The Royal Arch: People’s Tower or Pigeon Palace?

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The Royal Arch: People’s Tower or Pigeon Palace?

A new display on Dundee’s former Royal Arch is to go on show at The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum from Saturday 17 February. The exhibit will challenge views on whether it should be regarded as the ‘People’s Tower’ or indeed whether it could more accurately be described as a ‘Pigeon Palace’.

The display will feature the ‘three ages’ of the arch – wooden, stone and cardboard. Artwork of the arch will be on the walls and a marble plaque that survived the demolition of the arch will be on show on the wall beneath the Royal Arch clock. The exhibit will also feature a wooden model of the arch and ephemera associated with the Victorian structure including pieces collected from a public appeal held late last year. 

The Royal Arch was built to commemorate the first visit to Dundee by Queen Victoria. It stood at the harbour entrance for over 114 years – a symbol of Victorian ambition and the expertise of the architect, engineers, masons and builders. Artists, photographers, authors and the souvenir market all used the Royal Arch image and it was recognised across the world.

Sadly, the arch was also exposed to high levels of industrial pollution and it became blackened and unloved, except by the city’s pigeons, who used it as a giant doocot. In 1964, the Royal Arch was demolished, its ornately carved stonework crushed and used as infill for the Tay Bridge approach road.

Curators now hope that visitors will consider whether or not the Royal Arch would be protected in today’s environment.

Christina Donald, Curator of Early History said

“Whether you loved it loathed it, wish you could have seen it or are happy it is gone, the Royal Arch is always a talking point.  Whether a ‘People's Tower’ or a ‘Pigeon Palace’ the Royal Arch loomed large on the landscape of Dundee's waterfront for over 100 years. "

Admission Free. Opening Times: Mon to Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 12.30-4.30pm

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