An extensive conservation project is underway on the 19th-century Grade I listed monument. English Heritage hopes the conservation work will restore Marble Arch to its former glory.
Built in 1833 and inspired by Palladian architecture Marble Arch was Britain’s first building to be entirely clad in marble. Intended to be a memorial to Britain’s victories in the Napoleonic Wars, as well as the ceremonial entrance to Buckingham Palace, in 1851 the Arch was relocated to the North East entrance of Hyde Park to make space for the growing Buckingham Palace and to provide a grand entrance to the world-famous London Park.
However, in recent decades the grand monument has lost a lot of its lustre and is facing deterioration. Water is the main issue facing the Arch as it can cause cracks by freezing and thawing, and salt in the water can also cause damage. Water also corrodes the monument’s bronze elements. Some older methods of cleaning the marble have made it more porous and prone to staining which makes maintenance like cleaning graffiti much harder without causing further damage. Traffic pollution also has a negative effect on the marble as acids found in polluted air react with the calcite in the stone and cause gradual erosion.
English Heritage is therefore launching a project to restore the monument to its former glory. The Arch is now covered in a scaffold to allow conservators to get to the hard to reach areas safely. The work will care for the Arch’s marble masonry, sculptures, metalwork, roof and will give the whole surface a thorough clean. There will also be pointing – filling the exposed joints with traditional lime mortar – and the replacing of missing or lost parts with new marble. Damaging invasive plants will be removed and poor historical repair work will be rectified. The marble will be cleaned with corrosion treated and repair work taking place on the roof and statues.
The conservation of Marble Arch has been supported by Airbnb who recently donated £1.25 million to the conservation of historic sites in English Heritage’s care. Advertising revenue is also contributing towards the conservation of the Arch – whilst the scaffold is in place, English Heritage is partnering with Ocean Outdoor to offer businesses the opportunity to advertise on the purpose built sleeve surrounding the monument. Many will also be unaware that there is an interior to Marble Arch and English Heritage will be announcing plans in due course to update this currently unused space.
The conservation works on the Arch are already underway and are due to complete towards the end of 2024.
Marble Arch is a great London landmark and we are giving it the tender loving care it deserves. This will be a major conservation project, taking well over a year, and whilst we know many Londoners and tourists will miss the arch whilst it is under a scaffold, we cannot wait to unveil it next year and reveal the arch in all its former glory.
Rob Woodside, Estates Director, English Heritage