Oh, alright. I’ll be all formal and call it Wellington Arch, or Constitution Arch, if you insist. Regardless of nomenclature, this beautiful arch sits at the entrance to Hyde Park in central London. Built between 1826 and 1830, this arch (combined with Marble Arch) commemorates the British victories during the Napoleonic Wars.
The arch was originally placed directly across the entrance to the park. It’s location was meant to imply that THIS was the beginning of London proper. In 1882 the arch was was moved to accomodate road expansion, and it currently sits in the middle of a traffic island.
Alex and I spent some time at Wellington Arch this past weekend, and while I was admiring the beautiful facade, Alex was counting the buses (there were 10 buses in 5 minutes!) Although it is currently quite stunning, the adornments on the arch are not as flamboyant as originally intended. Because it was built at the same time that Buckingham Palace was being renovated (and the costs for that went way over budget), the plans for the arch were drastically reduced to save money.
This is the large iron gate that closes in the center of the arch. I’m not sure if the gates are ever shut — I’ve always seen them open! The ironwork is quite intricate, and have a lovely green patina.
There used to be a different statue on the top of the arch (of Duke Wellington, naturally), but it was removed around the turn of the century. In 1912 the current statue was placed atop the arch, and depicts “the angel of peace descending on the chariot of war”. Wikipedia claims that it is the largest broze statue in Europe. I have not been able to find any evidence of an eduring myth, that a dinner party was held inside the belly of one of the horses to celebrate the new statue.
Much like the Arc de Tiomphe in Paris, Wellington Arch is open to visitors! There are three storeys of displays inside, detailing the history of the arch. You can even get to the very top, which has excellent views of Hyde Park.
We didn’t know this at the time, but I’ve since discovered that half of the arch is actually a ventilation shaft for the London Underground! Apparently the fire department regularly gets calls from people thinking the arch is on fire, when it’s really just dust and air coming up from the tube shafts!