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Crystal Palace, London

Crystal Palace is a residential area in South London, England named from the erstwhile local landmark, The Crystal Palace, which occupied the area from 1854 to 1936. It is the location of Crystal Palace Park, which is entirely contained within the London Borough of Bromley. However, the wider area has no defined boundaries and straddles the convergence of five London boroughs and three postal districts. It is contiguous with Anerley, Dulwich Wood, Gipsy Hill, Penge, South Norwood, Sydenham and Upper Norwood. It includes one of the highest points in London, 367 feet (112 m) at OS map reference TQ337707 . Two television transmitter masts make the district a landmark location, visible from many parts of the London area.

History

The ridge and the historic oak tree known as The Vicars Oak (located at the present-day crossroads of the A212 Church Road and A214 Westow Hill) were used to mark parish boundaries. This has led to the Crystal Palace area straddling the boundaries of five London Boroughs; Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. The area also straddles at least three postcodes (SE19, SE20, SE26). The ancient boundary between Surrey and Kent passes through the area and from 1889 to 1965 the area lay on the south eastern boundary of the County of London. It included parts of Kent and Surrey until 1889 and then parts of Kent, London and Surrey between 1889-1965.

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 ever-expanding city of London. Local legend has it that Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hind, had its timbers cut from trees in this area. The forest was a popular area for Londoners' recreation right up to the 19th century, when it began to be built over. It was also a haunt of Gypsies, with many local street names and pubs recording the link. The area still retains vestiges of woodland. The third quarter of the 19th Century brought the Crystal Palace and the railways.

The palace

Following the success of The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, the palace was reconstructed in 1854 in a modified and enlarged form in the grounds of the Penge Place estate at Sydenham Hill. It attracted visitors for over seven decades.

Sydenham Hill is one of the highest locations in London; 109 metres (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 leads 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 and 'once' included an olympic sized swimming pool.

The park

The surrounding park was a Victorian pleasure ground used for many cultural, patriotic and sporting events. The sculptor Waterhouse Hawkins erected the first lifesized models of the (then) newly-discovered dinosaurs and other extinct animals in the park. The grounds once housed a football ground, which hosted the FA Cup final from 1895 to 1914 as well as London County Cricket Club games till they folded. This site is now the National Sports Centre, built 1964.

The extensive grounds were used in pre-war days for motorcycle and, after the 1950s, for motorcar racing; this was known as the Crystal Palace circuit. Parts of the track layout remain in 2005 as access roads. The track itself fell into disuse after 1972, although it has been digitally recreated in the Grand Prix Legends racing simulation.

The park also housed one of the pioneer speedway tracks, opening for business in 1928. The Glaziers raced in the Southern and National Leagues up to 1933 when the promotion moved on to a track in New Cross.

The park remains a major London public park. The park was maintained by the LCC and later the GLC, but with the abolition of the GLC in 1986 control of the park was given to the London Borough of Bromley. The park is entirely within the London Borough of Bromley, but its proximity to other boroughs left many Crystal Palace residents of surrounding boroughs feeling disenfranchised. A long-fought-over local issue is whether to build on the open space which was the location of the original Crystal Palace building or to leave it as parkland as the GLC had done. Any development would be within the London Borough of Bromley, but affect residents in neighbouring boroughs and the access to the sports centre. It would also affect the skyline view across the whole of London.

In 2005 the Mayor of London and the London Development Agency (LDA) took control of the National Sports Centre in the park as part of London's bid for the 2012 Olympics. The Centre is now managed by Greenwich Leisure on their behalf. The LDA has the option to take on responsibility for the whole park by 2009.

On 9 September 2007 the park hosted The Tour of Britain's Prologue (opening) stage, in which some of the world's top cyclists performed.

The park is situated along the highest section of the London Clay ridge known at its ends as Sydenham Hill and Beulah Hill or the Claygate Ridge. This ridge offers spectacular views northward to central London, east to the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and Greenwich, and southward to Croydon and the North Downs. The park has recently become home to many ring-necked parakeets, especially in the trees around the café and play area. Sightings of the birds have become increasingly common in South London but rarely in a location as busy as Crystal Palace Park.

The park is one of the starting points for the Green Chain Walk, linking to places such as Chislehurst, Erith, the Thames Barrier and Thamesmead.

Films

The Italian Job has a scene filmed by the athletics track, in which Michael Caine says "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"

The Pleasure Garden was also filmed in the park.

Television

Two TV transmitter towers — Crystal Palace Transmitter (640ft) and Croydon Transmitter (500ft) — stand on the hill at Upper Norwood, making the district a landmark location, visible from many parts of the London area. The towers may appear similar in height and design, but the Crystal Palace mast, constructed 1956, stands on a slightly higher elevation. The current Croydon tower was built in 1962.

Music

The park features prominently as the setting of an outdoor rave in the music video for The Chemical Brothers' number 1 single Setting Sun.

In Spring 2007 the Anglo-Dutch group, H.E.R.R., released a mini-album about the history of the local area, entitled Fire & Glass: A Norwood Tragedy.

Transport

Roads

The area is served by the A212, A214, A234 and A2199 roads.

Rail

Crystal Palace is accessible by rail via Crystal Palace railway station, where Southern trains run to and from Victoria and London Bridge railway stations.

Transport for London has begun work on the southern extension of the East London Line. To be rebranded as the London Overground East London Railway, this will bring services to the Docklands and Shoreditch through to connect with the North London Line, opening in 2011.

Bus

The area is also well served by bus routes being the terminus for many of them. These services include routes N2, 3/N3, N63, 122, N137, 157, 202, 227, 249, 322, 358, 363, 410, 417, 432, 450, 931 and 934.

Trams

Transport for London has proposed the extension of Tramlink services from Harrington Road tram stop to the bus station on Crystal Palace Parade and a consultation exercise has ended in December 2006.

Nearest places

References

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

External links

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