Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published December 16th 2014
Pay Respect to War Heroes
As a traffic island, Hyde Park Corner connects six major roads, including Park Lane, Piccadilly, Knightsbridge, Constitution Hill and Grosvenor Place. That with an added tube station makes for a highly congested area, not to mention noisy and fumy.
Admittedly, Hyde Park Corner is not attractive, yet it is a highly popular tourist destination and a place of historic importance. There are two reasons for this. First is Wellington Arch. Also known as Constitution Arch, it was designed by the nineteenth century architect, Decimus Burton, and originally built as the entrance to Green Park. In 1825 George IV planned Wellington (and Marble) Arch to be a commemoration of Britain's victory in the Napoleonic Wars. The arch was moved to Hyde Park Corner in 1882 to make room for road widening.
In 1846, a statue of the First Duke of Wellington riding a horse was placed on top of Wellington Arch but, because of its disproportionate size, met opposition from many people, including Decimus Burton and Queen Victoria. So as not to offend Duke Arthur Wesslsey, the statue remained until well after his death. When Wellington Arch was moved to Hyde Park Corner, the opportunity arose for it to be taken down. A new statue was put in its place, featuring The Angel of Peace Descending from the Quadriga of Victory in 1912.
Not only is Wellington a key London landmark from the outside, but it is also a place you can visit inside. Once housing a police station, it was taken over by English Heritage in 1999, and has three floors of exhibits (you need to buy tickets).
The second reason Hyde Park Corner is important is because of all the monuments. There are four memorials in remembrance of those who fell in World Wars One and Two. The New Zealand War Memorial was unveiled in 2006, and features vertical bronze crosses laid out in the form of a sloping pyramid. Each structure has engravings of text or images.
Next to that is the Machine Gun Corps Memorial, which was presented in 1925. The marble structure acts as a podium for a bronze David, surrounded by young men resting on Goliath's sword. It was originally displayed at Grosvenor's place, but dismantled in 1945. It was not restored to Hyde Park Corner until 1963, and has now been given a Grade II* listing.
The third monument is dedicated to the Royal Artillery. Two bronze soldiers stand to attention on a plinth of Portland stone. A third soldier is shown lain to rest, while a stone sculpted cannon features at the top.
The Australian War Memorial was unveiled in 2003, and is a long curved granite wall with all the names of soldiers who have died in service. Some of the letters were highlighted to form the names of towns from which the soldiers were born.
Finally there is also an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington, which was revealed in 1888, and depicts him on campaign with his soldiers.