A New History #crystalpalacesubway

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There was nothing special about Sydenham Hill in the 1840s. A minor lump 7 miles  pretty much due south of St Paul’s it’s future changed with the decision to move the huge glass buildings of the 1851 great Exhibition to a permanent site.

It was a major attraction with two railway stations allowing the visitors to come and go with ease.

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The second to be built, the High level railway, permitted first class passengers to access easily via That access a sumptuous baroque subway designed by Charles Barry, its vaulted arches redolent of Italian cathedrals.

But the Crystal Palace, as it became known, faded in popularity and while mourned no one sought to rebuild it when it burnt down in late November 1936. My father, nine at the time remembers seeing the smoke from his home 15 miles away.

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Eventually the station closed in 1954, being demolished in 1961 and the subway boarded up from the 1980s. A small group managed to have it listed in 1979 to preserve it but so far as Joe Public was concerned it ceased to exist.  Most didn’t know it was there.

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Today the Terrace at Crystal Palace is a four lane highway, a bus station and a broadcast aerial. The remains of its glorious history is still evident in the Park: the recently refurbished sphinxes, the headless statutory and the dinosaur lake.

dinosaurs

And this weekend, courtesy of heroic volunteers and some fundraising in which I participated the subway is open again.

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Over 4000 people are likely to view. This is to be the first of several openings it is hoped.

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And boy is it extraordinary.  Good things come to those who wait.

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This last picture is the park side of the subway. Above my head is the pavement. In front a lobby originally covered in glass and steps straight up into the amazing glass building. Sometime this will be open again but back then, what must that have been like?

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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18 Responses to A New History #crystalpalacesubway

  1. Ritu says:

    Great pics His Geoffleship!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. gordon759 says:

    Great pictures of a fascinating building, I suspect Barry had Cordoba cathedral in mind when he created the forest of columns.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow Geoff, fantastic. Well done to you, the other fundraisers and volunteers.

    Gordon is right, it does have a look of Spanish Moorish architecture in Cordoba

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow…buried treasure ! ☺

    Liked by 2 people

  5. trifflepudling says:

    Very impressive. Well done, volunteers and fundraisers. Did it open as part of the Open House weekend?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jan says:

    What a fun thing to be a part of. It always a good feeling to try to restore a formerly glorious place.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Charli Mills says:

    Stunning! I love the connection that your father once told you of his memory when it burned during his childhood. What a worthy cause to wait out and volunteer to make public. That architecture is so stunning and how incredible the glass structure must have been. So cool! Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Amazing, indeed, Geoff

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love old architectural features like this – so sad when they are lost, but great that something is being done to preserve and restore this site. That ceiling!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      It is exquisite; the Victorians loved to over-engineer everything thank heavens. If you ever make it across the pond Susan I’d love to show you some of our crazy-beautiful Victorian infrastructure… There’s a pumping sewerage station I must write about soon!

      Liked by 1 person

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