Heritage campaigners say they will fight plans to rebuild Euston Arch

Monday, 16th February 2015

A LEADING railway heritage trust has dismissed plans to rebuild the famous Euston arch – a neoclassical entrance  built in 1837 – as part of a potential redevelopment of Euston train station.

The secretary of the Camden Railway Heritage Trust, Peter Darley, told the New Journal his body will campaign to block proposals to include a rebuilt arch in any new station designs.

The arch, demolished in the 1960s, has become a the focus of a movement led by architectural historian Dan Cruickshank. His group plans to salvage stones from the original arch that were dumped in the River Lea and rebuild it – and it now has local and central government backing.

A Town Hall planning document backed by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London outlines what the bodies want from the comprehensive redesign of the area if the high speed railway to Birmingham, HS2, terminates at the station. Its authors suggest the arch could be rebuilt and form part of a new station façade. 

Transport minister Conservative MP John Hayes said in Parliament during a debate on a Private Member’s Bill calling for a referendum on HS2 that he wanted to see a neo-classical building replace the current 1960s station.

But Mr Darley, chairman of the Trust, said his body would rather the arch is returned in pieces and left in Euston Square Gardens as seating – as a reminder of its destruction.

He said: “This is an irrelevant and unnecessary diversion from creating a modern world class station and protecting Euston Square Gardens as a public open space in front of the station. 

“The reconstruction of the Euston Arch using surviving fragments would certainly create an imposing monument on the Euston Road. Yet I am convinced that rebuilding the arch as a solitary monument to the past should not be supported.”

He added that the arch originally fitted uncomfortably with the surrounding area and was obscured by a  hotel. “It is not likely that a station on a grand scale could incorporate the arch without leaving it much diminished both physically and aesthetically,” he said. 

“The Trust I represent is intimately concerned with preservation and restoration of the heritage of the London & Birmingham Railway, of which the Euston Arch formed a magnificent part. We propose that recovered fragments of the arch be integrated into the landscape of the piazza in front of the new Euston station. 

“These would be a stark reminder of the monument’s destruction, creating a classical vista not unlike the ruins of the Roman Forum, as well as provide public seating.” 

He said cash saved could go towards an architectural competition for a new archway entrance by a  modern designer. 

Mr Cruickshank said the Euston Arch Trust would be hosting a public exhibition in the station’s gardens in March to show details of their plans. 

He added: “We will put some of the recovered stones on display and hopefully capture the public’s imagination and get support for rebuilding the arch. Let’s see what the people of London say about it.  It was a monument to the railway age and it still exists – just in bits and pieces.”

 

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