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William Kent’s Arch In Bow

June 9, 2023
by the gentle author


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‘a poignant vestige from a catalogue of destruction’

Ever since I first discovered William Kent’s beautiful lonely arch in Bow, I want to go back to take a photograph of it whenever the wisteria is in bloom. For a couple of years circumstances conspired to prevent me, but eventually I was able to do so and here you can admire the result without needing to leave your home.

This fine eighteenth century rusticated arch designed by the celebrated architect and designer William Kent was originally part of Northumberland House, the London residence of the Percy family in the Strand which was demolished in 1874. Then the arch was installed in the garden of the Tudor House in St Leonard’s Street, Bow, by George Gammon Rutty before it was moved here to the Bromley by Bow Centre in 1997, where it makes a magnificent welcoming entrance today.

The Tudor House was purchased in a good condition of preservation from the trustees of George Gammon Rutty after his death in 1898 by the London County Council, who chose to demolish it and turn the gardens into a public park. At this point, there were two statues situated at the foot of each of the pillars of the arch but they went missing in the nineteen-forties. One of the last surviving relics of the old village of Bromley by Bow, the house derived its name from a member of the Tudor family who built it in the late sixteenth century adjoining the Old Palace and both were lovingly recorded by CR Ashbee in the first volume of the Survey of London in 1900.

The Survey was created by Ashbee, while he was living in Bow running the Guild of Handicrafts at Essex House (another sixteenth century house nearby that was demolished), in response to what he saw as the needless loss of the Old Palace and other important historic buildings. Today, only William Kent’s arch remains as a poignant vestige from a catalogue of destruction.

William Kent (1685 –1748) Architect, landscape and furniture designer

Northumberland House by Canaletto, 1752

Northumberland House shortly before demolition, 1874

William Kent’s arch in the grounds of the Tudor House, Bow, in 1900 with its attendant statues, as illustrated in the first volume of the Survey of London by CR Ashbee (Image courtesy Survey of London/ Bishopsgate Institute)

William Kent’s arch at St Leonard’s Street, Bromley by Bow

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In Old Bow

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CR Ashbee in Bow

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Jean Mason permalink
    June 9, 2023

    Thank you for the picture of the arch, a small remnant from such a grand past. So sad to see such destruction, such treasures we had and didn’t appreciate them and still it continues sadly. One day we will be covered by nondescript concrete blocks and wonder where all the beauty has gone.

    Will people even remember how to build a proper house any more?

  2. Eve permalink
    June 9, 2023

    ahh.. brought to life with the blooming wisteria, so lovely!

  3. Jon Casey permalink
    June 9, 2023

    I remember the arch in Bromley Recreation Ground when I was a child in the 1950s. I always found it very creepy, both because of the leering satyr-like face on the keystone and the fact that it didn’t go anywhere, being against a wall and filled in as shown in the 1900 picture. I’m glad to see it has been restored as a proper archway.

  4. June 9, 2023

    What a beautiful old relic! Your photograph with the wisteria shows it is a very romantic light.

    Northumberland House was a monstrosity–I think they probably saved the best part! The facade above the arch reminds me of the facade of Sir Paul Pindar’s house; I hadn’t thought it might have been an architectural trend.

  5. Amos Julien permalink
    June 23, 2023

    I recall the arch in a location not too far off in the old (Bob’s) park. Nice to see it has been cleaned up: it makes it all the more impressive to gaze upon.

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