During the Victorian age Sir Edward Watkin had a simple but ambitious plan. His idea was to build the tallest structure in the world.
To do it he planned turn the grounds of Wembely into a London version of the Camp de Mars in Paris including a version of the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is 300 meters high and its inaugural ceremony was during the Universal Exposition of 1889 by the river Sein. By then it was the tallest artificial structure of the world. Initially it was not liked. Some considered it to be a monstrous addition to Paris´ beautiful architecture yet it became a touristic global attraction. In only seven months it raised its total cost of construction, some US$ 350.000,00 and became a symbol of Paris.
To build his London version of the Eiffel Tower Sir Edward bought 280 acres of land in Wembley. His plan was to build an entirely new community that would be connected to the city of London through the Metropolitan Railway. According to his project there will be comfortable houses located on agreeable parks only 12 minutes away from the Baker Station. His tower was meant to be the center of his suburban design.
He hoped his park would give the poor people of the center of London a change from the infested air of the capital. It would also encourage the inhabitants of the city to enjoy more days in the country using the railway leading to the park where the main attraction would be the Tower
The Park also included a lake, a waterfall, and several sport fields. It opened in May, 1894 and it grew very popular receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors in its first months. The construction of the Tower was well on the way
The new Eiffel Tower.
Sir Edward has asked Gustave Eiffel to design his tower, but the architect declined presumably on grounds of French patriotism.
Eventually the design that was selected looked very much like the Parisian Eiffel Tower. It was design by Stewart, McLaren y Dunn it was made of Steel instead of iron and with 350 meters long would be 50 meters higher than the one in Paris.
This new tower would have a 90 room hotel, with restaurant, theater, stores, Turkish baths, Winter gardens a meteorological station and an observatory on the higher section.
Why did the Project fail?
Wembley was the wrong place for the Project. First the grounds were like a marsh and prone to sinking
The first stage of the tower was completed shirt after the opening of the park. It consisted of four legs over a base of 47 meters. But very son it started to lean to the side. A problem that worsened over the course of the next two years.
Another problem for the Project to succeed was that Wembley was too far from the centre of London. Part of the reason why the Eiffel Tower was such a success was because people could climb it and see the marvellous views of the city of Lights. The Wembley tower certainly showed no panoramic view of London. A better Location would have been Hyde Park. There it could have been a complete success.
Public interest faded quite fast. Sir Edward invested 44% of the required capital. US$130.000.00 of the required US$290.000,00 and so by late 1894 the construction work had ceased.
In 1896 in an attempt to revitalize the public interest elevators were installed but only 18500 visitors came during the first six months. Finally, in 1901 a year after the death of Sir Edward the tower was closed to the public.
Wembley is today a place of recreation just like Sir Edward had envisioned. Without his wonderful gardens and the Watkins station The British Empire Exposition would not have been celebrated there. Wembley also became a synonym of English football and a place of musical performances.
In 2002, when the new Wembley stadium was built workers found the concrete foundation beneath the court. They were the first and last pieces of the London Eiffel Tower.