Crystal Palace

From Wikishire
Jump to: navigation, search
Crystal Palace
Surrey, Kent
Upper Norwood Town Centre - 1.jpg
View of Crystal Palace from the park.
Grid reference: TQ341708
Location: 51°25’13"N, 0°4’14"W
Population: 12,255  (2011 (ward)[1])
Post town: London
Postcode: SE19, SE20, SE26
Dialling code: 020
Local Government
Council: Bromley, Croydon,
Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark
Croydon North
Dulwich and West Norwood
Lewisham West and Penge

Crystal Palace is a suburban area of the metropolis, on the Surrey/Kent border, named after the Crystal Palace Exhibition building which stood in the area from 1854 until it was destroyed by fire in 1936.[2] Approximately eight miles south-east of Charing Cross, it includes one of the highest points in the London conurbation, at 367 ft,[3] offering views over the capital. The area has no defined boundaries, and is contiguous with Anerley, Dulwich Wood, Gipsy Hill, Penge, South Norwood, Sydenham and Upper Norwood. The county border between Surrey and Kent passes through the Crystal Palace Park, although most of it lies in Surrey.

The district was a natural oak forest until development began in the 19th century, and before the arrival of the Crystal Palace, it was known as Sydenham Hill. The Norwood Ridge and an historic oak tree were used to mark parish boundaries. After the Crystal Palace burned down in 1936, the site of the building and its grounds became Crystal Palace Park, the location of the National Sports Centre which contains an athletics track, stadium and other sports facilities. Crystal Palace Park has also been used as the setting for a number of concerts and films, such as The Italian Job and The Pleasure Garden and contains the Crystal Palace Park Concert Platform, in place since 1997. Two television transmitter Crystal Palace transmitting station|masts make the district a landmark location, visible from many parts of Greater London. Local landmarks include the Crystal Palace Triangle, a shopping district made up of three streets forming a triangle; Westow Park, a smaller park that lies off the triangle to the south west of Crystal Palace Park; and the Stambourne Woodland Walk.

A pneumatic railway was briefly trialed in the area in 1864. Once the railways arrived, Crystal Palace was eventually served by two railway stations, the high level and low level stations, built to handle the large volume of passengers visiting the Crystal Palace. After the palace was destroyed by fire, and with railway travel declining, passenger numbers fell and the high level station was closed in 1954 and demolished seven years later. Rail services gradually declined, and for a period in the 1960s and 1970s, there were plans to construct an urban motorway through the area as part of the London Ringways plan. With rising passenger numbers, additional London Overground services began stopping at the station and a major station redevelopment in 2012 led to proposals to extend the Croydon Tramlink service to the railway and bus stations. In 2016, Crystal Palace was named one of the best places to live in London.[4]


The ridge and the historic oak tree known as The Vicars Oak (at the crossroads of the A212 Church Road and A214 Westow Hill) were used to mark parish boundaries.[5]

For centuries the area was occupied by the Great North Wood, an extensive area of natural oak forest that formed a wilderness close to the southern edge of the then expanding city of London. The forest was a popular area for Londoners' recreation right up to the 19th century, when it began to be built over.[5] It was also a home of Gypsies, with some local street names and pubs recording the link.[5] The area still retains vestiges of woodland. The third quarter of the 19th Century brought the Crystal Palace and the railways.

The Crystal Palace

Image of the Crystal Palace before it was destroyed by fire.
The Crystal Palace
Main article: The Crystal Palace

The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and glass building originally erected in Hyde Park in Middlesex to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. Following the success of the exhibition, the Palace was moved and reconstructed in 1854 in a modified and enlarged form in the grounds of the Penge Place estate at Sydenham Hill. The buildings housed the Crystal Palace School of Art, Science, and Literature and Crystal Palace School of Engineering. It attracted visitors for over seven decades.[6]

Sydenham Hill is one of the highest locations in London; 357 ft above sea level (spot height on Ordnance Survey Map); and the size of the Palace and prominence of the site made it easy to identify from much of London. This led to the residential area around the building becoming known as Crystal Palace instead of Sydenham Hill. The Palace was destroyed by fire on 30 November 1936 and the site of the building and its grounds is now known as Crystal Palace Park.


Crystal Palace Triangle

The area is formed by Westow Street, Westow Hill and Church Road, and has a number of restaurants and several independent shops, as well as an indoor secondhand market[7] and a farmer's market[8] on Haynes Lane. The triangle also contains a range of vintage furniture and clothing stores, as well as galleries, arts and crafts shops and other businesses.[9] There is an ongoing campaign to turn a building recently converted into a church at 25 Church Road back into a cinema, after the former bingo hall was purchased by the Kingsway International Christian Centre.[10][11][12]

Crystal Palace still retains much of its Victorian architecture, although housing styles are mixed, including Victorian terraces, mid-war terraces and blocks of modern flats. Crystal Palace Park is surrounded by grand Victorian villas, many of which have been converted into flats and apartments.


Television transmission has been taking place from Crystal Palace since at least the 1930s[13] and two TV transmitter towers — Crystal Palace Transmitter – 640 ft tall — and Croydon Transmitter – 500 ft tall — stand on the hill at Upper Norwood, making the district a landmark location visible from many parts of London. The towers may appear similar in height and design, but the Crystal Palace mast, constructed in 1956, stands on a slightly higher elevation. The current Croydon tower was built in 1962.

Photograph taken at a distance showing entire height of Crystal Palace Park TV transmitter.
The Crystal Palace Transmitter, at 719 feet tall, is the fourth tallest structure in London, behind the Shard, One Canada Square and Heron Tower.[14]

Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Park is a large Victorian pleasure ground occupying much of the land within Crystal Palace and is one of the major London public parks. The park was maintained by the LCC and later the GLC, but with the abolition of the GLC in 1986, control of the entire park was given to Bromley Council.[15] Crystal Palace railway station is located by the park, as is the National Sports Centre. The park was formerly used for sports such as cricket, football and motor racing,[16] and has been a venue for concerts often performed at the site of the Crystal Palace Park Concert Platform.[17] In July 2013 Chinese property developer ZhongRong Holdings announced it was drawing up plans to build a replica of the Crystal Palace on its original site inside the Park.[18] However, in February 2015 the developer's, sixteen-month exclusivity agreement with Bromley to re-develop the Palace expired and the project was cancelled.

The park is situated halfway along Norwood Ridge at one of its highest points. This ridge offers views northwards to central London, east to the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and Greenwich, and southward to Croydon and the North Downs.

It is also one of the starting points for the Green Chain Walk, linking to places such as Chislehurst, Erith, the Thames Barrier and Thamesmead. Section 3 of the Capital Ring walk round London goes through the park.[19]

Westow Park

A smaller park occupying just under seven acres[20] lies to the south west of the triangle on Church Road. Westow Park hosts the annual Crystal Palace Overground festival, a free community festival held over four days during the summer.[21]

Stambourne Woods

To the south of the triangle is a small area of woodland occupying just under five acres, containing the Stambourne Woodland Walk. It was opened in 1984 and covers an area between developments on Stambourne Way and Fox Hill. The land originally formed the gardens of Victorian villas built on the hill overlooking Croydon, but fell into disrepair. In 1962, the Croydon Council approved terms for buying the land from the Church Commissioners and other local freeholders, allowing the construction of a link. Paths and benches were installed but much of the vegetation was left undisturbed, creating a woodland pathway.[22]

Saint Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church

On the Church Road/Westow Street corner is an ornate Greek Orthodox Church which serves the Greek Cypriot and Orthodox community in the surrounding area. Formerly an Anglican church, the walls are now dressed in ornate Byzantine-style art.[23]

Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Constantine and Helen, SE19



The Italian Job has a scene filmed at the athletics track in the Crystal Palace sports centre, in which Michael Caine says, "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"[24][25] The Pleasure Garden was also filmed in the park[26] and Our Mother's House has a scene featuring Dirk Bogarde with several children on the park's boating lake.[27]

The park features prominently as the setting of an outdoor rave in the music video for The Chemical Brothers' number-one single "Setting Sun".[28]

Foresters Hall, Westow Street


Arthur Conan Doyle was active in the area between 1891 and 1894. Although he lived in nearby South Norwood he visited the Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood area regularly in connection with the Upper Norwood Literary and Scientific Society. The Foresters Hall on Westow Street was then known as the Welcome Hall (or just Welcome) and it was in that hall in May 1892 that Arthur Conan Doyle was elected president of the society. He was re-elected to the post in 1893 and resigned in 1894. Each occasion was in the same hall.[29]

The writer Deborah Crombie sets her 2013 mystery, The Sound of Broken Glass, in the Crystal Palace area of London.[30]


Crystal Palace Football Club

The club were formed in 1905 and initially played their home games at the sports stadium situated inside the grounds of The Crystal Palace. However in 1915 they were forced to leave due to the First World War and played at nearby Herne Hill Velodrome and Croydon Common Athletic Ground before moving to their current home at Selhurst Park in 1924.

FA Cup Final

The historical grounds also hosted the first England Rugby Union match against New Zealand in 1905, which New Zealand won by 15-0.

Athletics stadium at the National Sports Centre.

National Sports Centre

In 1964, a 15,500-seater athletics stadium and sports centre was built on the former site of the football stadium in Crystal Palace Park. The athletics stadium was known as the National Sports Centre and between 1999 and 2012 hosted the London Athletics Grand Prix among other international athletics meetings. The Crystal Palace triathletes club is also based here.[31] Since the London 2012 Olympics, the status of the stadium and aquatics centre as the main facilities for their sports in London has been superseded by the London Aquatics Centre and Olympic Stadium. This led to Crystal Palace F.C. submitting plans to rebuild the stadium as a 40,000 capacity football stadium, without the running track.

Motor Racing

A motor-racing circuit was opened around the Park in 1927 and the remains of the track now make up some of the access roads around the park. The track was extended to two miles in 1936, before being taken over by the Ministry of Defence at the start of World War II. Race meetings resumed in 1953, and the circuit hosted a range of international racing events, continuing until the last races in 1974.


Harris City Academy Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace contains three primary schools, Paxton Primary School, Rockmount Primary School and All Saints C of E Primary School, and one secondary school, Harris City Academy.[32] Crystal Palace Park also contains a branch of Capel Manor College, offering courses in Animal Care, Arboriculture and Countryside, Horticulture and Landscaping and Garden Design along with other short courses.[33]

In 2013, due to a shortage of primary school places in both Crystal Palace[34] and London,[35] proposals to open a new primary school by September 2015 were put forward, with plans submitted to the Department for Education in January 2014.[36] The proposals were approved as part of wave 6 of the Free Schools Programme and the school is scheduled to open in September 2015. As of October 2014, the school is considering three possible building configurations – with the Greater London Authority running a public consultation on each option – all of which would involve demolishing one of the existing seated stands around the athletics track at the National Sports Centre.[37][38]



The area is served by the A212, A214, A234 and A2199 roads. The roads that make up the triangle (Westow Hill, Westow Street and Church Road) form part of a one-way system and are in a 24-hour controlled parking and loading zone. There is a coach park inside Crystal Palace Park.

The area would have been affected by the cancelled London Ringways motorway plans, as one of the radial routes connecting the South Cross Route to Ringway 2 (the South Cross Route to Parkway D Radial) would have run through a part of Crystal Palace Park, following the railway line.[39]

Cycle routes

London Cycle Network routes 23 and 27 travel through Crystal Palace. Route 27 runs from Anerley Hill through part of Crystal Palace Park towards Bromley and route 23 runs through the Crystal Palace triangle to connect to Borough and Croydon.[40]

Transport for London have proposed to build Quietway route 7 that runs from Crystal Palace to Elephant and Castle.[41] The route was subject to consultation processes in 2016, with construction to begin in 2017.[42][43]


Photograph showing the older brickwork main station building with a green metal extension (now demolished) on the side that was formerly used as the ticket office.
Crystal Palace Station, showing the now demolished extension.

Crystal Palace is accessible by rail from Crystal Palace railway station, where trains run between Victoria on the Crystal Palace Line and London Bridge on the Brighton Main Line, and where London Overground trains run to Highbury & Islington on the East London Line. In addition, Southern services run to Beckenham Junction, Sutton and Epsom Downs.[44] Crystal Palace railway station is one of the few stations to border two zones, Zones 3 and 4.[45] The South Gate of the Park is accessible by rail via Penge West, which is served by Southern trains from London Bridge and London Overground services.

Crystal Palace used to have a second railway station, the Crystal Palace (High Level) railway station. The station was built to serve passengers visiting the Crystal Palace, but after the fire in 1936, traffic on the branch line declined. During World War II, the line serving the station was temporarily closed due to bomb damage. Although repairs were made and the line was reopened, the requirement for reconstruction work and the drop in traffic led to the decision to close the station and branch line in 1954, followed by the demolition of the station in 1961. Despite the demolition, a Grade-II-listed subway remains under Crystal Palace Parade.[46] The Crystal Palace pneumatic railway was also built in Crystal Palace c.1864.

London Overground train at Crystal Palace.

The low level station remain open, although passenger numbers at that station also fell after the fire of 1936 and many services were diverted to serve London–Croydon routes instead of the Victoria–London Bridge route. Rail travel was in decline across the UK in the 1960s and 1970s when the Beeching Axe was imposed. During the 1970s, two outer platforms used by terminating trains were abandoned and the third rail was removed.

More recently rail travel at the station has seen a resurgence and new services have started running. Passenger numbers increased each year between 2004 and 2013.[47] Since May 2010, the station has served the East London Line branch of the London Overground, connecting with the Docklands and Shoreditch. In 2011 services were extended to Highbury and Islington.[48] The station underwent redevelopment in 2012, which brought the original Victorian booking hall back into use, created a new cafe in the station building and provided wheelchair access through the installation of three lifts; this work was completed by the end of March 2013.[49]


There have been past proposals to connect Tramlink to Crystal Palace, with mayoral candidates citing the desirability of the initiative.[50][51]

Notable people

Marie Stopes, early promoter of sex education and contraception, was raised in a house on Cintra Park shortly after her birth in Edinburgh, in 1880.[52]

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, artist and sculptor who created the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs in the park, lived in Belvedere Road between 1856 and 1872.[53]

Jim Bob, Carter USM frontman, lives in Crystal Palace.[54]

The African-American Shakespearian Actor Ira Aldridge lived in the Crystal Palace area.[55]

Photograph of front of Georgian-style white/cream Queen's Hotel building.
Queen's Hotel on Church Road. Émile Zola stayed here briefly.

The French novelist Émile Zola lived in what is now the Queen's Hotel on Church Road between October 1898 and June 1899.[56] Zola fled to England after being convicted of criminal libel in France on 23 February 1898, a direct consequence of the publication of his open letter J'Accuse…!.

Francis Pettit Smith, one of the inventors of the screw propeller and a contributor to the construction of the SS Archimedes, lived in the area between 1864 and 1870.[57]

British rapper Speech Debelle was born in Crystal Palace. She left the area because of "traffic and parking problems".[58]

Camille Pissarro, Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter, stayed in Crystal Palace between 1870 and 1871.[59][60]



  1. "Bromley Ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  2. Mills, Anthony David (2001). Dictionary of London Place Names. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280106-6
  3. Template:Cite map
  4. "Best places to live in London". Evening Standard website. Evening Standard. Retrieved 29 August 2016. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 F. H. W. Sheppard (General Editor) (1956). "Norwood: Introduction". Survey of London: volume 26: Lambeth: Southern area. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 3 July 2013. 
  6. Potter, Russell (29 January 2007). "The Crystal Palace". Retrieved 12 October 2008. 
  7. "Haynes Lane Market". Visit London Official Visitor Guide. London and Partners. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  8. Bloss, Andrew (17 May 2013). "New farmers market comes to Crystal Palace". Streatham Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  9. "Introducing the East London Line: Crystal Palace". Londonist. Londonist. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  10. Green, Jerry (21 March 2014). "New Bid to Use Former Cinema for Church Services ‘Dual purpose’ application expected". Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  11. "Church's silence on bingo club's future". Croydon Advertiser. 26 November 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  12. "Cinema protest at disused site". Croydon Advertiser. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  13. "Television for Millions". Popular Mechanics 64 (3): 321–323. September 1935. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  14. "Crystal Palace Transmitter". Retrieved 26 June 2008. 
  15. "About Crystal Palace Park — History of the park". London Borough of Bromley Website. London Borough of Bromley. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  16. Williams, David (17 May 2013). "Motor to the Palace for action-packed vintage racing". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  17. "The 70s Crystal Palace Garden Parties". Mish Mash Vintage Website. Mish Mash Vintage. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  18. Hipwell, Deirdre (26 July 2013). "Crystal Palace may rise from ashes ... thanks to a Chinese billionaire". The Times. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  19. "Capital Ring, Section 3, Grove Park to Crystal Palace". Walk London. April 2010. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  20. "Westow Park". Croydon Council Website. Croydon Council. Archived from the original on 27 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  21. Fowler, Joshua (20 May 2013). "Crystal Palace Overground Festival announces Acorn Group sponsorship". Bromley Times. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  22. "Stambourne Woodland Walk History". Croydon Council Website. Croydon Council. Archived from the original on 12 July 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  24. "The film — locations — UK locations". The Italian Job website. The Italian Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  25. "The Italian Job — Filming Locations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  26. "The Pleasure Garden". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  27. "Out Mother's House Filming Locations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  28. "A south London past – musings on Crystal Palace". Ivory Bunker blog. Ivory Bunker. Archived from the original on 17 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  29. The Norwood Author — Arthur Conan Doyle & The Norwood Years (1891–1894) by Alistair Duncan ISBN 978-1-904312-69-7
  30. Joh Tipping (22 February 2013). "Book review: ‘The Sound of Broken Glass’ by Deborah Crombie". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  31. "Welcome to the CPT website". Crystal Palace Triathletes Website. Crystal Palace Triathletes. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  32. "Living in Crystal Palace". Foxtons Website. Foxtons. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  33. "Crystal Palace Park centre". Capel Manor College website. Capel Manor College. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  34. "WANTED: More primary school places for Crystal Palace". Crystal Palace Primary School website. Crystal Palace Primary School. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  35. Davis, Anna (24 June 2013). "London primary schools places crisis". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  36. "Our Project Timeline". Crystal Palace Primary School website. Crystal Palace Primary School. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  37. Crystal Palace Primary School Limited (10 June 2014). "Location". Press release. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  38. "Crystal Palace National Sports Centre Development Options: Public Consultation". Greater London Authority. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  39. Marshall, Chris. "South Cross Route to Parkway D Radial". Chris's British Road Directory. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  40. "Open Cycle Map". OpenCycleMap. OpenCycleMap. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  41. "Quietways - The First Seven Routes". Transport for London. Retrieved 24 July 2017. 
  42. "Quietway 7 - Elephant and Castle to Crystal Palace". Southwark Council. Retrieved 24 July 2017. 
  43. "Proposed changes to Quietway 7 cycle route -Elephant & Castle to Crystal Palace- West Dulwich and Gipsy Hill - Series 1". Lambeth Council. Retrieved 24 July 2017. 
  44. "National Rail Enquiries". National Rail Website. National Rail. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  45. "London's Rail and Tube Services". Transport for London. Transport for London. Archived from the original on 14 August 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  46. "Site Name: Crystal Palace High Level Station subway". Subterranea Britannica. Subterranea Britannica. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  47. "Estimates of station usage". Rail Statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  48. "East London Line reaches Highbury and Islington". Railway Gazette International. 28 February 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  49. "Crystal Palace refurbishment complete". Transport for London website. Transport for London. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  50. Mike Didymus (31 August 2010). "Ken Livingstone looks to China to regenerate Croydon". This is Local London. 
  51. Truman, Peter (6 January 2009). "Renewed hope for Crystal Palace tram". Streatham Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  52. "Blue Plaque for Marie Stopes". English Heritage Website. English Heritage. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  53. "Blue Plaques in Bromley". London Borough of Bromley Website. London Borough of Bromley. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  54. Blundy, Rachel (10 June 2012). "Carter USM frontman to open Crystal Palace festival". Your Local Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  55. "Aldridge, Ira (1807–1867)". English Heritage Website. English Heritage. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  56. "Zola, Emile (1840–1902)". English Heritage Website. English Heritage. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  57. "Smith, Sir Francis Pettit (1808–1874)". English Heritage Website. English Heritage. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  58. Watts, Matt (15 September 2009). "Mercury winner, Speech Debelle, to quit south London over traffic congestion". Croydon Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  59. Reed, Nicholas (1995). Camille Pissarro at Crystal Palace. Lilburne Press. p. 64. ISBN 0-9515258-9-1. 
  60. "Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) impressionist painter stayed on this site 1870–71". Open Plaques Website. Open Plaques. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 


  • Alan R. Warwick The Phoenix Suburb: A South London Social History; Publisher: Norwood Society; ISBN 0-904034-01-1

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Crystal Palace)