Marble Arch is a 19th-century white marble faced triumphal arch and London landmark. The structure was designed by John Nash in 1827 to be the state entrance to the cour d'honneur of Buckingham Palace; it stood near the site of what is today the three bayed, central projection of the palace containing the well known balcony. In 1851 it was relocated and following the widening of Park Lane in the early 1960s is now sited, isolated and incongruously, on a large traffic island at the junction of Oxford Street, Park Lane, and Edgware Road.
Historically, only members of the Royal Family and the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery are permitted to pass through the arch; this happens only in ceremonial processions.
The arch gives its name to the vicinity of its site, particularly, the southern portion of Edgware Road and also to the nearbyunderground station.
The design of the arch is based on that of the Arch of Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris. The arch is faced with Carrara marble with embellishments of marble extracted near Seravezza.
John Flaxman was chosen to make the commemorative sculpture. After his death in 1826 the commission was divided between Sir Richard Westmacott, Edward Hodges Baily andJ.C.F.Rossi. In 1829, a bronze equestrian statue of George IV was commissioned from SirFrancis Chantrey, with the intention of placing it on top of the arch.
Construction began in 1827, but was cut short in 1830, following the death of the spendthrift King George IV - the rising costs were unacceptable to the new king, William IV, who later tried to offload the uncompleted palace off onto Parliament as a substitute for the recently destroyed Palace of Westminster.
Work restarted in 1832, this time under the supervision of Edward Blore, who greatly reduced Nash's planned attic stage and omitted its sculpture, including the statue of George IV. The arch was completed in 1833.
Some of the unused sculpture, including parts of Westmacott's frieze of Waterloo and the Nelson panels were used at Buckingham Palace. His victory statues and Rossi's relief of Europe and Asia were used at the National Gallery. In 1843 the equestrian statue of George IV was installed on one of the pedestals in Trafalgar Square.
The white marble soon lost its light colouring in the polluted London atmosphere. In 1847, Sharpe's London Magazinedescribed it as "discoloured by smoke and damp, and in appearance resembling a huge sugar erection in a confectioner's shop window."