OK, I know, it wasn’t that long ago that I talked about Wellington Arch and showed you the pictures from when my Dad was stationed there in the mid 1960’s. But I couldn’t resist going back last week and have a proper look inside Welly Arch to try and get a feel for what it must have been like to work there, and see how it’s surroundings have changed over the past 40 years. And I have to say it was £3.20 very well spent. Call me a sentimental old fool by all means, but I had a great time poking around the inside and then trying to recreate the photos from 40 years ago. The extremely helpful English Heritage chaps pointed out to me that my Dad must have taken his pictures from the very top of the arch where the largest bronze sculpture in Europe sits. The general public are not allowed up there these days and you can only get your view of Hyde Park Corner from the more recently opened viewing platform about 20ft below. Shame, as it slightly changes the angle of the pictures I took and it would have been fun going up the ladder that you will see in the gallery below.
Before I talk anymore about the then & now aspect of my visit, a quick history of Welly Arch. Built in 1830 as part of a grand outer entrance for Buckingham Palace (along with Marble Arch which may or may not have been shifted up Park Lane because it wasn’t wide enough for carriages to fit through) it originally sat at the North West edge of Hyde Park Corner, forming part of a double gateway to the park itself. But as traffic increased over the years, the Arch was moved to it’s current position in order to clear the bottle neck that the arch itself caused. This shift in position may have helped the traffic but it signaled a bad time for Welly Arch itself, so bad that by 1997 it was placed on the buildings at risk register. That’s when English Heritage stepped in and took control, restoring the arch internally and externally. And a flippin’ good job they’ve done too.
So onto the pictures themselves. Well, I shouldn’t have been that surprised that apart from the quality of the photos (the old ones have been copied from slides) there isn’t a lot of difference between them. The only noticeable change is on the picture that looks directly up Park Lane. In the 1960’s version there is a building on the corner that was knocked down in 1967 (helping me date the photo a bit better) but I wish I could remember what it was called (the nice English Heritage man did tell me), but at least I know that it’s the Intercontinental Hotel that replaced it. In the background of both the Park Lane views you will see the Hilton Park Lane which was built in 1961, I had no idea it was that early. Most of the other buildings and structures are still there, with the addition of memorials around Hyde Park corner probably being the only other changes. There have of course been some fairly major changes of use for a few buildings in the area. Previously mentioned in this blog I know, but I can’t help but mention that what is now The Lanesborough Hotel was St George’s Hospital back in the day and it’s where my Big Sis was born. I would encourage anyone passing to pop in, pay your £3.20 and have a look around. You’ll be able to see where Snooks the Cat and my old man where stationed and have a look at some nice views.