Photographs 2006 by the author. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photograoher and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. ]

Marble Arch seen from Hyde Park. [Click on all the images to enlarge them.]

The principal architect of Marble Arch was John Nash (1752-1835). Like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which inspired it, this famous Grade I listed structure is based on the Arch of Constantine in Rome, and (in a riposte to the Paris one) was intended to mark the victories of Waterloo and Trafalgar in the Napoleonic Wars. It was originally planned and erected as the main gateway into Buckingham Palace.

Plaster model of about 1826, made by Nottingham-born John Charles Felix Rossi (1762-1839), © Victorian and Albert Museum, accession no. 14-1939.

Work on it was paused after the death of George IV, and resumed in 1832. Since Nash's run as "public architect" had effectively ended by then, Edward Blore was commissioned for the completion: departing from the elaborate original model, he designed a simpler upper or attic part himself. Most sources say that the arch is of, or faced with, white Carrarra marble; but Historic England's listing text only mentions the particularly choice Seravezza marble.

The whole arch was fully completed in 1833, although some of the sculpture intended for it was never installed, but used elsewhere. In 1851, it was moved to its present site at the entrance to Hyde Park, where it still stands at the park's north-east corner. This rebuilding was entrusted to another architect favoured by the royal family: Thomas Cubitt, who added a practical dimension to it by installing rooms in the deep sides of the arch for use by the Metropolitan Police. Since 1908, this familiar landmark has been marooned since 1908 on its own traffic island (see Weinreb et al., 528).

Left: Marble Arch seen from the Hyde Park again, at an angle. This gives an idea of the depth of the arch. Right: Marble Arch seen from Oxford Street.

Left: Closer view of the top of the arch on the south (Hyde Park) side, with winged Victories by Baily in the spandrels, Right: Bearded head forming arch keystone.

Even in its pared down state, the arch features the work of several eminent sculptors: John Flaxman, whose overall plan influence later sculptors, although he himself died in 1835; Edmund Baily who worked on the south side, facing the park; Sir Richard Westmacott, who worked on the north side facing Oxford Street; Nottingham-born John Charles Felix Rossi (1762-1839), whose work was incorporated in the front façade of the new National Gallery, and Sir Francis Chantrey, whose equestrian statue of George IV, intended for the top of the arch, went to Trafalgar Square.

Left: Wreaths at the ends of Marble Arch, possibly by Flaxman. Right: Corinthian column and winged Victory.

Two views of the ironwork in the gates, designed by Samuel Parker. Left: St. George Slaying the Dragon. Right: A very regal British lion.

The ironwork gates were executed by the firm of Bramah and Sons of Piccadilly, originally a locksmith firm, and at this point (from 1837, when the gates were installed) known as Brahmah and Robinson, later becoming known as Bramah, Prestige and Ball. Still in London, but now at Goodge Place, Fitzrovia, Brahmah still advertises its "Locks with distinction."

Other Views


"About Brahmah: Our History." website">Brahmah,Web. 11 November 2022.

Evans, Jim. A Gazetteer of Lock and Key Makers. Web. 11 November 2022.

"The Marble Arch, Marble Arch, W1." Historic England. Web. 11 November 2022.

The Story of Marble Arch, London. A Triumphal Arch. Web. 11 November 2022.

Weinreb, Ben, et al. The London Encyclopaedia. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan, 2008.

"What Marble Arch Might Have Looked Like." Victoria and Albert Museum. Web. 11 November 2022.

Created 24 August 2006

Last modified 11 November 2022