Return ticket for London’s Euston Arch

Nick Myall
Thursday 03 Nov 2016

The forthcoming redevelopment of Euston Station for high speed rail services provides an opportunity to reinstate the spectacular Euston Arch

For more than 120 years, the Euston Arch formed a grand entrance to Euston railway station in London for travellers heading to the North of the UK. 

Its architect, Philip Hardwick, built it out of Yorkshire Stone at a cost of £35,000 (£2.5million in today’s money) after being inspired by classical buildings in Rome during a trip to Italy in 1818.

In the 1960s it was swept away to make way for a more modern, utilitarian replacement against a backdrop of fierce protests. However, it could be about to re-emerge.

John Hayes, the UK transport minister, suggested this week that the arch could be rebuilt as part of a major upgrade of Euston Station that will coincide with the launch of high-speed rail services from the station in 2026. He went on to say that the reinstatement of the arch would “signal a renaissance in British Railways and start a revolt against “the cult of ugliness” that had blighted British Railways since the 1960s. 

The Euston Arch Trust has long campaigned for the rebuilding of the Greek revival landmark. Co-founder Dan Cruickshank said: “The forthcoming redevelopment of Euston Station provides an unmissable opportunity to reinstate the spectacular Euston Arch.

“We’re talking about a building of international importance. Once reconstructed, it would vastly improve the public realm, attracting investment and visitors to this part of London.”

The Euston Arch was built in 1838 and, towering 70ft above the ground, it was the biggest Doric gateway in the world.

The arch dominated the station from 1838 until 1962 when both were controversially demolished to make way for a modern station. The protests at its destruction attracted prominent figures such as Sir John Betjeman.

A group of students even climbed scaffolding around the arch as demolition of the 4,500 ton structure was due to take place and unfurled a banner pleading for it to be saved. 

But their protests were in vain and its stones were dumped into a tributary of the River Lea in East London to fill a hole in the riverbed.

But British Waterways dredged the channel and managed to salvage the discarded rock on behalf of the Euston Arch Trust when it carried out repair work to the waterways around the 2012 Olympic site.

Now HS2 is creating a valuable opportunity. Mr Hayes said that the HS2 design panel was charged with ensuring that there would be, “no more soulless ubiquity, no more demolition of our railway heritage, no more sub-standard, conceptually flawed buildings.”

The ambitious multi-million pound design to rebuild the 70ft arch on the original site includes a nightclub in the foundations with lifts rising up the pillars to a banqueting hall, seating around 80 diners.

Beneath the banqueting hall the building will be open and buses and taxis will be able to drive through it.

Nick Myall

News editor

Key Facts:

Civic Buildings Transport
United Kingdom
Euston Arch London

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