Its destruction is wanton and unnecessary – connived at by the British Transport Commission, its guardians, and by the London County Council and the Government, who are jointly responsible for safeguarding London’s major architectural monuments, of which this is undoubtedly one. In spite of […] being one of the outstanding architectural creations of the early nineteenth century and the most important – and visually satisfying – monument to the railway age which Britain pioneered, the united efforts of many organisations and individuals failed to save it in the face of official apathy and philistinism.

– The Architectural Review (1962) – “The Euston Murder”

By the 1930s, the Euston Arch had presided over the ever-changing area that surrounded it for over a hundred years. Erected by the London and Birmingham Railway as a testament to their railway-building prowess, it had long outlasted the company itself. But although outwardly the Arch seemed as robust a symbol of Britain’s railway heritage as ever, behind the scenes at the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) its future was looking far less secure.

LMS was to the 1930s everything that L&BR had been to the 1830s and more. Formed as a result of the 1921 Railways Act (which sort to consolidate Britain’s 300 disparate railway companies down into 4) LMS was a behemoth. The company controlled over six thousand miles of track (excluding its interests in Northern Ireland) and was the largest commercial undertaking in the Empire. It was the second largest employer in the UK – beaten only by the Post Office – and the largest joint-stock company in the world.

An LMT Poster, courtesy EAT

It was also responsible for the station at Euston and, as with the L&BR before it, it was at Euston that the company sought to make an impact.

For by the late thirties, Euston was a station fast approaching its point of failure – something of which LMS was acutely aware. Since virtually its incorporation, the company had realised the need to address the limited space and general disorganisation of the site, but had lacked the funds to do so. As the thirties dawned, however, the promise of a government loan finally enabled the firm to begin seriously thinking about the station’s future. By 1939, LMS had a plan in place.

Understanding the need for wholesale reinvention on the site and, it is tempting to suspect, with one eye on the grandiose activities of their corporate ancestor, LMS turned to Welsh architect Percy Thomas for inspiration.

Whereas Hardwick, creator of the Euston Arch, had looked to Italy for his influences, Thomas’ eyes were cast firmly to the west. It was to the majestic architecture of railway stations in the US that Thomas looked for inspiration in his design for a new Euston, and the result – encapsulated in a never-exhibited painting he commissioned from his favourite artist William Walcot – was a rather awe-inspiring design once again mixing classical design with modern architectural methods.

“Perspective View From Euston Square” – William Walcot, 1937

As can be seen from Walcot’s painting above, which is now safely ensconced in the Railway museum at York, there was, however, one key feature missing from Percy’s design – the Arch.

When it came to the Arch, the argument Percy made to LMS’ Chairman, Lord Stamp was simple and uncompromising – it was in the way, and it was impossible to move.

For a short while, the Arch’s days seemed numbered. Luckily, however, it soon received a reprieve. Gerald Wellesley and Albert Richardson, acting on behalf of London’s Georgian Group, managed to persuade Lord Stamp that Percy’s expertise lay more in the world of architecture than in the world of practical engineering, and it was agreed that the Arch would be re-sited instead.

Before plans for Euston’s future could advance further, however, history intervened – and the outbreak of World War Two left any talk of station improvements very much on the back burner.

The situation at Euston was to remain unchanged for almost twenty years, but by the late fifties the prospect of a complete rebuild of the station, courtesy of the British Transport Commission, was on the cards once again.

An artists’ impression of the new (current) station from “The New Euston Station” pamplet

As is often the case, in hindsight it is easy to see that – despite noises to the contrary – the Commission were less-than-committed to the preservation of the Arch (and indeed the various architecturally impressive buildings on the station site) from the very start. In 1959, for example, a small book entitled “The Architectural History of Euston Station” was suppressed by the Commission – providing your prospective opponents with intellectual ammunition is never a wise thing to do.

(As a side note, this is a practice that continues on the railways to this day – last year Network Rail, who are currently looking to undertake extensive reconstruction work at Waterloo, amended their website to remove several references to the architectural heritage and value of the station)

In 1960, the Commission’s full intentions became clear – they served notice that, as part of their ongoing Modernisation Programme, which included the electrification of the West Coast Mainline between Euston and Glasgow, they intended to demolish the existing station, the Euston Arch and the Great Hall entirely.

Whilst the Commission’s plans seemed to condemn a considerable amount of important architecture to the grave, for the Arch their remained some hope. It was a grade II listed building, and the Commission could not, therefore, simply destroy it without approval – approval that, it seemed, might not be forthcoming.

Permission to demolish the arch would have to be granted by the London County Council, who commissioned a report on the issue. The report took time to put together and, with the potential destruction of the arch now public knowledge, those who wished to see it saved began to rally to its defence.

Foremost amongst the Arch’s defenders was one of Britain’s greatest poets – John Betjeman.

John Betjeman. Poet and tireless heritage campaigner, 1906-1984

Betjeman, who had long been fascinated with both architecture and the relationship between Britain (and London’s) railways and its culture, regarded the Arch as one of the greatest monuments to Britain’s railway heritage. It was around Betjeman and the Georgian and Victorian Societies of which Betjeman was a member that opposition to the Commission’s plans was to coalesce. The Arch’s defenders also soon found a useful and vocal ally in the form of Woodrow Wyatt, then a Labour MP. It was he who would provide the defenders with their loudest voice in Parliament as the fight unfolded.

As the voices in defence of the Arch began to grow louder, the results of the Council’s report were revealed – in January 1960 the LCC granted the Commission permission to go ahead with their plan, but insisted that the Euston Arch could only be removed on the condition that it (and its lodges) were re-erected elsewhere.

At first it seemed as if the Arch’s defenders had won the battle to preserve it, but once again the warning signs were there that worse was to come – the Commission had estimated the cost of moving the Arch at approximately £180,000. A cost that they refused, point blank, to pay.

For the rest of the year, the battle raged on. The Commission continued to march forward with their plans with ruthless efficiency and resolve. The station needed rebuilding, they insisted, and quickly. Their plan was the only viable way forward, and the cost of saving the Arch was not only prohibitive, but also a cost that they would not pay out of their own pocket.

It quickly became clear to the defenders that it was essential that the Arch be granted a preservation order to guarantee its survival. The planning permission that had been granted by the LCC to the Commission was temporally limited – if no solution to the issue of funding the Arch’s preservation presented itself by April, then the Commission was no longer obliged to guarantee the Arch’s future. A preservation order would allow the LCC to insist that the preservation clause be enforced – and that needed to come from the Ministry for Housing and Local Development.

On February 9th, Wyatt began to pile on the pressure. Standing up in Parliament, he put the issue before Keith Joseph, representing the Minister for Housing, Henry Brooke:

Will the Parliamentary Secretary agree that it would be an act of vandalism to destroy the Great Hall and Shareholders’ Room at Euston Station, which was the first railway station to be built in any capital city of the world and is designated as an historic monument? Having agreed that, will he see to it that the British Transport Commission is made to produce an alternative scheme for lengthening the railway line, with the platforms and other improvements at Euston Station, so that it does not have to destroy the Great Hall and Shareholders’ Room? Will he agree also that it might be acceptable to remove the Doric Arch nearer to Euston Road provided that it is not in any way disfigured or altered in so doing?

Joseph replied:

The two months’ notice required does not lapse till the middle of March, during which interval my right hon. Friend is considering the alternatives about the Arch. As regards the Great Hall and Shareholders’ Room, the proposals are now under discussion with the B.T.C., L.C.C. and external advisers to see whether their proposals can be modified in any way.

On the surface, Joseph’s reply seems relatively positive, if a little vague – “We’re considering the evidence but don’t worry, there’s plenty of time.”

Sadly, however, it stands as an accurate representation of the attitude towards the Arch in central government that would ultimately condemn it to oblivion.

By April, the Commission was free to proceed without preserving the Arch. Betjeman and his associates rallied public support through the press – Betjeman wrote letters to the papers, others wrote articles on the subject. They appealed directly to Henry Brooke himself to issue a preservation order in May, but he refused – the Commission had assured him they were in productive talks with LCC on the subject, he said (seemingly ignoring all evidence to the contrary), and thus a preservation order would be somewhat un-necessary.

The Royal Fine Art Commission soon lent their support to the defenders’ cause. The RFAC should have proven a powerful ally – they were responsible for advising on projects that affected the design and artistic heritage of the country, and though their recommendations were always non-binding, they carried significant weight.

The RFAC asked both the Transport Commission and the LCC for permission to consult on the Euston project. The Commission claimed that wasn’t their decision to make, and said it was for the LCC to decide. The LCC then dodged responsibility themselves by saying that was something for the Ministry of Housing to decide.

The RFAC wrote to the Ministry in June, who responded by sitting on the request until October, at which point Wyatt was forced to make a desperate plea before parliament:

Wyatt: Mr. Wyatt asks the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what reply he has sent to the letter, sent to him in July by the Royal Fine Art Commission, concerning the proposed removal of the Doric Arch, Great Hall and Shareholders’ Meeting Room at Euston Station; and if he will make a statement.

Joseph: My right hon. Friend has not yet replied to this letter because he is still considering the matter in consultation with the other Ministers concerned.

Wyatt: The Government have been considering this matter for nearly a year now. What is the point of having a Royal Fine Art Commission if the Government are going to disregard its recommendations which, in this case, are to keep that historic monument at Euston Station? Why waste the time of the distinguished gentlemen advising the Government if they take no notice?

Joseph: I think the length of time shows what respect the Government are paying to the Royal Fine Art Commission and its recommendations.

Mr K Robinson: Will the Minister consult particularly with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Works who now discovers, contrary to the reply which he gave in this House before the Recess, that he does possess powers to contribute towards the cost of replacing this arch?

When the Ministry did finally bother to reply a month later, it was to absolve themselves from any decision making responsibility on the issue – they simply referred Wyatt back to the LCC.

With the quest for a preservation order – or indeed government intervention (national or local) of any kind – looking increasingly unlikely, the defenders increasingly focussed their efforts on the other major stumbling block to the Arch’s preservation – money. As the last part of the exchange quoted above reveals, however, by October progress here was proving as frustratingly slow as well.

The Transport Commission still insisted the cost of saving the Arch was in the region of £180,000 – a prohibitive figure that they still refused to pay. Betjeman and his allies tried to persuade the Government to contribute the money and the response was that the funding would have to come from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The Ministry once again prevaricated, then announced that they did not have the necessary authority to contribute. The Arch’s defenders took that claim to the Minister of Works who (again, after a suitable delay) announced that the Ministry of Housing was wrong – they could contribute if they wanted to. Wyatt and his parliamentary allies took this back to them in Parliament (as can be seen in the quotation above).

“Couldn’t?” Was (to paraphrase) the Ministry of Housing’s response to that. “Sorry – we meant ‘wouldn’t’.”

Everything the defenders tried to do took time and, with the Transport Commission ploughing eternally onwards with their plans, time was rapidly running out.

Finally, in July 1961, Transport Minister Ernest Marples virtually condemned, with one written parliamentary answer, over 100 years of London’s railway heritage to destruction:

I have given approval in principle to the early reconstruction of the Euston main line and Underground stations, which is made necessary by the main line electrification and by increased traffic demands. This scheme is urgent not only because of the electrification programme but because the Underground lifts have almost reached the end of their useful life. The Underground scheme will cost about £700,000, but a detailed estimate is not yet available for the much more extensive work involved in the main line station reconstruction.

All possible ways of preserving the historic buildings in situ have been considered by the British Transport Commission and by independent advisers, but they have been forced to the conclusion that the operational requirements make this impracticable. […] They estimate that the cost of dismantling and re-erecting the Arch alone, without its flanking lodges, would be about £190,000 as compared with £12,000 for simple demolition. The Arch weighs about 4,500 tons, and to brace it and remove it on rollers would cost even more.

The Government has decided that the preservation of the Arch does not justify expenditure of this order. This decision has not been reached without regret at the passing of a major monument of the early railway age, but there is no practicable alternative. The Commission have accordingly been informed that they may proceed on this basis.

The Great Hall is demolished. Courtesy EAT

For a little while longer Betjeman, Wyatt and the rest of the Arch’s defenders fought valiantly on. Marples’ decision provoked a certain amount of public outcry. As one letter to the Times concluded:

would any European country allow such a landmark of architectural history to be removed, on economic grounds, without some attempt to raise the money for its preservation and re-erection?

And so the defenders turned to the public for help – if the Government wouldn’t contribute the money then maybe they would.

The Victorian Society commissioned a report which appeared to challenge the Transport Commission’s projected cost. Their report seemed to indicate that the Arch could be saved for £90,000, and Betjeman and his allies now engaged in an all-out PR war on funding. They publicly begged for time to raise the money and Betjeman even went on TV to make his case. He argued that the arch was too much of a part of the heritage of the country to be lost, that it was a work of art that should stand in front of the new station as a monument to all that was right with Britain’s railway heritage but, he concluded, darkly:

it would be beautiful you see, and of course people always think if you have anything beautiful it’s wicked nowadays. It has to be cheap.

Ultimately, it was all to no avail. By October 1961 the scaffolding was in place around the arch and its destruction was ready to begin. A group of architecture students scaled the scaffolding in protest, and a fifty foot banner proclaiming “Save the Arch!” briefly hung from its pediment, but they were soon evicted.

The final throw of the defenders’ dice came thanks to the family connections of Betjeman’s long-time partner, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish – one last, direct, appeal to the Prime Minister himself. A delegation of all the leading defenders put the case before Macmillan himself. As Betjeman himself described it in a letter:

I was one of a deputation to the Prime Minister yesterday about Euston Arch. Coolmore (John Summerson) put our case and we were led by Sir Charles Wheeler PRA and Michael Rosse and Robert Furneaux Jordan also made speeches. We were received politely and our case was put with great skill and backed up with pictures.

It soon became clear, however, that once again they were fighting a losing battle. As another member of the delegation would recount:

Macmillan was there, on his right was Ernest Marples […] within a minute or two of the beginning of the meeting it transpired that in spite of our having supplied them with all the relevant information, Macmillan knew absolutely nothing about it. You would have thought he’d never heard of the Euston Arch. He said: “I understand you want to pull it down stone by stone and build it up again.” Well, months before we had said that was out of the question. What we proposed to do was to move it on rollers, which had been done in every other county for years.

Ten days later Macmillan, unmoved, gave his reply. He spent some time talking about the difficulties in moving the Arch, the cost involved, the time available but only one sentence in his letter really mattered. A sentence that, in effect, finally committed one of London’s great railway landmarks to dust:

We have regretfully reached the conclusion that we ought not to adopt your suggestions for preserving the portico.

In December the demolition contractors moved in, and within weeks the Arch was gone. Despite a desperate and valiant fight, the battle was finally – and completely – lost.

Workmen dismantle the arch. Courtesy EAT

A lodge is demolished. Courtesy EAT

So who was to blame for its destruction?

It would be easy, of course, to simply pin the blame on the Transport Commission – it was, after all, their plan that would lead to the Arch’s destruction. To do so, however, would be to paint too black and white a picture of events. After all, the Commission were – in many ways – acting in what they regarded as the best interests of Britain, London, and the railways. It is virtually impossible to argue that the Commission weren’t correct in their insistence that a new station was required at Euston. Similarly, their argument that they should not be required to foot the cost for the movement of the Arch is not without merit.

As far as the Commission were concerned, their job was to provide a new station at the best possible price. The idea that the railway authorities are responsible not only for running the railways of this country, but also for helping to preserve the history and heritage of them is very much a modern conceit – and one that is in many ways the direct legacy of the Euston debacle.

So whilst the Commission holds part of the blame, they should not bear that burden alone. If anything, the arch was condemned to destruction less by the acts undertaken by the Commission and more by the inactivity of the governmental bodies – both local and national – whose responsibility it should have been to step up and see it preserved for the national good.

Ultimately it was apathy – not action – that doomed the Euston Arch. But even though its physical form no longer existed, the powerful image of its final fate, and the lessons that Betjeman and the rest of its defenders learnt trying to save it, would prove a powerful legacy.

It was a legacy that would soon be called into action again in the fight for St Pancras, and a legacy that may well mean that even the Euston Arch’s physical fate isn’t quite as final as it seems…

To be continued…

jump to the end
There are 48 comments on this article
  1. Alex Warren says:

    Excellent article, looking forward to part 3!

  2. slugabed says:

    Thank you for these well-written and informative articles.
    I think it was the then head of the LCC,Herbert Morrison,who said,as demolition began on the Old Waterloo Bridge in the face of similar objections that he was running a local authority,not a museum.
    This philistine attitude obviously continued through the 60s into the present day.
    Although nt in the same league as Euston,the crass and innecessary way that Shoreditch Goods Station was demolished shows that we still have a long way to go.

  3. James D says:

    I'd suggest it was quite possible to deal with not having a new station at Euston: make rather better use of Broad Street. Perhaps that would have required quadrupling through Primrose Hill, but that's two of London's finest stations we wouldn't have lost.

  4. John B says:

    Nice piece. I can't seriously believe there are people who want to sentence new Euston, which has the cultural resonance of the arch whilst being a station that Just Works, to the same fate.

    And I'm glad that the sacrifice of the distinctly mediocre arch galvanised the movement that saved not only the distinctly non-mediocre St Pancras.

    And I find it utterly hilarious that so many modern-day philistines think that the Euston Arch was t3h excellents, while believing that brilliant works like Centrepoint and the Barbican are crap that ought to be torn down…

  5. Paul says:

    I don't really understand what the problem was with leaving the arch as it was; surely the new station could simply have been built with it in situ?

  6. Mr Thant says:

    Paul: The Euston station site is quite constrained at its north end, especially as the tracks approach on a curve. Therefore the only way to achieve the required number of full-length platforms was to relocate the station southwards.

    Previously the whole lot (except the station hotel) was north of Drummond Street, which the arch stood on the north side of. The station was rebuilt with the concourse and other facilities south of Drummond Street, which meant the whole area to the north could be dedicated to the platforms. I can't see a good way to incorporate the arch into this layout.

    There's a diagram here – the present concourse is where it says "Euston Place", and the arch is the 8 black dots above that.

  7. Marc says:

    For those like me who cannot wait for part three check out the follwoing website:

    Join the campaign to have a rebuilt arch as part of the future redevelopment plans!!

  8. James D says:

    Mr Thant: Whilst the site was indeed constrained at the northern end in the 1930s, this had ceased to be a real issue by the 1960s. For instance, the last buildings in Ampthill Square were condemned in 1965 so that the council could put up three tower blocks.

    The site that looks attractive to me is between the carriage shed and the turntable. This too was cleared in the 1960s, and purchase of it by the railway would have allowed the departure side of the station to be reconstructed on the same angle as the outer end of the arrival platforms, thereby saving both the arch and the Great Hall.

    I very much wonder whether they redrew the track side of their plan at all between the 1930s and 1960s versions.

    But probably the worst aspect of it is that the old Euston was far from the most dysfunctional of London's termini: King's Cross and Victoria were (and are) much better candidates for the Euston treatment.

    John B: Euston station is not a very good piece of modern architecture. It isn't remotely of comparable quality to Centrepoint.

  9. solar penguin says:

    The article seems a bit biased — talking about "blame" for getting rid of the arch, not the "praise" or "credit".

    I wish this country still had that forward-looking drive, instead of being held back by pointless "heritage" and "nostalgia" nonsense that's suffocating us nowadays.

  10. Jas says:

    Well you can argue that we should not have any protection for old buildings and just bulldoze when you think you need something new but I don't think that's the right approach for a civilized society.

    I believe this country does have a forward looking drive that tries to balance itself correctly with respect to its past. There's some fantastic modern architecture at the moment (e.g. the Gherkin) but remember this can go on any site any time whereas our heritage buildings are finite and are only going to become fewer and more precious as time goes on.

    Striking a balance is tricky I know – but a revamped St Pancras and Kings Cross will wow people much more than the buildings I imagine they would be prepared to put up in their place I'm sure on that.

  11. Tom says:

    "Euston station is not a very good piece of modern architecture. It isn't remotely of comparable quality to Centrepoint.

    Agreed, but that's not what John said, he said it works well as a station (to which I'd add a caveat – it works well as a station if you arrive/depart by Tube). I don't think it's all that architecturally, although the ambience inside the main hall is perfectly fine as it is and actually quite uplifting. The outside, not so much (particularly the ugly purple walls facing the flanking roads, although the blank eastern side of Kings Cross is hardly much different in terms of architectural execution).

    As for being too far north originally, it's still too far north even with the Arch gone and the buffer stops moved south a few tens of yards.

  12. Mr Thant says:

    James D and Paul: I've been looking at the old and new layouts and the footprint of the station at the north end didn't change at all. So the rebuilding of the station essentially amounted to extending all of the existing tracks/siding/etc south to create many more decent length platforms.

    Which explains why they didn't consider building new platforms alongside – it would have been much more expensive than working within the existing boundaries.

  13. David Cantrell says:

    I fail to see why so many people get so excited about that damned arch. It never served any useful purpose, being mere decoration and boasting. Frank Pick once said "the test of the goodness of a thing is its fitness for use. If it fails on this first test, no amount of ornamentation or finish will make it any better, it will only make it more expensive and foolish."

    He was right, and the arch had no use. And even if you count the railway company's boasting as a valid use (I don't, and would have been a very cross shareholder if they'd pissed my money up the wall to build it), that company no longer existed when it was demolished, so it had fallen out of use.

  14. APB says:

    What, if any, are the chances of the arch at least being rebuilt on or near its original site as part of the complete redevelopment of Euston as part of HS2? I think I read somewhere that about 2/3 of the material had been dumped in the River Lea and could be recovered?

  15. Chris says:

    I suggest reading the website of the Euston Arch Trust –

    Essentially a decent proportion of the stonework still exists, but it’s original location was taken up by the rebuilt station. It would therefore need to be rebuilt south of where it was.

  16. Anonymous says:

    @ Mr Thant

    Fascinating plan of the old Euston, never realised how far north it was from Euston Road or how short and curved the platforms were. And that the entrance hall was between the platforms rather than set in front of them! What a constraint to growth!

    Bus passengers must have had quite a walk from Euston Road! Or were the buses allowed closer?

  17. timbeau says:

    I don’t think the buses could get through the arch!
    When the original Euston was built, the entrance hall and waiting rooms were on the only departures platform, on the west side of the station. This was a fairly common practice – look at the range of buildings alongside Platform 8 at Kings Cross or Platform 1 at Paddington. The western half of the site was left vacant to allow another railway company to build its own station there (think of Victoria to get the rough idea). But the other railway company chose instead to build its own terminus a mile or so down the road at Paddington.
    As the need for extra platforms grew at Euston, it was expanded into the vacant part of the site on the west side – but this indeed meant that the station buildings were now inconveniently in between the platforms.

  18. Ian Sergeant says:

    I loved the bit today where Patrick McLoughlin said today “This work should include proposals for the Euston arch which should never have been knocked down and which I would like to see rebuilt.” I can see not taken off site, but not knocked down? They would have had a job redeveloping Euston in the sixties with the arch in situ.

  19. Ian J says:

    @Ian Sergeant: Wasn’t there a Canadian company who offered to move the whole thing south on rollers for half the price BR was quoting to relocate it? It wouldn’t have been knocked down then :).

  20. stimarco says:

    “The first great monument of the railway age, it was demolished in the 1960s amid widespread protest.” (From the Euston Arch Trust website.)

    Really? Because I thought that honour went to the London & Greenwich Railway, which opened the year before. Its viaduct certainly counts as “monumental” in my book, and still serves a useful purpose today.

    As for [snip PoP] modern architects are, apparently, incapable of building a station with any presence, simply doesn’t hold water. At all.

    [rant about St Pancras that we have heard before ad nauseum removed PoP]

    This is the exact opposite of the present Euston station, whose design was explicitly built around improving the passenger experience. It may not look like an overblown Gothic castle like the Midland Grand Hotel at St. Pancras, but it could have been [snipPoP] a lot worse.

    [Tone it down stimarco or risk the whole comment being removed in future. I don’t really have time to to do this line by line editing PoP]

  21. stimarco says:

    @Ian J:

    The problem was that there was no suitable site nearby to move it to. The only suggestion made was to put it in the middle of a nearby roundabout, but the London County Council wanted no part of it.

  22. Ian J says:

    @stimarco: if only there was some kind of pedestrian plaza, or even some gardens, at the front of the station where it could have been re-erected…

  23. Alex Mckenna says:

    The horrid arch is hardly the Parthenon is it? Ugly, graceless, uninteresting, depressingly black, of no practical use or historical interest – just horrible. Looks like a gigantic version of a Victorian stove. Hope the bits can’t be glued together.

  24. Slugabed says:

    Alex McKenna
    I say,steady on old chap….

  25. Graham H says:

    @Alex McKenna -we’ve had the Clean Air Acts for over half a century now – very little of London looks as grimy as the Atkinson Grimshaw effects that I recall from my youth. Si monumentum requiris, see St Pancras now that it’s clean!

  26. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ GH

    How is it that you can bring e e cummings and Atkinson Grimshaw (neither of whom could really be considered as experts on British transport history), and not get “PoP”ed, whereas others would only have to mention a man who closed branch lines and/or his line minister (pun intended) of the time, to be cast into the etherspace??

    How do you do it??

  27. AlisonW says:

    It was a big lump of stone, and not a very pretty one at that. It also served no useful purpose and would not do so now either if it was rebuilt. I remember the 60s rebuild but Euston now needs a full, proper reworking to keep it useful and practical for the future.

  28. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @castlebar 1,

    Eh? I missed the e e cummings bit. As for the Atkinson Grimshaw effects it would seem to be a perfectly reasonable description if somewhat more poetic that would be expected on this site. Nothing wrong with raising descriptive standards of writing if relevant and accurate.

    The main reason comments on people get rejected are because we have heard them endlessly before, they are accusations made about them without any evidence or completely irrelevant to transport as such. I don’t think a passing reference to an artist is in any of those categories.

  29. Fandroid says:

    I suspect that the arch splits the transport fraternity into two camps: a. Those who see it as a wonderful example from the great Victorian railway age which should have been preserved at all costs
    b. Those who cannot understand how such a monstrosity gave rise to such preservationist passion in group (a).

    Group (b) probably includes many people who would passionately support the great monuments of the railway age which have survived, such as Paddington, St Pancras, Kings Cross, and Saltash and Forth Bridges, but think that the arch was ‘neither use nor ornament’. I wouldn’t knock it down now if it had survived, but I would rather a grand new Euston is built as a monument to the new railway age, not as a Victorian pastiche, but in the best 21st century style.

  30. John Bull says:

    If anything it’s firmly within the spirit of creative literary allusions that we apply within our own writing (particularly with regards to headers).

    Oranges are Not The Only Fruit is still the article title I’m proudest of (for the piece on Overground alternatives) and I vaguely remembering referencing The Princess Bride in a sub-header at some point.

  31. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Fandroid

    The “wonderful example from the great Victorian railway age which should be preserved at all costs” that I am currently concerned about is Brunel’s Hanwell station.

    Crossrail could cause it irreparable structural damage. The Doric arch at Euston is lost. End of.

  32. Long Branch Mike 1 says:


    Indeed it is the high literary ability of LR authors and commentariat that keeps me coming back to find latin phrases, interesting sidebars on historical issues, and eccentric English wordplay.

  33. Milton Clevedon says:

    That’s because some are being ‘arch’?

  34. stimarco says:

    “Alas, poor Doric!”

  35. Mike says:

    Astonishingly, no-one has pointed out that there has never been an arch at Euston: the fine edifice (which I’d rebuild tomorrow) was actually a propylaeum.

    Where are the Pedants when you need them?

  36. Toby says:

    A propylaeum indeed, Mike.

    I think a reconstructed propylaeum / Arch would be a great link from old to new at Euston (a station I use under duress, it’s a dreadful thing) that could, with a new and stunning Euston, lift the spirit in the same way that restored KX and SP do. Need to remember that the L&B really *was* HS1 in 1837!

  37. timbeau says:

    “the L&B really *was* HS1 in 1837”

    What was the Liverpool & Manchester Rly then?

  38. stimarco says:

    A “Propylaeum” is just a Greek-derived slice of architectural jargon. It actually describes a function, not its form. It means – almost literally – “that which is before the gate(s)” and has since come to mean “gatehouse”. The Brandenburg Gate is also a propylaeum, but only architects refer to it as such.

    Architects – and most other disciplines – invent such jargon to reduce ambiguity and make it easier to discuss specific details. Similarly, people in the rail industry will refer to a “Class 395”, or a “4-CIG”.

    Laypeople are perfectly content to talk about the Euston Arch, “the really fast train that runs via Ebbsfleet”, or “the ancient slam-door train that used to give me backache as it galloped its way through London Road (Guildford)”.

  39. Graham H says:

    @Nameless -Alison W asked me the same question recently. I can’t see any reason why it didn’t transfer to Railtrack along with all the other “fixtures and fittings” of the station which is what happened with all other similar items,such as war memorials. The only circumstance I can imagine where that wouldn’t have been the case would be if the sculpture was loaned or placed in the forecourt “with permission”, in which case someone (unknown) would have retained ownership. If it was genuinely an “orphan” then it should have transferred to BRBR , and when they were wound up, to the Secretary of State. If I were the Paolozzi Trust, that’s where I would make my first port of call.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Was there any specific legislation, other legal documentation or obligation requiring the transfer of all unclaimed BRBR assets to the DfT? If not, such items would surely on dissolution become bona vacantia and therefore Crown Property. In the latter case, I suppose the trustees would have to ask TSol BV department.

    However diligent everyone was at the time, I still find it difficult to believe, in view of BR’s size, diverse origins and complexity, that absolutely every last asset was identified, properly accounted for and transferred to a specific destination. Especially in an organisation where so much knowledge was carried in the corporate memory which was obliterated when everybody (else) went their separate ways.

    Alternatively, if someone were to abscond with it now, could that person just report it as lost property – if they could find an open police station. Perhaps you know someone with an old LWB Land Rover who could help to shift it?

  41. Graham H says:

    @Anonymous – the way that privatisation worked was that specific assets or asset classes were identified and transferred by SI*. When the process of stripping out had finished, what was left was transferred to BRBR (by Act of Parliament I believe rather than SI, although the point is immaterial – BRBR didn’t inherit a great long list of assets, merely anything that was left, including, I’m told, a previously undetected tank wagon in Scotland). So the sculpture should have gone to BRBR. Maybe you should ask Greg for a loan of that Landrover… [Dare I say it, a good many small, portable assets developed legs before they could be recorded].

    * and jolly wearisome it was, too, trying to ensure completeness (as indicated, we failed – and I have before reported here on attempts to get rid of specific items and continually being surprised by hitherto unknown bits of kit).

  42. Nameless says:

    Sorry, in my last post I didn’t intend to be secretive and hide behind the “Anonymous” tag. I am Nameless and proud of it!

    I am convinced that you were as thorough as humanly possible. I should not however be surprised if there was still a huge locked shed somewhere containing nothing but a 1000 year supply of 2 inch wide perforated gummed paper rolls printed in 1952 and bearing the legendary words:


    British Railways

    Funny, but I don’t recall seeing even one at any museum or preserved railway. Odd when you consider that they still proliferated in the 1980’s, usually on slam door windows.

  43. Nameless says:

    “what was left was transferred to BRBR”

    I have just had a quick look at the 2013 Abolition SI and it appears that, apart from those functions relating to specific land and structures, responsibility for the functions of BRBR was transferred to the SoS. Does this also mean that assets not specifically mentioned were also so transferred?

    I apologise if I am being dense but I’m now intrigued as to the ownership of an important piece of public art.

  44. Greg Tingey says:

    Please don’t!
    I have an old BR compartment label that says:
    “Reserved for School Girls”

  45. Graham H says:

    @Nameless – as I understood it at the time of BRBR abolition,yes, the process of transfer was exactly the same: unless otherwise specified, its rights, liabilities, assets, and properties transferred to the SoS. [My main contact with DfT in these matters in recent years has been in relation to industrial injury claims arising in the ex-BR subsidiaries of which I was a director – which was all of them – where the legal liabilities had all been defaulted to the SoS without having to be listed individually].

  46. 100andthirty says:

    I have walked past this piece of sculpture many times without giving it the least attention (except, perhaps, “isn’t modern art horrible!)

    I think the moral here, something I learned about quite early in management, if that it’s easier to apologise for having done something wrong rather than get permission in the first place. On that basis, the Trust should get on and clean it!

Leave a Comment

In order to make LR a pleasant place for discussion, please try to keep comments polite and, importantly, on topic! Comments that we feel do not meet these criteria, or that contain language that could cause some people trouble at work, may be moderated or deleted.

acceptable tags

* (This won't be shown, but you can link it to an avatar if you like)

Recent Articles

Friday Reading List – 24 March


As anyone looking to properly understand London’s transport needs and network knows, context, background and best-practice are important. As readers might imagine, behind the scenes here at LR Towers we thus spend a lot of time sharing links and reading

Read more ›

Friday Reading List – 17 March


As anyone looking to properly understand London’s transport needs and network knows, context, background and best-practice are important. As readers might imagine, behind the scenes here at LR Towers we thus spend a lot of time sharing links and reading

Read more ›

LR Magazine Issue Five: Overgrounded


With print copies now being prepped for dispatch to subscribers at LR Towers, London Reconnections Magazine Issue 5: Overgrounded is now available to purchase in our online store. Transport is politics, politics is transport You don’t get transport without politics.

Read more ›