Marble Arch – Darker Beginnings

An Imposing Structure

Marble Arch is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London, drawing millions of tourists each year. However, this imposing structure sits on the site of a much older and darker history. Prior to Marble Arch’s construction, the area was known as the village of Tyburn, which had a reputation for being the most notorious public execution site in England.


For over 600 years, Tyburn was a place of terror, where criminals and traitors were put to death in public hangings. The first recorded hanging took place in 1196, and the last one occurred in 1783, with notorious highwayman John Austin being the final victim. Condemned individuals were brought up Oxford Street, then known as Tyburn Road, to meet their fate at the Tyburn Gallows.

In 1571, a triangular gallows was erected, capable of hanging up to 24 people at once. The position of Public Executioner was a prestigious role that was often passed down from father to son. Throughout the 1700s, individuals found guilty of crimes ranging from murder and rape to poaching, burglary, and criminal damage were executed at Tyburn. These events were elaborate and shocking, designed to deter those who watched. The three-mile route from Newgate Prison to Tyburn was travelled   by cart, followed by noisy, jeering crowds numbering in the thousands.


Most of the executions were of criminals and traitors, with Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII, having two of her lovers executed on the same day for treason. However, there were also a number of religious executions, including the posthumous execution of Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton, whose bodies were exhumed from Westminster Abbey by King Charles II and symbolically hung from the Tyburn Tree on January 30, 1661.

A Celebration Of British Victory

Despite the gruesome history, Tyburn was a popular spectacle that was likened to a fairground. However, today, the site of Tyburn is marked only by a stone memorial that represents the gallows where so many people met their end. Marble Arch, which stands on the corner of Hyde Park, is now a grand celebration of British victory in the Napoleonic Wars and a gateway to Buckingham Palace. Originally a much more elaborate structure was planned  for King George IV, but with the king’s death, the plans were scaled back, resulting in the Marble Arch that we see today.

Made of white Carrara marble the monument  was originally designed by John Nash in 1827 as the ceremonial entrance to Buckingham Palace. However, it was relocated to its current location in 1851.

The arch itself is made of pure white marble and features Corinthian columns and intricate carvings. The structure is about 66 feet (20 meters) tall, 45 feet (14 meters) wide, and 22 feet (7 meters) deep. It is supported by a large pedestal and has three arches, the central one being the largest.

Today, Marble Arch is considered one of London’s most iconic landmarks and serves as a gateway to Hyde Park, one of the city’s largest and most popular parks. The area around Marble Arch is known for its high-end shopping, including Oxford Street, which is one of the busiest shopping streets in the world.


Visit our latest properties


Join The Discussion

Compare listings