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ommissioned in 1835 by the London and Birmingham Railway Company, the Euston Arch was intended to proclaim the station’s status as the ‘Gateway to the North’. Modelled on a market entrance in ancient Athens, the arch is a prominent example of the trend of Doric Portico building that John Summerson noted grew in London in the early nineteenth century. The arch was erected at a moment in British history that many contemporaries regarded as pivotal, and quickly became an emblem of a new national era, epitomised by the dawn of the railway age. In 1959, the London County Council and British Transport Commission announced plans to demolish the arch first broached in 1938, and despite protests by preservationists, the arch came down in 1962. From construction to destruction, and more recent discussion of its re- erection, the arch’s meanings and associations have changed dramatically. This article will examine the major phases of its existence, revealing the interactions between national mood and its architecture. 

Introduction 

In 1837, the directors of the London and Birmingham Railway Company proposed that the completed London Euston, one of the first passenger railway stations to be constructed in the United Kingdom, should ‘receive some architectural embellishment… well adapted to the national character’. Modelled on an ancient Greek Doric portico, Philip Hardwick’s executed design finished the newly constructed station with neoclassical grandeur. 

View of the exterior of Euston Station, 1950. (Photo: Flickr, 2011)

John Betjeman remarked in 1960 that the arch represented a ‘glorious future’ in the nineteenth century, and a modernity characterised by the birth of the railway age and a revitalised British empire after the independence of North America in the late eighteenth century.  In striking wash drawings of the Euston Arch as it underwent construction, railway artist John Cooke Bourne evoked the grandeur of ancient Egypt. The unfinished arch, concealed by scaffolding, appears as a hulking, intensely lit spectre, rising above a landscape shrouded in rubble. 

Figure 3. John Cooke Bourne, Euston Station, 1838, wash drawing, 23.5×34.4cm (Photo: Science Museum)

Figure 4. John Cooke Bourne, Doric Arch Under Construction, 1839, wash drawing, 25.3x43cm (Photo: Science Museum)

When the London County Council and the British Transport Commission called for the destruction of the Euston Arch in 1959, popular conceptions of what constituted modernity and nationhood had changed. Jeffrey Diefendorf wrote that in the 1950s and 60s, ‘the inherited built environment emerged as the counterpart of post war progress’. Plans for urban renewal coincided with what Emily Floyd has identified as a ‘crisis in the meaning of Britishness’. The demolition of the Euston Arch was read by contemporaries as a symbolic act of renewal, and in subsequent pamphlets produced for public consumption, British Railways heralded the destruction of the old station in favour of the new brutalist design as the triumph of architectural modernism. Despite numerous protests, the arch was demolished in 1962. 

Aerial view of the reconstructed Euston Station (Photo Credit: Andy Mabbett, 2013)

In a 1993 episode of the BBC documentary series One Foot in the Past, the historian and television presenter Dan Cruickshank located and arranged for the recovery of a significant portion of the Yorkshire gritstone that had been used to construct the arch, consequently beginning the appeal for its reconstruction. Watching pieces extracted by crane from the bottom of the River Lea, Cruickshank remarked that the project had ‘[made] the reconstruction of the arch a tangible reality’ Responding to Cruickshank’s proposal in 1995, the journalist Jonathan Glancey dismissed midcentury urban renewal as the triumph of ‘crass, fast- buck, shoe- box architecture… pretending to be Modern’. Subsequent lobbying for the reconstruction of the arch continued well into the 2010s, beginning with Cruickshank’s 1996 establishment of the Euston Arch Trust and revived most recently with John Hayes’s 2016 HS2 proposals. 

This article examines the history of the Euston Arch over time, from its initial design by Hardwick, to recent controversy surrounding its reconstruction. The arch’s existence in the British public imagination is discussed in three distinct phases. In its first phase, the arch represented a vision of the future epitomised by the ingenuity that developments to the railway were thought to signify, and the revitalisation of the British Empire. In postcolonial Britain of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the arch became antiquated and outmoded. Between 1993 and 2016, the arch was romanticised. 

‘A Glorious Future’: The Euston Arch, 1837-51

In 1834, Robert Stephenson, engineer of the London and Birmingham Railway Company, suggested an extension of the newly- erected London to Birmingham railway line into Euston Square. In an Act obtained in July 1835, the extension was authorised and development on a new station began. Between 1835 and 1840, the buildings of Euston Station were completed. Designed by Stephenson, the station itself consisted of a stately entrance, large reception building- later dubbed the Great Hall- and a double train shed designed by Charles Fox. 

Figure 6. Frederick Simms, ‘Ground Plan of Euston Station’, in The Public Works of Great Britain (London, 1838)

Having achieved renown from his 1825 designing of the St Katherine Docks warehouse building, Philip Hardwick was formally commissioned in 1836 with the erection of a suitable structure outside of the station, as well as its Great Hall, on which Hardwick later worked with his son. Summerson drew attention to the striking similarities between Hardwick’s early concept illustrations and reconstruction of an ancient Greek market portico in James Stuart and Nicholas Revett’s 1762 The Antiquities of Athens, several editions of which were released in Hardwick’s lifetime. 

Figure 7. Philip Charles Hardwick, Design for the Great Hall, Euston Station, London, 1849, drawing. Royal Institute of British Architects (Photo: Royal Institute of British Architects)

It was important for the station to be preceded with a powerful spectacle: in 1926, architect Alwyn R. Dent wrote that Hardwick conceived of the motif of ‘a great gateway to the North as symbolical [sic.] of the new iron road which was soon to cover the land with its network’. A letter written by Hardwick to Mr Lund (about whom little is known) in 1848 as the main building’s Great Hall was being erected attests to strategically- devised grandeur: 

‘It [Euston Station] was designed with such a proportion of decoration, as a building of this metropolis properly required’. 

He later remarked: 

‘I can most truly state that the strictest attention to decorating has been observed… to render it acceptable for the important company for whose enterprise it is intended’.

 Hardwick noted careful decoration and an emphasis on size in the Great Hall. The gravitas of the Euston Arch was similarly derived from its size and sparse, strategic decoration. To stand in front of the cast iron gates, designed by Hardwick and manufactured by locksmith John Bramah, gives a sense of its sheer enormity. Physically imposing in their own right, the gates are diminutive against the 70ft- high structure in photographs taken before the arch’s demolition. 

John Bramah, Philip Hardwick, gates of the Euston Arch, wrought iron, 1838. National Railway Museum, York (Photo: Lillian Bird, 2022)

The Euston Arch, with gates clearly visible, Allan Cash Picture Library (Photo: Allan Cash, 1950)

Hardwick’s arch is a vision of neoclassical grandeur thought to render the British Empire an extension of Grecian grandeur. In the erection of the stations at Birmingham’s Curzon Street and Euston in the late 1830s, A.A. Arschavir identifies the beginning of a ‘new phase’ of railway architecture, characterised by the sparse, large Roman and Grecian forms that Stillman notes from 1819. 

In an 1838 watercolour by Hardwick, the arch’s function as a public entryway is emphasised: the foreground of the image is populated by figures, mostly young families, with their backs turned to the onlooker, walking toward the station. An unfinished sketch of the Euston Arch as it was under construction made by the art critic George Scharf in 1836 is comparable to James Stuart’s placement. The arch features as a prominent background in both illustrations, with the gaze drawn towards it. These illustrations are evocations of the remains of imperial Athens. 

Philip Hardwick, Euston Arch, watercolour on paper, 1838-1851, 99.2x144cm, British Railways Board (Photo Credit: Science Museum Collection)

George Scharf, Euston Square, graphite on paper, 1836, British Museum (Photo Credit: British Museum)

James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, ‘Plate I’, in The Antiquities of Athens (London, 1762), p.4

A romantic illustrator named Randolph Bourne made lithographs of the arch under construction. The graphic intensity of Bourne’s lithographs bear similarity to David Roberts’s watercolours of ancient Egypt produced in 1838. Bourne’s depictions of the half- erected structure shrouded in construction material evoke images of the Near East that David Whitehouse notes entered the public imagination in the same period. In Euston Station (1838), the hulking form of the unfinished arch emerges from what appears as a desert wasteland, foregrounded by unshaped Yorkshire gritstone and what would later become the tops of its Doric pillars. In Doric Arch Under Construction (1838), sandy debris forms a dust that covers the construction materials. 

In the right corner of Doric Arch, notice Bourne has drawn a coil of rope, arranged so as to resemble a snake. Resting upon an unshaped piece of gritstone in the mid left side of the image is another snake- like coil of rope. Bourne’s employment of dramatic lighting, emphasis on the arch’s scale, and allusions to sand and snakes make the drawings comparable to Roberts’s illustrations of ancient Egypt. In Roberts’s At Luxor, Thebes (1838), an ancient Egyptian temple similarly juts out of a desert landscape, much like the arch in Bourne’s work (Fig. 21). A foreground of sand and barely- visible figures, diminished by the comparative vastness of emerging pillars, is employed to the same effect in The Temple of Horus at Edfu (1838). 

David Roberts, View At Luxor, Thebes, tinted lithograph, 1838, 25.4×35.5cm (Photo: Arader Galleries)

David Roberts, The Temple of Horus at Edfu, watercolour on woven paper, 1838, 32.3×48.2 cm (Photo: The Morgan Library and Museum)

In deliberately depicting the construction of the arch as though it were a temple being erected in an ancient Egyptian desert, Bourne forms an intrinsic association between new, grand railway architecture, and the British imperial interest in Egypt. The rise of the London and Birmingham Railway Company coincided with the first decades of British involvement in Egypt: Edward Ingram asserts that the territory became an important theatre of Anglo- French conflict in the Seven Years’ War, with the subsequent four- year British offensive from 1801 that ended French territorial occupation rendering it a symbol of the strenghtening British empire in Asia. National interest grew in subsequent decades after Egypt had entered the popular imagination, and formal control was sought: in the year of the arch’s completion, English steam engineer Thomas Waghorn published Egypt as it is in 1837, intended to:

 ‘draw the attention of the British Parliament to the present state of Egypt… to shew that it is both our interest and duty… to aid the civilization of that fine country’. 

In a map produced by the London and Birmingham Railway company, the arch and its two accompanying lodges have been placed in the bottom- left corner near to the section of the map marked ‘LONDON’. 

London and Birmingham Railway Company, map of services to Euston, 1851 (Photo: British Railways)

Standing apart from the lines representing Britain’s railway network, the arch seems to represent the city in its entirety. The arch is removed even further from its urban context on the front cover of an 1838 edition of the Freelings London and Birmingham Railway Companion: printed in gold or yellow on a dark background, the arch has been appropriated as the corporate logo of the London and Birmingham Company, effectively epitomising the city as its grand entrance. 

Cover of Freeling’s Railway Companion (London, 1838) (Photo: Alkahest Books)

The arch became codified as a symbol of the city of London in the public information documents of the London and Birmingham Railway Company. It was a symbol of the contemporary city, and revealed its function as an imperial epicenter. 

 ‘Railed Off and of Another World’: Demolition and Aftermath, 1952-1968

When in 1959 the British Transport Commission put forward to the London County Council preliminary plans to demolish the Euston arch, the way in which Britons envisaged themselves as participants in the world had changed. In 1837, Britons were on the precipice of what Eric Hosbawm would later dub ‘the age of Empire’; by contrast, in 1959, Britain was fifteen years out of the other end of financially devastating international conflict.

An initial proposal for the demolition of the Euston Arch was broached in 1935, but plans were shelved with the breakout of the second world war. Galvanised by what historians have dubbed ‘clean sweep’ urban modernisation efforts, the British Transport Commission published its ‘Modernisation Plan’ in 1955. The plan called for the extension of stations to facilitate the ‘bulk [transport] of passengers’, and ‘the full utilisation of modern equipment’, and in effect the dismantling of the Victorian industrial technology on which national railway systems had relied for over a century. When it was realised that the Euston Arch would become an obstacle to plans to extend the station, the British Transport Commission again served the London County Council with a demolition notice, some 22 years after initial discussions. 

The proposition of the Royal Fine Arts Commission that the arch be relocated was dismissed by the British Transport Comission, on the grounds that it would be injustifiably expensive. When questioned on the matter in the House of Commons in July 1961, the transport minister Ernest Marples declared that, 

‘the operational requirements make this impracticable […] the cost of dismantling and re- erecting the Arch […] would be about £190,000 as compared with £12,000 for simple demolition’. 

Standing at the base of the arch in a statement after Marples signed the ‘death warrant’, Betjeman detailed his own conversation with contractors regarding the relocation of the arch with rollers and noted that the work was estimated at, ‘£90,000, not £190,000’. In his survey of public reaction to the new station, Murray Tremellen dubbed the destruction as emblematic of ‘British Railways’ aversion to its Victorian heritage’, as other institutions were given modernist makeovers: ‘there is no doubt that, in addition to their practical requirements, British Railways wanted the new station to project a modern image’. 

Public opinion of the arch was polarised by the mid twentieth century. The collapse of Britain’s empire, and postwar austerity measures, rendered the Euston arch a painful reminder of a bygone era. The arch came to represent the antithesis of postwar, postcolonial modernity, with those who wanted it saved wistful for that lofty imperial era it represented. 

The tone of urban conservationism in the 1950s and 60s was incredibly romantic. Historian Alan Powers characterises this era as British preservation’s ‘heroic period’, with the beginning of high- profile activism coinciding with the ‘growth of the voluntary sector’: the Euston Arch controversy in particular is characterised as a primarily grass- roots, anti- establishment movement, presided over by voluntary organisations such as the Victorian Society and based on the principle of conserving public pieces of national heritage. 

Figures at the helm of anti- demolition protest seemed to conceive of London as a hub of imperial and industrial urban past in stasis, with architectural modernity a threat to buildings that served as testament to a foregone golden age. The old Euston Station is central in John Betjeman’s mapping of Victorian Greater London in his 1952 treatise on the remnants of high Victorian architectural spectacle, and a component of the mundane journey of the British everyman. Unnamed, numerous ‘city gentlemen’ move among ‘the various fittings of a former age’ as they make ‘the preliminary part of a journey from Boundary Road to Euston’. The journey from the suburbs into ‘the metropolis’, importantly, takes place in a conceptually separate terrain from the rest of the urban landscape: London’s railway system represented the national past in stasis, a landscape that in Betjeman’s words was, ‘railed off and of another world’. 

The everyman enters a time warp on his journey from the suburbs into the city: 

‘[railway stations] are the stables of the iron horses and they blend naturally with the drays which clatter over cobbles towards them and carriages […] pulled away by horses’. 

Many pieces written before and immediately after the demolition of the arch use illustrations made in the years of its erection. In his History of Euston Station, John Summerson described the station’s topography primarily using illustrations from the years of its erection as visual aids: the approach to the station is shown with an illustration made in 1840. 

Unknown artist, Illustration of the approach to Euston Station, 1840 (Photo: John Summerson, 1959)

In the opening pages of ‘The Euston Murder’, J.M. Richards paired a photograph of the arch covered in scaffolding before its demolition, with Bourne’s ‘famous’ 1838 Doric Arch Under Construction

Photograph of the Euston Arch under scaffolding, 1962 (Photo: Eric de Mare). In J.M Richards, ‘The Euston Murder’, Architectural Review, 131, no.782 (1962), p.234

John Cooke Bourne, Doric Arch Under Construction. In J.M Richards, ‘The Euston Murder’, Architectural Review, 131, no.782 (1962), p.235

The same images were employed by the Smithsons in the opening pages of The Euston Arch (1968), with continuity evoked through the use of Bourne’s 1838 image of the semi erect structure and similar photos of its demolition in 1961. The emblem of the scaffolded arch, seen in the 1960s and 1830s respectively, plays on the heartstrings of the British public. 

Alison and Peter Smithson, The Euston Arch and the Growth of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (London, 1968), p.3.

Alison and Peter Smithson, The Euston Arch and the Growth of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (London, 1968), p.4.

Photographs that appeared in newspapers in the same period also seem purposefully derivative of the Bourne lithographs. The photograph accompanying the 1961 Daily Telegraph report of the last- ditch Save the Arch protests bears a striking resemblance to Bourne’s Doric Arch Under Construction. Much like the blocks of stone and construction ephemera in the foreground of the Bourne drawing, placard wielding architects, police escorts and cars are diminished by the arch, which in both depictions is shrouded in construction framework. The frame swathed arch juts from the ground in an image published by the Telegraph in the same article, reflecting the same Biblical sense of size that Bourne sought to convey. A photograph of the arch without construction framework in the Hull Daily Mail similarly represents the arch as an emblem of the first railway age: the image is captioned simply, ‘end of an era’. 

‘Down Comes the Doric Arch’, The Telegraph, 31/10/61, London Metropolitan Archives (Photo Credit: Lillian Bird, 2022)

‘End of an Era’, Hull Daily Mail, 2/10/61, London Metropolitan Archives. (Photo: Lillian Bird, 2022)

To preservationists in the 1950s and 1960s, landmarks like the Euston Arch seemed to represent an untouchable urban world that was fundamentally separate from the present. Victorian architecture remained an integral component of the contemporary city because it represented a shared national past in stasis. By contrast, the discussion of institutions responsible for destruction make it evident that remnants of the Victorian past had no place in the urban skyline. In ‘The Euston Murder’, Richards lamented the totalitarian nature of the government’s iconoclasm: 

‘The architects of the new Euston station… could have regarded this great arch as a challenge to produce a plan incorporating the old with the new… showing it unnecessary to wipe out all of history whenever modernisation is required’. 

Then- Prime Minister Harold Macmillan remarked of the arch in 1960 that, ‘an obsession with such buildings will drain our national vitality’.

Only after its destruction was the arch commemorated. On the first two page spread of British Railways’ The New Euston Station (1968), the glass fronted structure that would replace Hardwick’s Doric Arch is depicted. Allusions to the site’s past are difficult to discern. Perhaps a nod to the past is made with the travelers in the foreground, caught in stasis like the figures in the watercolour made by Hardwick upon the arch’s opening (Fig. 10). In an introduction written by the chair of British Rail, it is made evident that this total departure is completely purposeful. Whilst the past warrants acknowledgement- the first chapter narrates the history of Euston station and the growth of the London and Birmingham Railway- it should not continue to exist, and marr the modern urban skyline. 

Artists’ approximation of the exterior of the new station. Printed in British Rail, The New Euston Station (London, 1968), pp. 3-4. British Railway Archives (Photo: British Railway Archives)

The brochure’s second chapter, ‘Building the New Euston’, makes apparent that the transformation came at the expense of its predecessor: 

‘Here was a challenge indeed for the railway architects- to produce a new station bold in design and layout and in keeping with a new railway era […] a […] distinctive design has been produced making the station the most modern rail terminal to be found anywhere.’ 

Extensive images of the station’s destruction are printed in the booklet: where Hardwick’s arch and lodges once stood, cranes loom over new white foundations (Figs. 45 and 46). The end of the arch marks the end of the British Empire, and ushers in a new era of modernist valour. 

‘Not Nostalgia’: Visions of Euston Arch in Postmodern London, 1993-2016

In a 1993 episode of the BBC documentary series One Foot in the Past, Dan Cruickshank was filmed salvaging pieces of the arch’s Yorkshire gritstone first from the South London villa of demolitionist Frank Valori, and then from the bottom of an east London river. In 1996, Cruickshank launched the Euston Arch Trust, formally proposing that the recovered stone should be used to reconstruct the arch and ‘right a great historical wrong’. 

The next set of serious proposals came in 2007, when Network Rail announced plans to demolish and rebuild Euston Station once more. 

Network Rail, digital impression of a redeveloped Euston Station, 2007 (Photo: Network Rail, 2007)

The Euston Arch Trust responded by launching a blog in 2008, with advocacy for a rebuild beginning afresh. Campaigning to reconstruct the arch with the original gritstone once again entered public debate, with one journalist identifying the intensity of renewed demand for its resurrection. Between 2008 and 2009, the engineering and design company Atkins, on behalf of Sydney and London Properties, the owners of the Euston Estate, launched a research and design project ‘in the context of Network Rail’s proposed… regeneration of Euston Station’. The Euston Estate Vision Masterplan and the Euston Arch Discussion Document were released between 2008 and 2009, with the latter containing a discussion of nine potential ‘Arch Options’. 

The advent of High Speed Two (HS2) in 2012 once again revitalised discussion of the redevelopment of several major London termini, including Euston, to accommodate the proposed new rail line being constructed from the capital to northwestern cities. In January 2015 the London Borough of Camden and Transport for London published the Euston Area Master Plan, after being identified as an ‘Opportunity Area’. In the document, the then- mayor of London Boris Johnson wrote, ‘I’m delighted that plans show a rebuilt Euston Arch. It would be fantastic to have the best of the old and new in a wonderful new quarter for London’. The desire for the old to co- exist with the new was echoed in a speech by the Conservative minister for transport, John Hayes, to an Independent Transport Commission discussion evening in 2016, revitalising interest in the reconstruction of the arch with an emotive description of the manner in which a revitalisation of older urban architecture could improve the stations that ‘punctuate our working lives’. 

Unlike the anti- demolition proposals of the 1960s, interest in rebuilding and commemorating the Euston Arch from the 90s and 2000s championed a synthesis of the old and new in order to create a sensitive, postmodern city. 

The first wave of activism between 1993 and 1996 was centered on securing a complete reconstruction of the arch, because of its intrinsic value as a component of the contemporary urban built environment. Filmed for One Foot in the Past relocating the Yorkshire granite used in the arch’s construction, Cruickshank’s words render the enterprise of relocation an emotive vindication of British industrial past: ‘the arch that had symbolised the might of the railways, now was to symbolise institutionalised vandalism and the triumph of stupidity and greed over beauty… no one followed the lorries burying the actual bones of the arch away’. The segment of the documentary ends with Cruickshank asking the viewer: ‘Where did the stones go? Can a great wrong be righted?’. 

At a cursory glance, Cruickshank’s vision of resurrection as a vindication of the heritage of the British everyman is fundamentally similar to the pro- preservation activism of the 1960s. To Cruickshank, like Betjeman, encounters with the arch on train journeys form part of a formative collective memory. Betjeman’s depiction of the journey of ‘city gentlemen’ through the outskirts of London and into Euston is echoed in Cruickshank’s account of his own childhood, accompanied in the documentary by pre demolition footage that mimics a stroll from the street and under the arch: ‘I grew up next to the Euston Arch and the memory of rushing for a train still haunts me’. However, whilst Betjeman’s travelers pass through stations ‘railed off and of another world’, into the uber- modern ‘metropolis’, Cruickshank’s footage suggests the coexistence of the industrial past and the urban present, with contemporary buildings flashing before the camera on the journey into the station. 

Discussion of a resurrection in the years after Cruickshank’s discovery similarly emphasises the extent to which a rebuild would add value to the contemporary urban built environment. Journalist and architectural critic Glancey opened a 1995 article for The Independent by stating that ‘the campaign to rebuild Euston Arch is not nostalgia’, further distancing the post- 1993 activism from anti- demolition protest in the 1960s. Glancey identified the binary with which preservationism and modernism was viewed in the year of the arch’s destruction: ‘the destruction of the Euston Arch… signalled the wholesale redevelopment of central London… with crass, fast buck, shoe box architecture’. Later in the article, the new fluidity of urban planning and preservation is established when Glancey notes the involvement of modernist architects in the resurrection campaign. No longer were preservationists attempting to salvage nineteenth- century London: rather, they were using the remains of the past as a means of setting a precedent for the urban future. ‘What the trustees believe,’ writes Glancey, ‘is that the rebuilding of the arch is… a chance to pull together the fragmented townscape of the busy Euston Road… for railways have entered a bright new age, and the rebuilding of the arch can only help to reconnect a noble past with a dynamic future.’ Advocacy for reconstruction of the Euston Arch on the principle that it would be a valuable component of the contemporary city, at once symbolising the era in which it was constructed and the onset of a ‘dynamic future’, coincided with what Loes Veldpaus, Ana Roders and J.F. Colenbrander dubbed the rise of ‘integrated heritage management’ in cities in the 1990s, whereby architectural heritage became envisaged as ‘layers’ of a city’s history and integrated more fully into the contemporary urban built environment. Glancey’s article, with its insinuation that the reconstructed arch would be well integrated into the city, reflects the burgeoning sense of a ‘layered’ urban landscape. 

Initial advocacy of a reconstruction after Network Rail’s 2007 announcement of Euston Station’s remodeling is fundamentally similar to discussion in the mid to late 1990s. Stamp’s response shares Cruickshank’s and Glancey’s conviction that a rebuild would contribute to the landscape of urban modernity. Stamp ends the article by declaring, ‘a new Euston Arch would be a powerful symbol. Just as Greek revival architecture represented modernity in the 1830s, so today it would symbolise the revival of Britain’s railways…’. Similarly, in an interview in 2009 for Camden News, Cruickshank suggested that the arch’s value was derived from its appearance and placement: ‘the arch is the Euston Arch, a great gateway… and should not be robbed of its context, which is Euston’.

While Stamp and Cruickshank continued to seek a total replication, the proposed designs in the 2009 Atkins Euston Arch Discussion Document reveal a pivot in reconstruction discussion. In its attempt to create ‘an arch of the twenty- first century’, or an ‘arch of today’, the document distances itself from previous discussion that placed emphasis on the necessity to recreate Hardwick’s arch, and salvaging the original gritstone, and instead proposed embodying the values of the original landmark with a more contemporary structure. In the document, it is established that the arch ‘lives on… in the fabric of Euston’, with allusions made to the Doric Arch public house, and a commemorative tile on the Victoria Line platform: the idea of the ‘memory’ of the landmark being detached from its actual presence forms the theoretical framework necessary to consider later proposals for landmarks that evoke, rather than replicate, the original arch (Figs. 51 and 52).

Only two of the proposed designs involved the replication of the features of the original arch. In ‘Option 1’, the arch is placed back between the two remaining lodges from the original station, and used as a gateway into the station.

Atkins, Sydney & London Properties, Option 1. In Atkins, Sydney & London Properties, Euston Arch Discussion Document (London, 2009), p.32

In ‘Option 2’, the arch becomes part of an ‘enclosed forecourt’ in the grounds outside the station (Fig. 54). Other designs allude to the original arch through their shape and placement: the ‘cycle bridge’ and ‘water arch’ proposals evoke the ‘gateway’ concept of the original structure. The arch- like structures of the Atkins document are similar to images found in British Rail’s 1968 pamphlet: the artist’s impression of the remodelled exterior of Euston Station discussed in the previous chapter, with its derivative blue arch, is comparable to the digital impression of a ‘water arch’. 

Atkins, Sydney & London Properties, Option 2. In Atkins, Sydney & London Properties, Euston Arch Discussion Document (London, 2009), p.38

Atkins, Sydney & London Properties, Option 5. In Atkins, Sydney & London Properties, Euston Arch Discussion Document (London, 2009), p.40

Similar images of the Euston Arch with significant twenty- first century adaptations continued to emerge. In a cutaway illustration by Joanna Moore republished by Richard Waite for the Architect’s Journal in 2010, a faithfully replicated arch has been adapted from a public monument into several spaces, each with different functions. 

Figure 57. Joanna Moore, design for the Euston Arch, ink and watercolour, 2010 (Photo: Richard Waite)

The lodges have been adapted to allow for a throughfare between the different spaces. The arch’s hollowed- out triangular pediment has been adapted into a restaurant; figures are depicted passing between the pillars below. Most strikingly, a nightclub has been added in the basement, accessible via the lodges. The use of spaces as venues for hospitality is fundamentally different from Glancey’s 1995 speculation surrounding ‘what [the arch] might house now’, which he limited to, ‘a museum… an archive… a giant model railway’. Proposed modifications to appearance and function make apparent the belief that the arch had to be significantly adapted in order to become a worthy component of the urban skyline. 

Discussion of the arch after the 2012 confirmation of HS2, and the subsequent launching of the London Plan for enhanced spatial development, more closely resembles the activism of Cruickshank and Stamp, than the proposals of Atkins and Joanna Moore. The proposal in the 2015 Euston Area Plan once again favoured exact reconstruction and a close approximation of its original placement. It is stated simply that, ‘the Euston Arch could be rebuilt in the vicinity of its original location on the historic axis of Drummond Street’. In a map of the area surrounding Euston Station and Gardens, a potential location for the arch has been identified, revealing close proximity to its original placement.

‘Illustrative Masterplan’. In Greater London Authority, Transport for London, London Borough of Camden, Euston Area Plan: A New Plan for the Euston Area Adopted January 2015 (London, 2015), p. 37 

John Hayes’ speech in the wake of the formation of the 2016 National Infrastructure Commission placed emphasis on the value of ‘older buildings’ in the modern built environment, harkening back to the ‘integrated heritage management’ of the 1990s: ‘it is usually the relatively modern buildings [that are] the most disfigured by vandalism… older buildings, shaped by vernacular style, where architects and craftsmen have taken care than what they imagined and constructed fitted what was there before… are useful to their inhabitants… nurturing individual and communal’. Much like Cruickshank’s discussion of the role of the arch in his childhood, Hayes notes the extent to which older architecture configures in contemporary life: ‘transport hubs like Euston frame our working days, and punctuate our working lives’. Like Glancey asserted in 1995 that the arch’s reconstruction would ‘reconnect a noble past with a dynamic future’, in 2016 Hayes wrote of an opportunity to revitalise Britain’s ‘link to the past’. This motif seems to have been revitalised in subsequent media discussion: writing for The Spectator, William Cook argued that, ‘rebuilding [the Euston Arch] would reconnect our railways with their illustrious history’. In the Daily Mail, Nick Enoch wrote that the arch would serve as, ‘an iconic symbol of the Victorian era in London’. By reuniting the arch with its original context, Cook and Enoch reflect Hayes’ renewed interest in the use and care of the city’s historic architecture. 

The pro- reconstruction activism that occurred between Cruickshank’s discovery of the arch’s remains in 1994, and Hayes’s speech in 2016 differed fundamentally from the preservationist fervour of the Architectural Review and Victorian Society in the build- up to its initial demolition in 1962. Across the period, the concern was no longer purely with the preservation of the past, but how best to integrate older architecture into the modern urban built environment. While discussion in the 1990s centred around a restoration of Hardwick’s original in proposals made after Network Rail’s announcement of its reconstruction plans in 2007 featured considerable moderations to the appearance and function of the arch, revealing the growing sentiment that the arch had to be significantly modified in order to become a component of the modern built environment. The rhetoric of the 2009 Atkins document is closer to British Rail’s 1968 The New Euston Station than the pro- preservation literature of Betjeman and Richards, in its prescriptions of significant change in order to be of value to the 21st century urban landscape. When Hayes revitalised abandoned plans for transport renewal in late 2015, and discussions of a reconstruction recommenced in earnest, support more closely resembled activism from the early to mid 1990s than the discussions that were taking place between 2008 and 2010, with a return to the notion that the arch was inherently valuable, and needed no alteration. The return to the idea of the arch simultaneously representing modernity and the distant past is particularly striking, with a resurgence of Glancey’s motif of a reconnection between ‘our railways’ and their ‘illustrious history’.

What next?

Long after its demolition, the Euston Arch has continued to exist in the public imagination. The pulses of interest in its re erection reveal its enduring legacy in the fabric of the city. While the images created of the arch before and during its destruction reveal that its value was derived from its representation of the national past, discussions of its reconstruction are centered around its value as a component of the urban built environment. Between 1993 and 2016, the extent to which the function and appearance of the arch must be modified to be of value changes: when the Euston Arch Trust was founded in 1996, total reconstruction was favoured, representing ‘not nostalgia’ but a connection between national past and present. Modifications to the arch’s function, placement and appearance were posed between 2007 and 2010, with the implication that significant changes were necessary to justify its resurrection in the city. A return to total reconstruction is evident in the 2015 Euston Area Plan, and Hayes’s 2016 speech on the value of older buildings to urban communities. 

The solution to the Euston Arch dilemma remains yet to be resolved. In 2015, several pieces of its Yorkshire gritstone were restored to their original location as part of a temporary exhibition.

Stones from the Euston Arch on display (Photo: Matt Brown, 2015) 

 The pieces served almost as a placeholder for what may yet still follow: the resolution of the controversy will lend valuable insight into the ‘national character’ of the twenty- first century. 

Bibliography

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Theses

Floyd, Emily Lawrence, ‘Losing an Empire, Losing a Role?: The Commonwealth Vision, British Identity, and African Decolonization, 1959-1963’ (PhD Thesis, University of Kansas, 2012)

Parnell, Steve, ‘Architectural Design, 1954-1972: The Architectural Magazine’s Contribution to the Writing of Architectural History’ (PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield School of Architecture, 2011)

Sepp, Elari, ‘Representation of British Society in Paintings of the British Industrial Revolution’ (MPhil Thesis, University of Oulu, 2019)

Van Laun, Jonathan, ‘British Railway Topography in John Cooke Bourne’s (1839) Drawings of the London and Birmingham Railway’, (MPhil Thesis, University College London, 2021)

London Metropolitan Archives

London Metropolitan Archives: Euston Station and Arch, Euston Fire Station, Euston Square and Grove, Camden LB: Statutory Planning File GLC/AR/HB/02/0412

National Railway Musem Archives

York, National Railway Museum. Documents of Philip Hardwick regarding Euston Station: 1843-1848. 2005-7138 HARD/1-8

York, National Railway Museum. Architectural Drawings of Curzon Street Station, Birmingham: 1837-1855. CZNST/1-[64/A]

Lectures

Dr Ruth Adams, ‘John Betjeman, the Euston Arch, and the Fight to Save London’s Industrial Heritage’, Lecture delivered at King’s College London, 2nd January 2017

Dan Cruickshank, ‘London: A Layered City’, Lecture delivered at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, Bedford, 22nd October 1997

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https://collection.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/objects/co226611/euston-arch-painting-watercolour (Photo Credit: Science Museum Pictorial Collection)

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