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Lost Wonders of London

Our new exhibition Brick Wonders displays marvels of our world, we decided to take a look at the lost wonders of London.

1. Crystal Palace

Our first wonder is closely tied to South London. The Crystal Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton was a beautiful glass structure held together through a network of iron rods. The building played host to The Great Exhibition, which opened on 1 May 1851 in Hyde Park and was moved to South London following the exhibition. The display hosted 14,000 exhibitors from around the world. The first of its kind, it opened Britain to an experience of travelling cultures. An estimated 6 million people were said to attend the exhibition, including Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens.

This beautiful hand-held fan depicts the crowds at Crystal Palace during the Great Exhibition, the reverse is decorated with figures and crests in Gold.

  • Fan, 99.223a, Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Fan, 99.223a, Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Illustrated London News Frontpiece with the title below, reading 'Interior of the Crystal Palace. Hyde Park 1851'. The print shows crowds viewing the exhibits, with a stand for Ceylon on the left, the upper galleries around, and the roof structure above.

  • Print, 2011.32, Print, 2011.32, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Print, 2011.32, Horniman Museum and Gardens

This page from the Illustrated London News depicts an exterior view of the Crystal Palace with crowds in the front. Above, at the centre, are the figure of Britannia, with Queen Victoria on the left greeting two female figures in Asian dress on her right, flanked by figures in western dress on the left and in Asian dress on the right.

  • Print, 2011.33, Print, 2011.33, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Print, 2011.33, Horniman Museum and Gardens

2. Euston Arch

  • Euston Arch, Euston Arch− © Tekniska museet
    Euston Arch

Our second wonder is an iconic symbol of the industrial revolution, the Euston Arch. It is said to be ‘first great monument of the railway age’ by railway enthusiasts.

The arch was built in 1838 at the same time as the opening of Euston Station, the capitals first inter-city terminal.

Demolished in the 1960’s when Euston station was rebuilt, some of its stones have been used to fill the Prescott Channel. There has been many articles discussing the aesthetics of the arch. Is this the marmite of architecture? Is it a piece that would look out of place nowadays in the city or do we need more structures like this that stand out, bold and strong?

  • Archway,4522.12, Archway,4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Archway,4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Archway, 4522.12, Archway, 4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Archway, 4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens

This is part of an Indian arch that you pass through in the World Gallery, made of teak. According to Sir Somers Vine who sold it to the Horniman, it took six men seven years to carve.

3. Amphitheatre under Guildhall

  • London's Roman Amphitheatre, London's Roman Amphitheatre, Philafrenzy
    London's Roman Amphitheatre, Philafrenzy

Rediscovered by Museum of London archaeologists in 1988, the Amphitheatre under Guildhall Yard is a landmark you can see today and London’s only Roman amphitheatre.

The wooden structure was built in 70AD and could play host to up to 6,000 people. Amphitheatres would have been used for public executions and gladiator shows or fights. The surviving remains include the stone entrance tunnel, east gate and arena walls.

This rod puppet shows a Roman Centurion.

  • Rod puppet nn18424, Rod puppet, nn18424, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Rod puppet, nn18424, Horniman Museum and Gardens

4. Palace of Whitehall

  • Palace of Whitehall, Painting of the Palace of White Hall, Hendrik Danckerts
    Painting of the Palace of White Hall, Hendrik Danckerts

The Palace of Whitehall was home to English monarchs from 1530 to 1698. In 1698 a fire of destroyed the entire palace, leaving only the banqueting area intact. The palace was one of the largest in Europe with 1,500 rooms.

Originally the site was developed by the Archbishop of York. It was in the sixteenth century that the site was made into a great palace by Cardinal Wosley, which was taken over and expanded by Henry Vlll. Henry married two of his six wives at Whitehall Palace and also died there.

Whitehall was also where Charles l was executed and where William III and Mary II succeeded the throne in 1689-90.

  • Commemorative plate, 2434, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    , Horniman Museum and Gardens

5. Old London Bridge

  • Illustration of Old London Bridge, Illustration of Old London Bridge, Claude de Jongh
    Illustration of Old London Bridge, Claude de Jongh

Our final wonder is the Old London Bridge. Built between 1176 and 1209, the Old London Bridge stood as a place of commercial and residential occupancy for merchants and city dwellers.

Built by Peter, chaplain of St. Mary’s of Colechurch, the bridge was made up of 19 arches and 200 houses. The bridge had survived several catastrophes, but three years after its completion all the buildings were destroyed by a huge fire, where 3,000 people were killed.

In 1282, five of the arches fell due to the pressures of winter weather, and when the central pier was removed in 1762 the bridge became hard to maintain. The river would erode the arches which constantly needed protecting with stones. This led to the structure being redesigned further upstream by John Reggie.

You can see a replica of the Old London Bridge and the life of the towns’ people in our exhibition Brick Wonders until 19 October 2019.

  • Old London Bridge model, Model of Old London Bridge, Warren Elsemore
    Model of Old London Bridge, Warren Elsemore

Is there a building or landmark that you feel is a lost wonder in London? Do let us know by tagging us @HornimanMuseum on Twitter and Facebook.