If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll have seen this (locally) famous photo before. It’s an old picture of High Wycombe with an arch made out of chairs. It seems like an odd thing to have in a town centre. Where did the locals get that idea from?
According to a local historian, many towns in Victorian Britain built arches to mark special occasions, usually made of objects which symbolised the town. In High Wycombe, those objects were chairs. Nobody is sure how the arch building tradition began, but it appears to have started around the same time London’s Marble Arch was moved from Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park Corner. (source)
And in fact, London’s Marble Arch was designed to look like the grand monuments built in ancient Rome to celebrate a military victory. The Roman tradition of arches evolved from the ancient cultures of the Middle-East and Europe, such as those of the Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians and Myceneans. These civilizations would build an arch to mark the entrance to their main cities. (below: Roman arch)
So why did Wycombe make an arch out of chairs? Possibly because, 2000 years ago, the Greeks made an arch out of stone.