What Exactly is Marble Arch?


A closer look at some of London’s most iconic landmarks and their origins…

What exactly is Marble Arch? Who built it and why is such a grand structure sitting on what is essentially a traffic island? The answer takes us away from the bottom end of Oxford Street and over to none other than Buckingham Palace, for this is the original state entrance for the palace, designed by celebrated architect John Nash back in 1827, with the structure completed in 1833.

This three archway design is actually based on the Arch of Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The marble used in its construction even came from quarries in Italy.

When work was undertaken to enlarge the palace during Queen Victoria’s reign the arch was dismantled. After the work was completed no room could be found for the arch to remain and so it became a ceremonial entrance to Hyde Park. Later, when the roads surrounding the park were expanded to help ease traffic congestion, the arch was moved to its current location.

Incidentally, there are three small rooms inside the arch which were once used by the Metropolitan Police, though not as a station as some as stated (that would be Wellington Arch).

One last note, next time you are in Trafalgar Square take a look at the statue of George IV on horseback and imagine it fixed to the top of the arch. That was its original location.

Spare a thought for it next time you are close by…

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