They say that progress marches on, though sometimes it’s at the cost of losing our past. In London, as with most great cities, eventually once-architectural marvels are torn down to make way for newer and supposedly better structures. However, sometimes, a beautiful building is lost to us due to some great calamity. These are ten of the London’s lost buildings, pieces of our history lost to time.
The Arch formed the original entrance to Euston Station. It was originally designed by Phillip Hardwick in the Doric style. As Euston served the London and Birmingham Railway, it was often thought of as Euston Station’s “gateway to the Midlands”. The guide to the city published in 1851 for the Great Exhibition described it as “gigantic and very absurd”. Talk of its removal began in the 1930s when it was proposed to remodel the station, which was put off until the 1960s due to World War II. The Euston Arch was eventually removed in 1961 to make way for the new great hall. The real shame is, after the hall was completed, the architects discovered they could have kept it there after all.
Erected in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition in 1851 and designed by Joseph Paxton, the iron and glass structure was a marvel of the Victorian period. At a cost of £2 million, it was 992,000 square feet and contained over 100,000 objects from 15,000 exhibitors. Sadly, it only lasted for six months during the Exhibition and then moved to Sydenham Hill in 1852, where it remained until destroyed by a fire in 1936.
Palace of Whitehall
The original palace was built in the 13th Century by Archbishop of York Walter de Gray to be his residence and named it York Place. By the time King Henry VIII came to power and broke from the Catholic church, he took York Place and began to build a new palace there to be his residence instead of the Palace of Westminster. Henry heavily redesigned it to have a recreational center that had room for activities for jousting and cock fighting. He married both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour in the palace, and this is also where he died. The palace also played host to the first performance of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest in 1611. However, much like the Crystal Palace, a fire destroyed it in 1698, by which point the royalty favoured Kensington Palace anyway.
Arcades were the Victorian equivalent of shopping malls, long retail centres with shops lined up on either side. The glass-covered arcade was located in the Strand and a very popular place for children due to its multiple toy shops. Unfortunately, it was eventually torn down and today Coutts Bank sits on its former site.
Colosseum – Regents Park
Built in 1827 and designed after the Pantheon in Rome, its main purpose was to house a painting of a panoramic view of London, then the largest painting ever created. After its owner, painter of the panorama Thomas Horner, fell into debt, he sold the building and it fell into disuse until it was repurposed into a statuary and E.T. Parris repainted the panorama for the reopening in 1845. Less than twenty years later, it was demolished in 1874.
Egyptian Hall – Piccadilly
William Bullock commissioned this building in 1812 to house his collection of Egyptian artifacts and other curiosities. The Hall was a great success and came to house other exhibits over the years, including one of Napoleonic artefacts brought back after his defeat at Waterloo. Towards the end of the century, it became a great performance hall for illusionists and even showed some of the earliest films. Eventually, it was demolished in 1905 to make way for flats and offices.
For more on the bridge, you can have a look at the previous article I wrote about it. The version of London Bridge associated with the nursery rhyme was commissioned by King Henry II and eventually became so overcrowded with buildings that there was a concern they would eventually fall into the Thames. Parliament then issued an act that the buildings should be removed, which was carried out between 1758 and 1762. Work on the new London Bridge began in 1824 and the old bridge was torn down, though the “New” London Bridge would eventually suffer the same fate in 1968, sold to American Robert McCulloch who rebuilt it in Lake Huvasu City, Arizona in 1971.
A luxury hotel built in 1899, architect C.J. Phillips designed it along with Her Majesty’s Theatre which was adjacent to the hotel. After the success of the Hotel Ritz in Paris, César Ritz took a 72 year lease of the hotel, being the second hotel in what would become the famous Ritz-Carlton hotel empire. The hotel would perhaps still be standing today if it wasn’t for World War II and the Carlton was hit by German bombs as part of the London Blitz in 1940. The government kept offices in what was left of the building starting in 1942, but it was never rebuilt and ultimately demolished in 1957-1958, whereupon the New Zealand High Commission building was constructed in its place.
Coming out of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886, the Institute was established to conduct research for the betterment of the Empire. Its original headquarters was located in South Kensington and was completed in 1893. Designed by T.E. Colcutt, it sported three copper-roofed Renaissance towers. However, in the 1950s and 1960s, most of the building was demolished as the institute was renamed to the Commonwealth Institute and moved to its current location on the Kensington High Street. All that remains of it now is the Queen’s Tower, part of the original three towers.
The Royal Panopticon of Science and Art was given Royal Charter in 1850 and a 60 year lease was taken out on the property in 1851. The building itself was completed in 1854 and was located in Leicester Square, on the current site of Odeon Cinema. Architect T. Hayter Lewis was very influenced by Moorish design and the exterior bore many shields depicting coats of arms for famous writers, artists, and scientists. The inside rotunda housed many lecture halls and exhibitions, though it ended up being sold to Howes and Cushing’s American Circus in 1858. By 1871, it was the Royal Alhambra Theatre and closed in 1936 to be demolished and the Odeon constructed the next year.