Staying Local: Crystal Palace Park

In 1851, Prince Albert, Prince Regent to Queen Victoria had what was possibly his finest hour with the opening of his Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. He commissioned a glass house designer, Joseph Paxton (his gong came after) to come up with the venue in which all the wonders of Empire were to be displayed. The Exhibition was slated to last a year and was a huge success, so much so that, on the expiry of the year a new home was needed.

That new home was Sydenham Hill in South London, about half a mile (up hill) from where Dog and I live. The wonders of the Crystal Palace were such that the whole area was renamed after it, two railway stations were built to service it (only one still functions – see below for more about that)

and numerous grand Victorian villas built.

Visitors poured in and while the numbers did drop over time it was still a venue of choice when it was tragically burnt to the ground in the mid 1930s (my father remembers seeing the glow in the distance as a small boy, from his home some ten miles away in Caterham). There are reminders everywhere: one small piece of the original frame, some of the statues (some of which have been ’embellished’), Sphinxes, and parts of the terracing…

A park had built up around the Palace which remained and after was changed to incorporate other features. We even have a museum

It had already acquired its boating lake and the first full scale representation of the dinosaurs that Victorian archaeologists were discovering.

Later additions included an enormous broadcast mast serving most of South London (though, ironically, we are closest but in a shadow so it’s no bloody use) a concert platform where famous acts played, a motor race around the perimeter roads

a maze

and in 1951, on the anniversary of Albert’s original Exhibition, the opening of a athletics track and swimming hall for that year’s Empire Games. To our shame this was, until the opening of the Olympic pool in Stratford for the 2012 Olympics the only 50 metre pool in London. The athletics track was also the home of British Athletics before the Olympic stadium and is still used for international events, despite its tired facade.

More recently part of an agricultural college has opened facilities so you can see goats and alpacas grazing.

As February dawned bright and crisp I thought Dog and I ought to review the park and its environs. There are still small pockets of what was once the Great North Wood and many walks. There’s a large sand pit and children’s play park, avenues and walkways. Here are a few shots of some of the areas one can walk around. As well as the dinosaurs and boating lake, you can fish here too, if you pay to use the private lake.

And coming soon the extraordinary subway that linked the now closed High Level railway with the Palace for first class passengers will be reopened once a new entrance has been finished (the current date is September and work continues a pace).

And nestled at the southern end is a delightful dog friendly cafe that does a BRT (bacon rocket and tomato) in a brioche bun to die for (I really would be vegetarian but for bacon).

This winter there was a lightshow which, aimed as it was a children, didn’t draw me in. Sadly the company that ran it went into administration before they could remove the displays and make good so the park is dotted with some strange shapes and sagging sculptures, pending the council, who run it, finding the wherewithal to remove them. They are the only real blots on what is one of our favourite walks.

Now what haven’t I included? Oh yes…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. 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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33 Responses to Staying Local: Crystal Palace Park

  1. Wow! So many things for Dog to wee on. he must have been exhausted!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. noelleg44 says:

    Thank you for a wonderful walk in the park. It was nice having Dog along – that park is quite large – was he tired when you got home? Not to mention his owner…who maybe shared part of his BRT with him? What a great place for a walk.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chel Owens says:

    Thank you, Geoff. Immersing history and lovely walk. Thank you, too, Dog.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. arlingwoman says:

    What a great place. I liked that you put it in context with a map of the North Woods. Was that lotus a sculpture or part of the light show? If I ever travel to the UK again, I need to see this…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s too bad that it burned down, but there are still so many wonderful and odd things to see there. It looks like a great place for you and Dog to walk. Especially in that sunshine. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One of my nieces has just bought a flat in Crystal Palace! I shall have to warn her to look out for strange men with dogs 😉.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. JT Twissel says:

    So many things to see there. Wow. Like Disneyland only English!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Elizabeth says:

    That place must have seemed like paradise to dog with its limitless places to add his mark to those of earlier canines.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. tootlepedal says:

    A comprehensive tour of the park, thank you. The mast figured largely in the views as we drove to and from London when we lived in Kent in days gone by. The subway looks interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. V.M.Sang says:

    Wonderful pictures, Geoff. Sadly, I haven’t been to this park, even though I loved in Redhill for 20 years, and worked in Croydon. And my son worked and loved for a couple of years in Dulwich!
    I ought to remedy that. It looks an amazing park.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Widdershins says:

    Wouldn’t’ve it been wonderful to see it in its heyday? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Bridgette says:

    There’s so much here! Wow. Those dinosaurs are terrifying. I would not like to see those at night. Thank you for taking us on such an adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Yes my mother also remembered as a child seeing the sky lit up and I have always wished I could have seen the palace in either of its locations.


    • TanGental says:

      It would have been great; mind you if you ever come this way and the subway has been re-opened make sure you visit. It is a wonder of the world


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