Wellington Arch, London

Wellington Arch, London

Wellington Arch, also known as the Constitution Arch or (originally) Green Park Arch, is a triumphal arch located to the south of Hyde Park in central London and at the western corner of Green Park (although it is now isolated on a traffic island). The arch, along with Marble Arch (originally sited in front of Buckingham Palace), were both planned in 1825 by George IV to commemorate Britain's victories in the Napoleonic Wars. The Wellington Arch was also conceived as an outer gateway to Constitution Hill to form a grand entrance into central London from the west. Back in the 18th century, the presence of a turnpike gate at this point led to a strong perception that this was the beginning of London (reflected in the nickname for Apsley House as "No 1, London") and the arch was intended to reflect the importance of the position. The Wellington Arch was built in 1826-1830 to a design by Decimus Burton. 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. The arch originally stood almost directly opposite the Duke of Wellington's Apsley House, a short distance from and at a right-angles to its present location. It faced the screen, also designed by Decimus Burton, which still is in its original location and forms the Hyde Park Corner entrance to Hyde Park. It was intended to form part of a grand ceremonial route towards Buckingham Palace.

In 1882-83, the arch was moved a short distance to its present location on Hyde Park Corner to facilitate a road widening scheme. In the new location it lost its original relationship to the entrance of Hyde Park, but acquired a new function as the entrance to Constitution Hill. It is now in the centre of a large traffic island, claimed from what was the western tip of Green Park. Decimus Burton, prolific English architect and garden designer, had envisaged a sculpture of a quadriga on top of the arch. His intentions were realised in 1912 with the installation of a huge bronze designed by Adrian Jones. It is based on a smaller original which caught the eye of Edward VII at a Royal Academy exhibition. The sculpture depicts the angel of peace descending on the chariot of war. The face of the charioteer leading the quadriga is that of a small boy (actually the son of Lord Michelham, the man who funded the sculpture). The angel of peace was modelled on Beatrice Stewart. The statue is the largest bronze sculpture in Europe.

The arch is hollow inside, and until 1992 housed a small police station. Transferred to the ownership of English Heritage in 1999, it is open to the public and contains three floors of exhibits detailing the history of the arch and some of its uses. Visitors can also step onto terraces on both sides of the top of the arch, which give views of the surrounding area. One half of the arch functions as a ventilation shaft for the London Underground network. This causes on average three emergency calls each year to the London Fire Brigade from people believing there is smoke coming from the arch whereas in fact it is warm air and dust from the underground network.

Operating hours: 10 am – 5 pm Wednesday to Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday. Entry fee: adult - £4.00; child (5-15 years) - £2.40.
Sight description based on wikipedia

This sight is featured in a self-guided walking tour of London, England within the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" which can be downloaded from iTunes App Store or Google Play. Please download the app to your mobile phone or tablet for travel directions for visiting this sight. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Wellington Arch on Map

Sight Name: Wellington Arch
Sight Location: London, England
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) containing this sight: Kensington/Knightsbridge Walk  

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