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William Kent’s Arch In Bow

April 26, 2024
by the gentle author

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‘a curious vestige from a catalogue of destruction’

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 in the capital.

Ever since I first discovered William Kent’s beautiful lonely arch – a curious vestige from a catalogue of destruction – I have been meaning to go back to Bow take a photograph of it when the wisteria was in bloom and, although for a couple of years circumstances conspired to prevent me, eventually I was able to do so and here you see the result.

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

The Northumberland House Arch was restored with the support of the Heritage of London Trust

You may also like to read about

In Old Bow

At St Mary Stratford Atte Bow

CR Ashbee in Bow

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Judith Page permalink
    April 26, 2024

    I attended Old Palace primary school early 1950s and had often wondered how it came to get that name.

  2. Jo N permalink
    April 26, 2024

    There’s an impressive model of Northumberland House at the Percys’ country seat, Syon House, near Hounslow. This itself is well worth a visit, and includes a huge glasshouse used 40 years ago in The Cure’s video for The Caterpillar!

  3. April 26, 2024

    Oh my — the top photo made me want to snuggle inside that lovely arch, and just linger. The overhanging plantings, so graceful, added to the overall welcoming vibe. Although this arch frames an entryway, I enjoyed the sketch further down the array, with a cozy garden bench, awaiting a solitary reader with a book………..or maybe a discreet couple looking for a moment of privacy. Surely, a very romantic spot.

    You may not consider your arch a “fragment” — but the story reminded me of when we lived in Lower Manhattan (1978 – 1988) when The Washington Market area was discovered and reclaimed by artists and was eventually land-marked due to our diligent efforts. Among many interesting people in the area, a neighbor happened to learn about a massive metal eagle that once designated one of the many Shipping Piers on the West Side of Manhattan. (With the renewal of the West Side Highway, such things were pulled down and discarded. Sigh.) However, this one grand eagle had somehow languished somewhere, and our neighbor launched a vigorous ersatz campaign (pre-GoFundMe, pre-social media……….) to “Save The Cartouche!!!”.
    It had never entered my mind that such a thing was called a cartouche. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
    Anyhow, through lots of hat-passing at local art bars, donations, and other forms of generosity and kindred love of (ahem) fragments…………the magnificent eagle is now installed in an auspicious place in Tribeca. I doubt that many people, these days, know the story of how it ended up there. But, now you do.

    Some things get saved. Not everything. But when something is saved in an unexpected and glorious way, it just feels good. Another reason to enjoy Spitalfields Life!

  4. Eva Radford permalink
    April 26, 2024

    As a follow-up to this interesting article, I read your piece on Ashbee. He led the way in preserving historic buildings in England. Wouldn’t it be great to still have Northumberland House!

  5. Richard permalink
    April 28, 2024

    Lovely shot, and nice to see Northumberland House.

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