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.
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.
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.
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.
And this weekend, courtesy of heroic volunteers and some fundraising in which I participated the subway is open again.
Over 4000 people are likely to view. This is to be the first of several openings it is hoped.
And boy is it extraordinary. Good things come to those who wait.
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?