Act of Barbarism – The Euston Arch

5 Mar

Whatever is happening with the Euston Arch?

Built in 1837, the Euston Arch was a Victorian landmark of sizeable proportions. It used to be the gateway to Euston station, which was the world’s first mainline terminus in a capital city. It was over 70ft tall and pretty imposing. I, however, am too young to have ever seen it, so must at this point out that that last adjective was merely conjecture on my part, although I have seen a few photos!! Nevertheless, it must have been impossible to pass such a classical structure without feeling some emotion. Indeed, when the decision to pull it down was made in the early 1960s, it was met with an early conservationist outcry, notably from John Betjeman. The removal of this London landmark has been described as ‘an act of barbarism’, I would agree, more so in light of the subsequent development of the station, catatonic in its mediocrity.

Demolition job

It’s fair to say that Euston is certainly no St. Pancras. The only redeeming features are the two surviving stone lodges left outside the station, which now house the Euston Tap and Cider Tap, both worthy occupants in my book. Britain often seems to specialise in mediocrity in much of its town planning, as any one glance at the standard of design and quality of public urban spaces or much of the housing erected over the last 15-20 years will reveal (slums of the future no doubt). The station, rather than becoming a proud symbol for our capital, became a station in desperate need of redevelopment.

And then there was light!

Back in the 90s in a BBC television programme, the very individual Dan Cruickshank, went in search of the remains of the Euston  Arch itself and with some success. He located large portions of the demolished arch in one of the demolition engineers’ back gardens and a whole load more dumped into an East London waterway. This seemed to spark a campaign to restore the arch to its former glory and some development plans that have been discussed for the station area seem to have included the possibility of including the arch in the new design and that, I’m afraid, is all I know…..

So what is happening now?

Every area needs good space, good design and heritage and these can sit well together and instil a sense of pride and identity in a locality. As the now, Patron of the Euston Arch Trust, Monty Python’s Michael Palin says:

“The enormous popularity of the restored St. Pancras, soon to be followed by a restored King’s Cross, has shown that celebration of the past and potential for the future are not mutually exclusive. The restoration of the Euston Arch would restore to London’s oldest mainline terminus some of the character and dignity of its great neighbours.”

More here, here and here

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