Hyde Park Corner

Hyde Park Corner, Westminster

A traffic roundabout said to be ‘London’s most vital junction’ and its hotel-filled vicinity, located at the south-east corner of Hyde Park

Hidden London: Apsley House, Hyde Park Corner, October 2018

When Hyde Park first came into exis­tence all the land here was part of it. Shown in the pho­to above, Aps­ley House was built by Robert Adam in 1778 for the Lord Chan­cel­lor, Lord Aps­ley, and became the home of the Duke of Welling­ton in 1817. The duke made sig­nif­i­cant enhance­ments to the house’s grandeur and filled it with works of art that he had received as gifts.

Aps­ley House was known as ‘No.1 Lon­don’ because it was the first dwelling on the Lon­don side of the for­mer Knights­bridge toll­gate. It is now a pop­u­lar muse­um and gallery, large­ly unchanged from the time of the duke’s res­i­dence.

Hyde Park Cor­ner Lodge and St George Hos­pi­tal (now the Lanes­bor­ough Hotel) both date from the 1820s. This decade also saw the real­i­sa­tion of a long-debat­ed plan to cre­ate a grand fea­ture at this impor­tant gate­way to Lon­don. Dec­imus Burton’s neo-clas­si­cal Con­sti­tu­tion Arch has been called ‘England’s answer to the Arc de Tri­om­phe’, although it is some­what small­er than its Parisian coun­ter­part.

An over­sized stat­ue of the Iron Duke was lat­er perched on the mon­u­ment, which led to it becom­ing known as the Welling­ton Arch.

Constitution Arch, popularly known as Wellington Arch
Con­sti­tu­tion Arch, also known as Welling­ton Arch

When the arch was dis­man­tled as part of a road-widen­ing scheme and moved to its present posi­tion in 1882, Wellington’s stat­ue was removed and tak­en to Alder­shot. Its posi­tion atop the arch was tak­en in 1912 by Cap­tain Adri­an Jones’ bronze stat­ue of Peace Descend­ing on the Quadri­ga of War. The cost of the sculp­ture was met by Her­bert Stern, 1st Baron Michel­ham, whose 11-year-old son Her­man served as a mod­el for the boy who pulls at the reins of the four hors­es har­nessed to the quadri­ga as a huge fig­ure of Peace descends upon them from heav­en.

London’s small­est police sta­tion oper­at­ed inside the Con­sti­tu­tion Arch for a few years but closed in 1960, when the for­mer cross­roads at Hyde Park Cor­ner became a round­about, maroon­ing the arch in its cen­tre. A unit of cav­al­ry parades through the arch each morn­ing.

Hyde Park Cor­ner and its envi­rons are graced by sev­er­al mil­i­tary memo­ri­als, includ­ing the Roy­al Artillery Memo­r­i­al, the Machine Gun Corps Memo­r­i­al (also known as the Boy David Memo­r­i­al) and the Aus­tralian War Memo­r­i­al.

In 1952 the words ‘Hyde Park Corner’ were used as code within the royal household to communicate the death of George VI.

Postal districts: W1 and SW1
Station: Piccadilly line (zone 1)