Marble Arch review (Jun 2017)
This is an old review Read my most recent review here
250 years ago there was just a wooden gallows and a mob of yobs wanting to see a show. That's how Londoners got their entertainment in those days. They'd pluck an unlucky soul from Newgate Prison (where the Old Bailey is today), chain him to a cart and cart him all the way to the west edge of town, where a crowd of thousands (literally thousands) were waiting to see him strung up and swung from the Tyburn Tree (that's what they called the gallows). The condemned man was expected to put on a good show or the last thing they'd hear would be a thunderstorm of boos as the platform gave way. What a terrifying way to leave this world! (You can still see a plaque on the traffic island today where the Tyburn Tree once stood.)
The last hanging took place in 1783 and sixty years later they put something much more beautiful in its place: Marble Arch. Back in the 1830s Buckingham Palace was just three wings around a courtyard and Marble Arch was its front gate, occupying a spot roughly where the famous balcony is today. When Queen Victoria started churning out her million kids they decided to box it off with a fourth wing along the front which meant that Marble Arch had to go, so they shifted it brick-by-brick to the tail end of Oxford Street.
That's why members of the Royal Family and the King's Horse Artillery are the only people allowed to pass through the centre of the arch today -- as a reminder of its gateway days in front of the palace. If a tourist tries to walk through it then they'll get shot (probably... I haven't tested it out). You can try your luck if you want, but don't blame me if you get jumped on by the police.
The relocation didn't leave the arch totally unscathed, and a lot of the statues and friezes that were supposed to decorate its sides ended up at the National Gallery and inside the palace itself. The big equestrian statue of George IV which stood on top is now standing on one of the pedestals in Trafalgar Square.
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