Partly due to a feeling of national pride after the victories in the Napoleonic Wars, and partly due to a love of all things classical, two colossal arches were planned for London in the early 1800s. The structures we now call “Wellington Arch” and “Marble Arch” were commissioned in 1825 but both were originally intended for other uses and locations.
Originally named the “Green Park Arch” when constructed in 1826 to a design by Decimus Burton, the Wellington Arch was planned as an imposing and triumphal gateway into London from the west, and would form an outer gateway to Constitution Hill. This was seen as the entry point to the capital, and indeed nearby Apsley House, the London residence of the Duke of Wellington, was nicknamed “No.1 London”.
Largest bronze sculpture in Europe
The Wellington Arch as we now know it was originally topped with an equestrian statue of the great man himself until 1912, when it was replaced with its current mammoth artwork. The largest bronze sculpture in Europe sits on top of this colossal arch, depicting the Angel of Peace descending onto the four horsed chariot of war, or Quadriga.
An Arch with a view
Set in the very centre of todays’ royal quarter of London, visitors can tour three floors of exhibition space inside the arch, then take in the eye popping panoramic views of London’s Royal Parks and the Houses of Parliament from its top floor balconies. It also offers a cheeky side view into Buckingham Palace gardens!
Before it was turned into a visitor attraction in 1992, the Wellington Arch housed the second smallest police station in London. The smallest is in the southeast corner of Trafalgar Square, designed as a look-out post for Police watching public protests. London Duck Tours cannot confirm if these two stations also housed London’s smallest police constables.