Oxford Street, Hyde Park & The Dorchester Hotel. London, UK
Turning left, I passed the magnificent Debenhams Store on my right and came to Marble Arch.
Marble Arch is a 19th-century white marble faced triumphal arch and London landmark. The structure was designed by John Nash in 1827 to be the state entrance to the cour d’honneur of Buckingham palace; it stood near the site of what is today the three bayed, central projection of the palace containing the well known balcony. In 1851 it was relocated and following the widening of Park Lane in the early 1960s is now sited, isolated and incongruously, on a large traffic island at the junction of Oxford Street, Park Lane, and Edgware Road.
Historically, only members of the Royal Family and the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery are permitted to pass through the arch; this happens only in ceremonial processions.
The arch gives its name to the vicinity of its site, particularly, the southern portion of Edgware Road and also to the nearby underground station.
The design of the arch is based on that of the Arch of Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris. The arch is faced with Carrara marble with embellishments of marble extracted near Seravezza.
John Flaxman was chosen to make the commemorative sculpture. After his death in 1826 the commission was divided between Sir Richard Westmacott, Edward Hodges Baily and J.C.F.Rossi. In 1829, a bronze equestrian statue of George IV was commissioned from Sir Francis Chantrey, with the intention of placing it on top of the arch.
Construction began in 1827, but was cut short in 1830, following the death of the spendthrift King George IV – the rising costs were unacceptable to the new king, William IV, who later tried to offload the uncompleted palace off onto Parliament as a substitute for the recently destroyed Palace of Westminster.
Work restarted in 1832, this time under the supervision of Edward Blore, who greatly reduced Nash’s planned attic stage and omitted its sculpture, including the statue of George IV. The arch was completed in 1833.
Some of the unused sculpture, including parts of Westmacott’s frieze of Waterloo and the Nelson panels were used at Buckingham Palace. His victory statues and Rossi’s relief of Europe and Asia were used at the National Gallery. In 1843 the equestrian statue of George IV was installed on one of the pedestals in Trafalgar Square.
The white marble soon lost its light colouring in the polluted London atmosphere. In 1847, Sharpe’s London Magazine described it as “discoloured by smoke and damp, and in appearance resembling a huge sugar erection in a confectioner’s shop window.”
The Arch is only clearly visible in all its splendour from a couple of angles, usually blocked by passing traffic. But it’s a very noticeable landmark, with a small pedestrian area with seats.
Turn left into Park Lane and cross the busy road, and Hyde Park is on the right.
Hyde Park is one of London’s eight parks.
It covers 350 acres, and has several attractions, including the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, the Serpentine Lake, and Speaker’s Corner.
Originally one of Henry Vlll’s hunting parks, the park has been open to the public for several centuries. Horses and carriages used to parade up and down Rotten Row, which was a place to be seen.
Queen Caroline had the Serpentine Lake created in the 18th Century. And in 1851 Crystal Palace hosted the Great Exhibition, which attracted millions of visitors, and exhibitors from all over the world.
The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and plate-glass building originally erected in Hyde Park, London, England, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in the Palace’s 990,000 square feet (92,000 m2) of exhibition space to display examples of the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution. Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, the Great Exhibition building was 1,851 feet (564 m) long, with an interior height of 128 feet (39 m). Because of the recent invention of the cast plate glass method in 1848, which allowed for large sheets of cheap but strong glass, it was at the time the largest amount of glass ever seen in a building and astonished visitors with its clear walls and ceilings that did not require interior lights, thus a “Crystal Palace”.
After the exhibition, the building was rebuilt in an enlarged form on Penge Common next to Sydenham Hill, an affluent South London suburb full of large villas. It stood there from 1854 until its destruction by fire in 1936.
The name Crystal Palace came from the playwright Douglas Jerrold. On 13 July 1850 he wrote in the satirical magazine Punch as ‘Mrs Amelia Mouser’ about the forthcoming Great Exhibition of 1851, referring to a palace of very crystal, a name that was subsequently picked up and repeated even though the building had not been approved at that stage.
The name was later used to denote this area of south London and the park that surrounds the site, home of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. A re-working of the building, known as The Garden Palace, was constructed in Sydney in 1879, but this building too was destroyed by fire. There are proposals, although in early stages, to re-build the Crystal Palace within the Crystal Palace Park.
At the beginning of Hyde Park is Speaker’s Corner, on the site of the old Tyburn gallows which were used for public executions. The condemned man had the right to speak before he was hanged.
Amateur orators stand and rant on about anything and everything.
Although many of its regular speakers are non-mainstream, Speakers’ Corner was frequented by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell, C. L. R. James, Walter Rodney, Ben Tillett, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah and William Morris. Its existence is frequently upheld as a demonstration of free speech, as anyone can turn up unannounced and talk on almost any subject, although always at the risk of being heckled by regulars.
Unlike popular belief, speakers are not immune from the law. They can be stopped or arrested if they offend enough people and if the police get a lot of complaints.
I fancied having a rant, but the area was fenced off for renovations, and it was raining quite hard!
There used to be Speakers’ Corners in some other London parks, and there are now Speakers’ Corners in various cities in the UK, including Leeds, Worthing and Nottingham, and worldwide.
Note to self; go to Worthing and have a rant. It’s not too far from where I live!
I walked through the park and crossed the road. I’d arrived at my destination, the Dorchester.
More about that to follow. It warrants its own article as it’s a lovely historical building.
There are some interesting hotels along Park Lane. They’re all open to the public, so do go inside, have a coffee and admire the architecture and décor. The staff are all helpful and well-informed. And what they don’t know, they’ll find out for you!