On the move

Most know that Marble Arch started life in front of Buckingham Palace until wider vehicles made it impossible to access the building through its narrow arches. Moved to the bottom of Edware Road, thus giving the gyratory system its current name. Crystal Palace started life as the Great Exhibition venue in Hyde Park before being moved about the same time as Marble Arch to Sydenham Hill and also changing that location’s name to Crystal Palace.

[B]ut what of more modest mobile buildings which have not had the area named after them? London Bridge was shifted almost entirely to Lake Havasu City, Arizona but what of its predecessor? Demolished in 1831 parts of the medieval bridge were sold off. Fourteen sturdy covered domes sat at the end of the piers but four still survive.

London Bridge shelter in Victoria Park

Two can be found in east London’s Victoria Park offering a restful seat; one is in the grounds of Guy’s Hospital; and the fourth somewhat bizarrely has ended up in the garden of a block of flats in East Sheen.


If the removal of a stone alcove wasn’t unusual, the discovery of a Wren spire built after the Great Fire of London certainly is, St. Antholin’s spire seems to have been divorced from its nave sometime between 1829 and 1875. One of the churchwardens, Robert Harrrild bought it for £5 and had it installed in his garden in Sydenham. Now surrounded by modern housing which replaced Harrild’s manor house it sits incongruously forgotten and almost impossible to find as Ian Visits describes.

A more ambitious house move is Crosby Hall. Built in Bishopsgate between 1466 and 1475 for rich City merchant Sir John Crosby it ended up as being used as a warehouse. Realising its importance as the most precious medieval survivor in the Square Mile the entire building was moved brick by brick to Chelsea and after much soul searching into what should become of its use it was leased to the British Federation of University Women who promptly built an Arts and Crafts residential block at right angles to the building’s Great Hall. In 1988 the freehold was bought by Christopher Moran an enthusiastic – and rich – lover of all things Tudor who had already spent 20 years thinking about the Hall. Seven years were than consumed obtaining the relevant planning permissions and if you think your kitchen extension was a nightmare have a thought for Christopher Moran who has since 1995 employed up to 100 specialist builders with the help of dozens of Tudor scholars on his project creating an 85 room house, built exactly as Tudor craftsmen would have done over 500 years ago. For the £50 million it is estimated to cost he gets a courtyard garden designed by the Marchioness of Salisbury based on her own garden at Hatfield House surrounding a Tudor fountain to the goddess Diana, that itself took more than three years to create. Facing the River are solid oak doors weighing 3 tonnes, The College of Arms have devised for him a coat of arms to surmount the doors. The lost art of double-struck pointing has been mastered in order to ensure that the new brickwork looks exactly as it would have done when Sir John Crosby moved in.


Temple Bar served two purposes, the first as the name implied to bar anyone entering the City of London via Fleet Street; in fact the Monarch still has to ask permission at this point of the Lord Mayor to enter the Square Mile. It also served as an excellent place to display head of traitors. In 1874 it was discovered that the keystones had dropped and the arches were propped up with timbers. The steady increase in horse and cart traffic led to complaints that Temple Bar was becoming a bottleneck, holding back the City trade. In 1878 the City of London eager to widen the road but unwilling to destroy so historic a monument, dismantled it piece-by-piece over an 11-day period and stored its 2,700 stones carefully. In 1880 the brewer Henry Meux at the instigation of his wife bought the stones and re-erected the arch as the facade of a new gatehouse in the park of his mansion house Theobalds Park in Hertfordshire. With the construction of Paternoster Square the arch, now just laying in pieces in a field, was re-erected at the St. Paul’s entrance to the square.

Many other buildings, or bits of them, have up sticks and moved over the year. Above is Itinerant London, buildings and structures that have moved around London and beyond.

Picture: London Bridge shelter in Victoria Park by Matt Brown (CC BY 2.0)

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