London’s most haunting missing icons


As a city that is constantly developing and growing, London occasionally needs to make tough decisions about its heritage buildings. What will stay and what will go? Over the years many beautiful landmarks and buildings have fallen to the wrecking ball, but plenty of them have left their mark on the city. Nowadays the Heritage Listing system means that the most important and iconic buildings will never be destroyed, and London moves upwards and outwards to find ever more space. Here’s a look back at some of London’s former glories.

The Euston Arch once graced the entrance to Euston Station. Known colloquially as the “gateway to the midlands”, its grand pillared appearance proved to be rather controversial. A guide to London produced in 1851 described it as “gigantic and very absurd” – perhaps it was too showy for British sensibilities. It met its demise in 1961 during the remodelling of the station, when the current great hall was built. Sadly, once it had been torn down, architects realised they could have kept it after all – but the bizarre arch is now just a memory.

Crystal Palace lives on as the name of its former neighbourhood, but the building itself was short-lived. It was built in 1851 to house the Great Exhibition – a world-famous event showcasing the most important and mind-blowing innovations of the day. Made from glass and iron, the palace itself was something to wonder at and cost £2 million. It covered 992,000 square feet, full of 100,000 objects from 15,000 exhibitors. It only stood in its original location for six months before it was moved to Sydenham Hill. In 1936, tragedy struck and, like so many other London icons, it was destroyed by fire.

The Palace of Whitehall was not an exhibition centre but a real palace. It was originally built in the 13th century by the then Duke of York, who named it York Place. Then King Henry VIII took it over and radically re-designed it; among other things, he added a recreation ground that included areas for jousting and cock-fighting. He lived there for much of his life and married two of his eight wives in its chapel, Jane Seymour and Anne Boleyn, before eventually dying there. The palace went on to take a further place in history by hosting the first ever performance of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest in 1611. But its days were numbered: the royals gradually came to prefer Kensington Palace, and it burned down in 1698.

Lowther Arcade would have been a welcome addition to London’s current shopping scene. Arcades lined with stores were the way to shop before malls were invented, and many of them still exist in the Piccadilly area. Lowther was located in the Strand and its specialty was toy shops; as you can imagine, it was very popular with children. Nowadays, Coutts Bank stands where thousands of children once delighted in toys…a sad day for everyone’s inner child.

Regents Park was once home to a modern wonder: its very own Colosseum. It was inspired by the original one in Rome, but this one was built in 1827 to house a painting bigger than anyone had ever created before: a 360 degree panoramic view of London. Understandably, the painter and owner of the Colosseum eventually went into debt and had to sell it. It was refurbished and reopened as a statuary in 1845, but eventually demolished in 1874.

The Royal Panopticon once stood in Leicester Square, an essential part of the Piccadilly London West End package. It was commissioned by royal charter to host lectures and exhibitions about science and art, but in 1858, just four years after it was built, it was sold to a circus. In 1871 it was renamed the Royal Alhambra Theatre, and it hosted plays and shows until it closed in 1936 – to be torn down and replaced by the current resident, the Odeon Cinema.

Many visitors are often left perplexed by London Bridge; they expect a grand sight like Tower Bridge, but in fact it’s pretty unassuming. The old tune “London Bridge Is Falling Down” isn’t talking about the current bridge either, because it’s actually the third London Bridge. The first became so jammed with buildings and shops that Parliament became worried that it would collapse; the bridge was cleared starting in 1758, and a new bridge was built in 1824. It didn’t last long either: it was sold in 1968 to an American who rebuilt it in Arizona.