 1547 his son Edward was too young to be crowned king and his ambitious uncle Edward Seymour arranged to become his main advisor. Seymour made good use of his new powers: he granted himself the title Duke of Somerset and planned the construction of a palace worthy of his new position. He confiscated a number of properties near the River Thames and demolished the existing houses.His new palatial house, at the time named ‘Somerset Place’ was built in Renaissance style. Seymour could not enjoy his new house for long; in 1551, before the house was fully completed, he was charged with treason and in January 1552 he was executed in theTower of London.

The building fell into the hands of the crown and under Queen Elizabeth I it was used as a residence for visiting dignitaries. Somerset House enjoyed its heyday in the early seventeenth century when Queen-consort Anne of Denmark lived here. She renamed it Denmark House and entertained guests with lavish parties.

North wing, Somerset House

North wing

The royals continued to use the house as a residence until the eighteenth century, by which time Somerset House had started to fall into decay due to neglect.

Office Complex

By then it had become obvious that the building was beyond saving and it was demolished in 1775 to make way for a new building. But unlike its predecessor, the new Somerset House was planned as a government building used to house public offices rather than a royal palace.William Chambers was appointed as architect. Not to be outdone by his main rivals, the Adam Brothers, who had just built the magnificent (now demolished) Adelphi Terrace nearby, Chambers designed the building we see now: a grand edifice with monumental wings arranged around a large courtyard. The north wing, on the Strand, was built first and was completed in 1780.

Arch of the Somerset House

Arch on Victoria
Embankment

The south wing was completed in 1801, five years after Chambers’s death. The other wings were added much later: the east wing was finished in 1834 and in 1856 the addition of the west wing finally completed the complex.

Center for the arts

The first occupants of Somerset House were the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Society, and the Society of Antiquaries. Increasingly Somerset House also accommodated a number of government institutions such as the Inland Revenue and the Navy Board. By the end of the twentieth century the building was deemed unsuitable for modern offices and one by one the government institutions vacated the building.In 1990 the Courtauld Institute moved its art collection to the empty north wing of Somerset House. Several more art galleries and other cultural institutions settled here as well. This prompted a major renovation of the building as well as a transformation of the courtyard, which was used as a parking lot, into a public space with a fountain display. The terrace on the south side of the building, with views over the Thames, also opened to the public.

Architecture and sculptures

Sculpture of Mermen on Somerset House

Mermen
Somerset House is a massive building designed in the neoclassical style. The north front, facing the Strand, is the smallest and is designed like a giant triumphal gateway. Opposite, the monumental facade facing the river is enormous, measuring 244 meters long (800ft). It rests on large arches that used to rise out of the river until the construction of the Victoria Embankment in 1864-70 separated Somerset House from the Thames. Before, the arches allowed boats to dock right under the building.The courtyard is surrounded on three sides by wings with Corinthian style porticoes. Their massive columns support pediments decorated with reliefs. The domed south wing, which houses the Seamen’s Hall, is the most impressive. The other two wings are each crowned with a tiny clock tower. The courtyard itself is vast and measures 106 by 96 meters (350 x 310 ft). Architects Inskip and Jenkins modernized the courtyard and installed the fifty-five fountain jets in the pavement.

Monument of George III

George III statue

In the middle of the courtyard is a large monument that honors George III, the king who initiated the reconstruction of Somerset House. The monument was created in 1789-90 by John Bacon the Elder. It portrays the king standing in Roman garb on a large pedestal while leaning on a rudder. A lion rests at the king’s feet. In front of the pedestal is another bronze statue that shows Old Father Thames, an allegorical representation of the River Thames.

There are many more nautical sculptures and reliefs visible on the facade of Somerset House, including statues of mythical sea creatures, mascarons of sea gods and other nautical-themed ornaments. Most of these were designed by the Florentine painter Giovanni Battista Cipriani and carved by a variety of sculptors.

Courtauld Gallery

The main attraction in Somerset House is the Courtauld Gallery. This museum has an excellent selection of art from the Renaissance period up to the post-impressionists. The museum is worth a visit just to see a glimpse of the regal interior of Somerset House, which matches its exterior in grandeur.

A bar at the Folies-Bergère, Courtauld Gallery

A bar at the
Folies-Bergère

The collection was founded by Samuel Courtauld, an English industrialist who had a passion for art. In 1931 he provided funds for the creation of the Courtauld Institute, a center for the study of art. He bequeathed his collection to the institute upon his death.

The museum has a collection of artwork encompassing a period from the sixteenth up to the twentieth century. It is particularly renowned for its impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Among the highlights are ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère’ by Manet, Van Gogh’s ‘Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear’, Rubens’s ‘Descent from the Cross’ and Lucas Cranach the Elder’s ‘Adam and Eve’. The museum also has a collection of decorative arts including fine majolica as well as sculptures from the antiquity to the twentieth century.

Holland Park…

Holland Park is the green heart of Kensington, an upscale residential district in the west of London. It is considered one of the most beautiful parks in the city and some even prefer it over the more famous Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

History

Holland Park

Holland Park
In the early seventeenth century, the land that now makes up the park was owned by Walter Cope, who built a large mansion on the property, originally known as Cope Castle. The home was built in the grand Jacobean style, typical of the second phase of Renaissance architecture in England.Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the owners began to sell off the outlying parts of the land for the purpose of adding new residential areas to the city. The twenty-two hectares (54 acres) that were left of the estate opened in 1952 as a park.

Orangery, Holland Park

Orangery

In 1940, during the Blitz, Holland House was damaged beyond repair by incendiary bombing. Only the south wing, a couple of walls and terraces are all that remain of the former mansion. Fortunately some of the original nineteenth-century geometrically arranged gardens have been preserved and are now part of the public park.

The park

Generally, the park is divided into three sections. The northern area is very bucolic and still quite rural, attracting a fair amount of wildlife to this semi-wild woodland area of the park. You’re likely to spot a peacock or two as well as a number of other animals.

Kyoto Garden

Kyoto Garden

In the central section of the park, you’ll find the ruins of the old Holland House mansion. There’s not a lot to see as far as the house is concerned, but the gardens make up for it.

Near the former mansion is the Dutch Garden, a meticulously maintained geometric garden. The most popular garden in Holland Park is the beautiful Kyoto Garden, a Japanese garden with a waterfall and pond with plenty of large koi. The park also has an orangery (greenhouse) and the open-air Holland Park Theatre, where visitors can see a production by Opera Holland Park.

The remainder of the park is used for sport and includes a cricket pitch and an excellent children’s playground that’s always a big hit with young visitors.

Burlington Arcade….

The Burlington Arcade is the most famous and most sumptuous of the covered shopping arcades that opened in the nineteenth century in the posh neighborhoods of St. James’s and Mayfair.
Burlington Arcade, London

Burlington Arcade
Covered arcades, which had started to appear in abundance in early nineteenth century Paris, were the precursor of upscale shopping malls. They protected shoppers from traffic and inclement weather, and they proved equally popular in rainy London. These arcades were home to high-end shops that catered almost exclusively to the well-off.

History

The reason why Burlington Arcade came into being is quite unusual. It all started when Lady Cavendish, who lived with her husband Lord George Cavendish in Burlington House, got fed up with passers-by throwing rubbish in their garden. A wall was built to separate the long and narrow garden from the street, but this didn’t help much since people just flung their rubbish over the wall. So Lord Cavendish asked architect Samuel Ward to build a covered shopping arcade.

Piccadilly facade of Burlington Arcade in London

Piccadilly facade

Ward took inspiration from the existingcovered ‘passages’ in Paris and created a covered arcade with a glass roof and seventy-two elegantly designed store fronts in mahogany. Construction started in 1818 and the arcade opened the following year. Little has changed since, except for the bombastic facade on Piccadilly Street which was added in 1911 by Arthur Beresford Pites and the floor, which was originally in wood but now in stone.

During the war Burlington Arcade was damaged by bombs but it was completely restored in the 1950s.

Shops

Inside Burlington Arcade, London

Burlington Arcade Interior
From its inception, Burlington Arcade has always been a destination for the most demanding shoppers. Many of the shops are Royal Warrant holders, which means they supply goods to the British Royal Family. The shops are quite exclusive and you won’t find any high street chains here. The shops sell mostly luxury goods including leatherware, watches, shoes, high-end cameras, jewelry, accessories, perfume and gifts.

Beadles

In early nineteenth-century London, there was no police force and the streets were extremely unsafe. To provide a safe environment for shoppers in his arcade, Lord Cavendish decided to employ former members of his regiment of so-called Hussites to maintain order. These private guards, who are called ‘Beadles’ are still present, clad in formal attire with a top hat and tail-coat. They enforce the rules which include no singing, whistling, running or opening an umbrella. There used to be armchairs at either end of Burlington Arcade where they could rest, but today’s Beadles no longer enjoy that luxury.

Other arcades

The Royal Arcade, London

Royal Arcade
Burlington Arcade isn’t the only arcade in the vicinity. Right opposite Burlington Arcade is Piccadilly Arcade, a covered arcade that opened almost a century later, in 1909. The Royal Arcade, between Albemarle Street and Old Bond Street opened in 1880. Also in Piccadilly is Princes Arcade, which opened in 1933 and links Piccadilly with Jermyn Street. A bit more to the south-east, between Pall Mall and Charles II Street is London’s oldest arcade, the Royal Opera Arcade. It opened in 1815 and is lit by beautiful circular skylights.

St. Bartholomew-the-Great…

St. Bartholomew-the-Great is the oldest monastic church in London. Only a part of the original twelfth century church remains, but it’s still one of the best examples of Norman architecture in London.

History

The founding by Rahere

St. Bartholomew-the-Great, London

St. Bartholomew-
the-Great

The choir of St. Bartholomew-the-Great in London

The choir
The church was founded in 1123 by the Augustinian monk Rahere as part of a priory. Rahere was a jester at the court of King Henry I, the son of William the Conqueror. On a pilgrimage to Rome Rahere became so severely ill with malaria that it caused hallucinations. Rahere believed one of the hallucinations was a vision in which the saint Bartholomew appeared to him and saved him.
After he recovered Rahere decided to become an Augustinian monk. He founded a priory with an adjoining hospital, dedicated to saint Bartholomew. In the hospital, which still exists today, Rahere and his fellow monks treated the sick poor. The priory contained a large church, St. Bartholomew-the-Great. The priory and church were funded with the proceeds from the Bartholomew Fair, one of London’s largest annual fairs.

Demolishment of the priory

In 1539 the priory was dissolved on the order of King Henry VIII. The priory was acquired by Richard Rich, the Lord Chancellor. Rich demolished much of the priory, including the nave of the church and a part of the cloister. The remaining structures were used for secular purposes and housed a school, a wine cellar, a smithy, a stable and a printing works where Benjamin Franklin worked in 1725.

The Church Today

The halftimbered gatehouse at St. Bartholomew the Great

The gatehouse
The church we see today is the result of a restoration carried out by Aston Webb between 1887 and 1928.
You reach the church by entering the picturesque gate at Little Britain street. The gate marks the entrance of the former church. The arch is still original but the half-timbered house above the entrance was built in the sixteenth century, probably by Richard Rich.
Behind the entrance lies a green forecourt with a raised churchyard that now occupies the area where once the ten-bay long nave of the church stood. The current facade, with its checkered patterns, is a creation of Aston Webb. Today’s church is only half the size of the original; the Lady Chapel, the four-bay choir, a small section of the transepts and just one bay of the nave are all that is left of the original church.

Interior

Tomb of Rahere, St. Bartholomew the Great

Founder’s Tomb

Lady Chapel, St. Bartholomew the Great

Lady Chapel

The cloister of St. Bartholomew-the-Great in London

Cloister Café
Inside, the church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great is dark and atmospheric. Massive columns with round arches, typical for Romanesque architecture, line the choir. The interior is sparsely decorated aside from a few monuments.The most notable monument in the church is the tomb of its founder, Rahere. The Gothic tomb, created in 1405, shows the prior praying with at his feet an angel. Two kneeling monks by his side are reading from the bible. The angel holds a shield decorated with the arms of the priory: two lions below two crowns. Other notable monuments include the tomb of Sir Walter Mildway, Chancellor under Queen Elisabeth I, and a monument to Robert Chamberlayne from 1615 which shows a kneeling figure below a canopy, flanked by two angels.

Behind the choir is the Lady Chapel, restored in 1896. The painting of the madonna and child is a recent addition: it was painted in 1998 by Alfredo Roldan, a Spanish artist. The High Altar in the sanctuary is also from the twentieth century, created in 1950 by Seely and Paget. Much older is the oriel window on the south aisle. It was created around 1517 by William Bolton, an accomplished builder who was the prior of St. Bartholomew’s from 1505 until 1532.

Cloister

To the south of the church, near the gatehouse, is the Cloister Café, housed in a beautifully vaulted ambulatory, the only part that remains of the Augustinian priory’s cloister.The cloister was originally built in 1160 but rebuilt in 1405. Three bays survived the sixteenth century demolition of the priory. They were used as stables until 1905 when they were restored. In 1923-1928 Webb reconstructed the other bays of the cloister’s north ambulatory.

 

St. Martin-in-the-Fields…

On the northeast side of Trafalgar Square is one of London’s best-known churches: St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The design of the eighteenth-century church has had a profound impact on ecclesiastical architecture around the world.
St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London
St. Martin-in-the-Fields churchSt. Martin-in-the-FieldsSt. Martin-in-the-Fields interiorInterior

St. Martin-in-the-Fields organOrgan

A church already stood at this site in the early thirteenth century. It was rebuilt in 1542 under the reign of Henry VIII. Today St. Martin-in-the-Fields sits at one of the most crowded squares in London but at the time this was the parish church of a large rural area, with plenty of grassland and fields, hence the name of the church. The present church was built between 1721 and 1726 to replace the derelict medieval church.

The Design

The church was designed by the Scottish architect James Gibbs, who had worked in Romefor the esteemed architect Carlo Fontana.Gibbs was the first to successfully combine a Palladian temple front with a medieval-style church steeple. The steeple is well in proportion with the magnificent Corinthian portico. At first Gibbs’s design was quite controversial, but it soon became the model for many other churches, in particular in the British colonies in North America.

The interior is noted for the beautiful plasterwork decoration on the barrel-vaulted ceiling, the work of Giovanni Battista Bagutti and Chrysostom Wilkins. Outside, take a close look at the beautiful church tower – clearly inspired by the steeples of Christopher Wren. But the star is really the monumental portico. Its pediment is supported by eight massive Corinthian columns. On either side of the church are two more columns, creating the impression of a portico that wraps itself around the church.

Royal Connection

St. Martin-in-the-Fields is the official parish church of Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace; George I was even churchwarden here. You can see several references to this royal connection in and on the church: to the left of the main altar is the royal pew, and the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom embellishes the ceiling. The large relief on the pediment also shows the royal coat-of-arms.

The Crypt

There’s usually little activity in crypts, but the crypt underneath St. Martin-the-Fields is quite different: there’s a restaurant – the ‘Café in the Crypt’ – and a souvenir shop. The crypt, accessible from the north side, is also used to hold temporary exhibits of modern art. It is also the place where – for a small fee – you can try brass-rubbing, an activity that was popular in Victorian times, when people traced brass ornaments with a crayon and paper. They kept the paper reproduction as a souvenir. The church has a collection of over one hundred replicas of brasses.

Cumberland Terrace…

One of the large-scale works of architect John Nash, Cumberland Terrace was part of a grand development plan of what is now known as Regency London. The palatial terrace was designed in the vein of a neoclassical temple.
Cumberland Terrace, London

Cumberland Terrace
Sitting on the eastern side of Regent’s Park in the borough of Camden, Cumberland Terrace is an imposing block of houses – thirty-one in all – designed by English architect John Nash in a grand neoclassical style. The homes were built by William Mountford Nurse and completed in 1826. They were named for one of the king’s eight brothers, the Duke of Cumberland.

The Buildings

This ornate block of buildings is four stories high and is organized into three groups, with beautiful triumphal arches linking the groups and leading into small courtyards. The main group has fifteen homes with the five in the center projecting forward.

Portico, Cumberland Terrace, London

One of the porticoes

Pediment, Cumberland Terrace, London

Pediment

The ground floor of the three middle houses in that group of five projects out even further and along with the house on either side forms a stepped platform from which a screen of Ionic columns extends up to the second floor. Urns sit atop the balustrade and the whole composition culminates in a pediment decorated with reliefs and crowned with statuary.

The remaining sixteen homes are recessed and feature fluted Ionic pilasters situated between the windows to the first and second floors, rising from a ground-floor platform, not unlike the main group. An attractive wrought-iron balcony runs in front of the first floor windows.

The inside of the homes are said to be quite ornate as well, with circular staircases and large bedroom fireplaces, ornate cornices, and much more. Many of the homes are still occupied as single-family residences but some have been converted to flats. The single-family homes cost in the millions of pounds.

Regency Architecture

Regent Street, London

Regent Street
Cumberland Terraces is just one of a number of terraces that were built as part of the ‘Metropolitan improvements’ that were implemented in what is now known as Regency London, an area that stretches from Regent Street toRegent’s Park.The area is known as such since the development plans were launched by the Prince Regent (who would go on to become King George IV). John Nash created the master plan for the area and is responsible for many of the buildings including those of Cumberland Terrace. The regal architectural style used for the projects became known as Regency Architecture.

Other Terraces

Sussex Terrace, London

Sussex Terrace
Other, similar terraces were created around the same time Cumberland Terrace was developed. The first series of terraces were built from 1821-1823: York, Cornwall, Sussex and Hanover. Other terraces: the Ulster, Cambridge, Chester, and Gloucester terraces were completed in 1827.The creation of the terraces helped transform London from an industrial city to a grand metropolis befitting its position as capital of an empire.

 

Queen’s House…

The Queen’s House was built in 1616-1638 for Anne of Denmark, Queen consort of James I. The house, which is home to a collection of paintings from the National Maritime Museum, marked a milestone in the architectural history of England.

History

The Queen's House, Greenwich, London

Queen’s House

The Queen's House seen from Greenwich Park, London

View from Greenwich Park
Queen Anne of Denmark wasn’t too happy with the old Palace of Placentia inGreenwich so her husband James I instructed Inigo Jones, surveyor-general of the King’s Works, to build a new summer house near the old palace. Jones had just returned from a visit to Italy which inspired him to design England’s first building in Palladian style, a style heavily influenced by classical architecture.Construction of the house started in 1616 but when Queen Anne died three years later the building was left unfinished. In 1632 construction resumed when King Charles I decided to complete the house for his wife, Henrietta Maria of France. The house was finally finished in 1638 by John Webb, assistant and son-in-law of Inigo Jones.

The Queen’s House was only sparingly used by the royals who preferred to reside at the much larger Hampton Court Palace. In 1690 the house became the residence of the Ranger of Greenwich Park. In 1806 King George III donated the house to the Royal Naval Asylum, a school created for orphaned children of military personnel who were killed in action. The school moved to another location in 1933. The house was restored and opened to the public four years later, in 1937, as the National Maritime Museum.

Architecture

South facade of the Queen's House in Greenwich

South facade

The colonnade of the Queen's House in Greenwich, London

The colonnade

View from the loggia of the Queen's House, Greenwich

View from the loggia

The Great Hall, Queen's House, Greenwich

Great Hall
The Queen’s House had a significant impact on English architecture. It was the first neoclassical building in the country and it contrasted starkly with the then-prevalent Elizabethan architecture which was often characterized by turrets and towers.The building’s design looks simple but elegant, with a rectangular layout and just two stories topped with a flat balustraded roof. The south side was designed as the front facade, and features a loggia with Ionic columns on the first floor which overlooks Greenwich Park. The other side, facing the river, features a wide double staircase. The open colonnades that connect the house with the annexes were built much later, in 1807, to designs by Daniel Alexander.

Interior

The main entrance on the north side leads straight to the Great Hall, a perfect cube measuring twelve meters (40 ft) on each side. The beautiful black-and-white patterned marble floor was laid by Nicholas Stone, the master mason of Charles I. The ceiling was decorated in 1636-1638 with paintings created by Orazio Gentileschi. Unfortunately they were removed in 1708 and now adorn Marlborough House.To the left is the Tulip Staircase, the first self-supporting stairs in England. It is named for the flower decorations on the iron handrail, even though these probably depict lilies. The lily-motif, symbol of France, reappears in the Queen’s Cabinet, where it is intertwined with acanthus leaves and accompanied by royal monograms that symbolize the marriage between King Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France. The most interesting room is the Queen’s Bedroom, which is decorated with an eighteenth century ceiling painting of ‘Aurora Dispersing the Shades of Night’ that replaced the original painting from 1640.

Art Gallery

Battle of Trafalgar, Queen's House

Battle of Trafalgar
The Queen’s House was the original location of the National Maritime Museum. The main collection of the museum is now housed in a separate, larger building, but you can still admire a fine selection of nautical paintings in the Queen’s House. The paintings illustrate the illustrious history of the Royal Navy, and show naval battle scenes and portraits of some of England’s heroes. The most famous work is the ‘Battle of Trafalgar’, a large canvas painting created by Joseph Mallord William Turner. The painting was commissioned in 1822 by King George IV who intended it for the state room of St. James’s Palace.

 

Guildhall…

Ever since it was built in the early fifteenth century, the Guildhall has been the home of the Corporation of London, the governing body of the Livery Companies – guilds – in the City of London.
Even today the Corporation of London, presided by the lord mayor, governs the City of London (with the City referring to London’s historic heart,

Guildhall, London

Guildhall

also known as the Square Mile and not Greater London). The lord mayor is assisted by twenty-four aldermen who govern one of the twenty-four districts in the City, known as wards.

The Building

The Guildhall was built from 1411 to 1429 by master mason John Croxton and was the third such building at this site. It is the only secular stone building that survived the Great Fire of 1666, although much of the interior was destroyed. The current front facade dates back to 1788 when it was reconstructed in a mixture of neo-Gothic and oriental styles. The medieval porch however is still authentic even though some additions were made in 1671.The roof – which had been rebuilt after the fire of 1666 – was destroyed again in December 1940 during the blitz,

The porch of the Guildhall in the City of London

The porch

and replaced with the current roof in 1954.

Interior

The grandeur of the building becomes apparent in the Great Hall. Measuring 46 by 14.6 meters (151 x 48ft) the grand medieval hall was long the largest civic hall in England. The hall is decorated with banners of the city’s twelve guilds. A number of statues, depicting national heroes can be found in the hall. Some of the most famous British immortalized in the hall are admiral Nelson, with a sculpture created by James Smith in 1806-1810, duke Wellington sculpted by John Bell in 1856 and a seated bronze statue of Winston Churchill, cast by Oscar Nemon in 1955.Another impressive hall is the Old Library, which used to house the Guildhall’s library and museum. The library moved to a more modern building nearby and the museum is now part of the Museum of London. In the Guildhall’s art gallery, a collection of paintings collected by the Corporation of London is displayed.

The Guildhall’s undercroft

Below the Guildhall are two crypts. The oldest crypt, situated to the west, was restored in the 1970s and was probably built in the thirteenth or early fourteenth century. The other, more impressive crypt was built by John Croxton although its foundations go back to the eleventh century.Excavations carried out at the Guildhall Yard in front of the Guildhall between 1988 and 1995 revealed the remains of London’s only Roman amphitheater, situated six meters below ground.

Guildhall Library

A unique collection of illustrations, drawings and books about the history of London as well as other historic books is housed in a more recent, adjoining building west of the Guildhall. The same building is also home to the Clockmaker’s Company Collection, a museum with a collection of clocks and watches, mainly from the seventeen and eighteen centuries.

Wellington Arch…

The Wellington Arch is a triumphal arch named after the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815 at Waterloo. The arch is home to a small museum.

Construction

Designed by Decimus Burton,

Wellington Arch, London

Wellington Arch

the construction of Wellington Arch (andMarble Arch to the north) was ordered in 1825 by King George IV, who wanted to create a landmark that would commemorate British victory in the Napoleonic Wars. The arch was built between 1826 and 1830 and was originally known as Green Park Arch and later Constitution Arch.

The arch sits to the south of Hyde Park and was to serve as a gateway towards Buckingham Palace and, hence, an entrance to Central London for those arriving from the west. It was originally located right near the Apsley House, once the home of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, and now a museum displaying the duke’s life and work. At the end of the nineteenth century, the arch was moved a bit to its present position due to a road widening project.

The Quadriga

The idea was to decorate the arches with reliefs and sculptures in the vein of the Roman triumphal arches but due to a lack of funds it was left unadorned. In 1838 it was decided that the first Duke of Wellington would be honored with a large statue that was to be placed atop the arch. Hence the current name of the arch.

Quadriga on top of the Wellington Arch in London

The Quadriga

However, the equestrian statue – designed by Matthew Coates Wyatt and placed on the arch in 1846 – was heavily criticized; it was considered too large in proportion to the arch and the Queen reportedly called it an eyesore. In 1883 the nine-meter (30ft) tall statue was removed from the arch and later transported to Aldershot, where it stands today.

Lord Michelham of Hellingly, a wealthy banker, proposed to fund a new sculpture to replace Wellesley’s statue. Designed by Adrian Jones, this sculpture in honor of King Edward VII is the one we see today: an enormous bronze sculpture group that depicts the angel of peace who descends on the chariot of war, pulled by four horses and led by a small boy. Lord Michelham’s oldest son, Herman Stern, acted as a model for the boy.

Use of the Arch

Wellington Arch is hollow inside, so over the years, it has had several different uses.

Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, London

Until 1992, it housed the second-smallest police station in London. Currently, it boasts a three-story museum that educates visitors on the history of the arch. There’s also a balcony that allows good views of other nearby landmarks.

Because it was moved to accommodate traffic in the growing city of London, Wellington Arch is stranded on Hyde Park Corner, an island surrounded by heavily trafficked streets so it sometimes tends to be overlooked by tourists perusing the city. However, English Heritage Foundation – which oversees the monument – is attempting to make the arch more accessible and visitor-friendly.