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Royal Arch, Dundee November 21, 2009

Posted by unterwasser in Uncategorized.
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Royal Arch, Dundee

Designed by J.T.Rochhead,  who also designed the Wallace Monument in Stirling, the Royal Arch was built in 1852 to celebrate the visit of Queen Victoria to Dundee.  Situated on the banks of the River Tay at King William IV Docks, this triumphal arch in the Anglo-Norman style  was flanked by two smaller side arches, and surmounted by two central turrets.  The arch was 80 feet across and costed somewhere between £2,270.00 and £3,000.00 (£250-300,000  today) , and typical of much of the  architecture at the time it was funded by public subscription and harbour trustees.

Rochhead’s structure replaced an earlier wooden arch, designed by harbour engineer James Leslie, that had been erected for the Royal visit on the 11th September 1844.

The arch was eventually demolished in 1964 ,  as part of the land reclamation scheme, and to make way for the construction of the Tay Road Bridge.  The arch was dynamited and the remains were thrown into both the King William IV and the Earl Grey Docks. Afterwards, the docks were land filled to accommodate the slip roads for the new Tay Road Bridge.  Much of Dundee in the 1960s and 1970s  experienced unsympathetic modernisation, with much of the old town being destroyed to make way for the unlamented Overgate centre, which itself was refurbished in the late 1990s.

The arch is almost indefensible as a practical structure, serving no more use than any of the other follies built in the period which remain scattered across the British Isles.  However as piece of whimsy and a statement of municipal intent it is every bit as striking as current works of public art such as Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North or Mark Wallinger’s ‘White Horse’. Despite the  excellent redevelopment work taking place in Dundee at the moment I can’t help feel that the city is a little duller without it.

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