The blog of the Euston Arch Trust campaigning for the rebuilding of the Euston Arch destroyed when Euston station was redeveloped in the 1960s. A proposed redevelopment of Euston offers the chance to rebuild the arch. A rebuilt Euston Arch would be an outstanding gateway to a new Euston Station.
Monday, 18 August 2008
Euston: time to rebuild this colossus
Why is a treasure of the steam age languishing in a canal? Martin Gayford reports
"Railway termini and hotels are to the 19th century what monasteries and cathedrals were to the 13th century. They are the only real representative buildings we possess." So wrote Building News in 1875. Many, looking at the refurbished St Pancras, would agree: that is universally agreed to be among the architectural masterpieces of Victorian Britain. It is less well known that an equally imposing monument of the railway age now lies - or most of it does - at the bottom of a canal in east London.
The Euston Arch used to stand a few hundred yards to the west of St Pancras: huge, austere, and magnificent. It was 70 feet high by 44 feet deep. "Between the fluted columns, each eight and a half feet in diameter, which formed the main carriage entrance," wrote John Betjeman, "might be glimpsed the green hills of Hampstead beyond." For over a century this was the first sight of London for travellers from the North West. When it was new, crowds flocked by omnibus to see this wonder of the age.
Its destruction in 1961 was one of the first and sharpest battles in the late-20th-century conservation wars. In fact, the outcry that it provoked was an important factor in preventing the destruction - now inconceivable - of St Pancras and King's Cross. But now there is a chance that the great arch may rise again. This is an opportunity, as Tim Knox, director of Sir John Soane's Museum, says, "to right one of the great wrongs of architectural vandalism to London in the Sixties".
The Euston Arch was constructed in 1837 by the architect Philip Hardwick as the grand entrance to the first railway terminus ever built in a capital city. The world's first trunk line, as Betjeman put it, was from London to Birmingham, and Euston the forerunner of all grand stations. It was, not surprisingly, idiosyncratic. In the 1830s, the new stations were thought of as the modern equivalent to the gates of ancient cities. Accordingly, Hardwick produced a Doric portico or Propylaeum of the kind that might have been seen in a classical Greek town, but on a colossal scale. It was the first great architectural monument of the age of steam.
At first, the arch was not universally liked. Augustus Welby Pugin thought it a grotesque example of architectural showing off, a "Brobdignaggian absurdity", a monstrous portico "for the cabs to drive through". But Pugin, apostle of the Gothic, was wrong. Hardwick's arch was a superb late example of neo-classical design - London's closest rival to the masterpieces of Karl Friedrich Schinkel in Berlin.
It stood for 124 years - somewhere around the southern end of the current platforms eight and nine - until British Railways decided to redevelop Euston. At first it was proposed to move the arch and re-erect it on a different site. This could easily have been done, but BR concluded it would be too expensive. A deputation, including Betjeman, pleaded with the then prime minister, Harold Macmillan, but got nowhere.
"Macmillan listened - or I suppose he listened," the architectural critic JM Richards recalled. "He sat without moving with his eyes apparently closed. He asked no questions; in fact he said nothing except that he would consider the matter." Macmillan, born in 1894, was of the generation which wanted to escape, not preserve, the 19th century.
And so the arch was demolished. Some of the stones ended up in Bromley, in the garden of the demolition contractor. Then, in 1994, the broadcaster and architectural historian Dan Cruickshank discovered that about 60 per cent of them had been used to plug a large hole in the bed of the Prescott Channel, a canal that runs into the River Lea in the East End. Part of a fluted column was raised, and - Cruickshank told me - turned out to be "in extremely good nick, with the surface tooling intact from 1837".
Cruickshank, who has been crusading on this issue for many years, feels it is "incredibly important" that if the arch is reconstructed, as much as possible of the original fabric - grit stone from Yorkshire - should be used. One of the imponderables is how damaged the rest of the dressed stone may be.
Last year it was announced there is to be another redevelopment of Euston, in 2012. This creates a real chance that the arch could return from its watery grave. That could be, as Cruickshank argues, a great asset. "It would make the new station internationally significant and much talked about," he says.
An important factor will be the attitude of London's new mayor. The arch - ancient Greek, yet in its time a great symbol of modernity - ought to be a perfect cause for Boris Johnson, classicist and modern-minded conservative.
The above piece can also be viewed via the link below:
Friday, 1 August 2008
Thanks to the work of Joe Robson (http://www.joerobson.co.uk/sai/home.html) we now have a fantastic computer generated image of what the arch would look like if rebuilt between the two existing lodges on Euston Square.
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
These are the only remaining parts of the Euston Arch to survive and one of the most spectacular parts of it. They are located just inside the main entrance to the NRM and their sheer size provides a good guide to the size of the arch.
These particular gates are the main ones that were located between the two front columns of the arch. Gates were also located either side of these and other gates were located to the sides of the arches flanking lodges and provided access to the platforms. The gates from the sides of the lodges are now peculiarly located at the National Tram Museum.
The sign next to the gates tells us the following:
These elaborate cast iron gates are from the Doric Portico that formed the entrance to the original Euston station in London.
The Arch remains at Euston for over one hundred years. Electrification of the line to Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool required the enlargement of Euston station and as a result the Arch was demolished in late 1961. This caused considerable public protest.
In hindsight, it can be seen that the destruction of Euston Arch may well have strengthened the case for the preservation of major architectural structures.
The plaque from the Great Hall
The plaque was unveiled when the Great Hall was opened in 1849 and also marks the earlier opening of the station in 1838. It reads as follows:
The Great Hall
Was erected to the design of
And brought into public use
On 27th May 1849
It is the largest railway waiting room
In the British Isles. Measuring 126 feet in length, 61 feet
In width and 64 feet in height The flat panelled
Ceiling is the largest of its type in the world.
Euston station, the first main line terminus in London
Was brought fully into use on
17th September 1838
A silver model of the Euston Arch
It seems there were two such models made. One was made by the demolition contractor Frank Valori and presented to Lord Esher who is reported to have said: "made him feel as if some man had murdered his wife and then presented him with her bust". This model was given to the Victorian Society from whom it was later stolen and it remains lost.
This model sits in a case showing the different stages of Britain’s railways and therefore stands in the 1960s stage so as to mark the date when the arch was lost. The plaque below the arch states:
The London Midland Region
By Bernard M. Fairclough JP
The Clock from the Great Hall
I’d seen the clock in plenty of pictures of the Great Hall and in a picture of it standing at the NRM, but they didn’t prepare me for how big it is. At around 13 feet tall it towers over you. Sadly it’s tucked away in a dark corner at the NRM, a distinguished corner as it’s the next to the exit from their display of the carriages of the Royal Train, but a corner nonetheless.
The clock mechanism itself is older than the Euston Station it served for 125 years and is estimated to have been made around the 1820s. Despite being 180-90 years old it’s still keeping time.
The sculpture of Britannia stood over the door at the top of the stairs in the Great Hall that led to the Shareholders meeting rooms. Along with the plaque discussed above the sculpture is the only part of the Great Hall I know of to have survived destruction in 1961. Instead it suffered the ignominy of being displayed in the new First Class waiting lounge in the new station. By the 1990s the display was in a poor state and so Britannia was despatched to the NRM where she is now mounted on a stand where she grandly overlooks the large collection of railway memorabilia that is the NRM’s Warehouse. A note attached to her explains the following:
This group of statues by the sculpture, John Thomas, came from the Great Hall at London’s Euston station which was demolished in 1961. The comprise Britannia and her supporters, Mercury, the Arts a lion and a ship which represents commerce.
At some point, probably in the 1940s, the statues were given a protective coat of paint, but this is now beginning to flake, revealing the stone beneath.
The National Railway Museum’s conservation team is carrying out tests to find out whether the pain can be safely removed, so that the statues can be displayed in their original state.
Statue of George Stephenson
The statue stood overlooking the Great Hall at Euston Station and now stands overlooking the main display hall at the NRM. One of the greatest railway engineers in Britain and the world. The statue of his son, an engineer of equal skill and imagination, remains at Euston overlooking the area outside the concourse.
Model of the development in front of the station
I’d just found the Britannia sculpture when my eye caught a glimpse of a model of something that looked familiar. On closer inspection I discover a model of the development on the forecourt of Euston Station – the black towers designed by Colonel Richard Seifert. Completed in the early 1980s this model shows how they were intended to look and indeed how they did end up looking. Although not a surviving piece of the old station I thought I'd throw it in as something of Euston at York.
A wooden picture of the Arch
This wooden picture commemorates the 1829-1939 anniversary of the first run of the Rocket locomotive contrasting it with the streamlined LMS Pacific Coronation Class locomotive on the right. In the background is the Euston Arch and on the right the LMS headquarters building built next to the station on Eversholt Street.
Monday, 14 April 2008
EUSTON ARCH TRUST LAUNCHES WEBSITE AS PART OF CAMPAIGN TO REBUILD THE EUSTON ARCH
The Euston Arch Trust today launches its website – www.eustonarch.org – as part of its campaign to see the Euston Arch rebuilt in a proposed redevelopment of Euston station.
Euston Station is to be redeveloped around 2012 in an estimated £1 billion scheme led by Network Rail and British Land, who are expected to announce their design team this week.
This decision to replace the ugly, unloved and inefficient 1960s Euston Station presents the perfect opportunity to rebuild the Euston Arch, if possible reusing a significant number of original stones that were discovered in the early 1990s, and so return to London one of the most beautiful and architecturally and historically important buildings of the 19th century.
Rebuilding the arch would both atone for a great cultural crime and form a magnificent monumental gateway to a new and better Euston Station.
Completed in 1838 and tragically and needlessly demolished in 1962 the arch was the first great international monument of the railway age and was the largest Doric propylaeum, or Classical gate, in the world and one of the finest pieces of Greek Revival architecture ever built.
Public outrage at its demolition in 1962 drove forward the conservation movement in turn saving buildings such as St Pancras and King’s Cross stations from similar fates.
As Michael Palin - the Euston Arch Trust’s Patron explains: ‘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 main line terminus some of the character and dignity of its great neighbours.’
The website of the trust contains full information about the campaign, plans of the arch and a comprehensive gallery of pictures. The address is: www.eustonarch.org
The Euston Arch Trust email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
The Euston Arch Trust was established in 1995 following Dan Cruickshank’s successful tracking down of the remains of the Euston Arch for the BBC TV Series ‘One Foot in the Past’.
Following the discovery the Trust drew up plans for rebuilding the arch between two lodges on Euston Square that are all that remain of the former station buildings. Details can be found on the website.
Network Rail first announced the redevelopment of Euston Station in April 2007. Details can be found at: http://www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=2928&NewsAreaID=2&SearchCategoryID=2
The redevelopment is expected to cost around £1 billion and start around 2012. Construction work is expected to last around 4 years.
Sunday, 13 April 2008
Our website www.eustonarch.org will soon go live and this blog will include the most recent updates to the site along with news of the proposed redevelopment of Euston station that is the opportunity to rebuild this lost masterpiece of London.