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Crystal Palace at Sydenham/Penge


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#1 Mantis2K

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 06:39 PM

I have several questions regarding the history of the Crystal Palace and it's park, and would be most grateful for any help. BTW, is there any other forums for discussing the history of the Crystal Palace?

1) In Patrick Beaver's book, some images show the construction of the palace and water towers in 1854. Am I right in assuming that these water towers were not the ones designed by Brunel, but were the square towers that were covered in glass like the rest of the palace? I heard they were too weak to hold the water for supplying the fountains, and were demolished in 1855; do any photos exist of these original completed towers?

2) Apparently, the replica buildings of the British Commonwealth constructed in 1911 for the Festival of the Empire, such as the Candian building, were supposedly made of wood or some lesser materials? What was it like inside these buildings? I saw a photo with some people in the foreground, and the buildings looked very tall, so were they really just models?

3) Is there any photos of the 1866 fire, North transept area, and/or the reservoir? Was the reservoir used for the Fairy Archipelago?

4) Was the central fountain converted into a Bandstand for the Festival of Empire, and converted back into a fountain afterwards? Was it then drained before the palace burnt down? On a 1894 map, another Bandstand is shown near the reservoir.

5) On the same 1894 map is the Maze! Is there any photos of the maze during the days of when the Crystal Palace was still standing? How does the maze today compare with the maze back then?

6) Can anyone tell me some information about the inaccesible mine cut into some rock behind a bridge, in the corner of the park near the dinosaurs and boating lake?

7) Where exactly is the Subway located? Is it near the roundabout or further down the middle of the parade? Most intrigueingly, where is the entrance on the park side of the parade, and how is it blocked off from the public?

8) Does the railway tunnel, used for the atmospheric railway in 1864, still exist underneath the park? Or was it filled in? Besides this tunnel, did any other train tunnels run underneath the park near the penge entrance?

9) I've brought this up once before, but never questioned it... When I was about 10 years old, my mother took us to see a cat breeder named Nina (I think) living in one of the big orange houses along the park side of Crystal Palace Park road, a few up from the penge entrance. I was only young, but I remember her showing me the blocked off entrance to a tunnel, in her back garden, that went underneath Crystal Palace park! This was before I was interested in history, but I remember clearly the lady showing me a plan of her house, saying it used to be the German Embassy, and the tunnels were used in the war. She said they were blocked by the council. Now, why would there be secret war tunnels running underneath the park!?

#2 Nick

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 10:39 PM

7) Where exactly is the Subway located? Is it near the roundabout or further down the middle of the parade? Most intrigueingly, where is the entrance on the park side of the parade, and how is it blocked off from the public?


I can help with this one. You can see the subway here. It is near the bus stop closer to the bus station on the parade. It is the large fenced area near the transmitter.

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#3 Mantis2K

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 05:10 AM

I can help with this one. You can see the subway here. It is near the bus stop closer to the bus station on the parade. It is the large fenced area near the transmitter.

Nick

Wow, that's a very high level website with those ariel photographs! They look even closer than Google Earth, and at multiple angles, instead of being directly birdseye. I think I'll use this site from now on when comparing photographs; thanks Nick! I never realised the subway was that far down...

10) When was the Crystal Palace museum built (same time as the the palace?), and what was this building used for during the time the palace stood?

11) What was this circular basin? I read somewhere on the web that it used to be one the original fountains for the palace, but then I remember somebody else telling me it had nothing to do with the fountains; anyone comfirm?
http://local.live.co...p;scene=4272714

More questions as I think of them! :D

Edited by Mantis2K, 22 June 2006 - 05:33 AM.


#4 eyedropper

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 10:15 AM

THe guy upstairs in the library is a great help with local history, and can help you out with reference material.
www.eyedropper.co.uk

#5 andreas

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 11:25 AM

And here's a few more answers Mantis2K (off the top of my head though!):

1) Yes the orginal water towers were designed by Paxton in glass but when they began to fill them up the alarming creaks and groans led to them never being used in earnest. Instead they were replaced by the circular water towers designed by Brunel.

3) The English Heritage book which came out last year - Bookseller Crow can order a copy for you - has some excellent photographs of the North transept area.

8) There was a partial excavation of part of the tunnel in the late 1980s - there's a a photograph in Nicholas Reed's book "Crystal Palace & Norwood" I think. Some traces of sleepers were found.
opposed to taking terrapins.

#6 Mantis2K

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 11:26 AM

THe guy upstairs in the library is a great help with local history, and can help you out with reference material.

Yeah, there's always the option of going to the library, but then I'm sure there's experts online who could also help... Looking at the Ebay listings last week, some rare photos of the Crystal Palace were selling for $80 a pop! :blink: Therefore, I think there must be some big collectors around who must really know their stuff, and most likely visit this forum.

I have a small library myself of local history books, but there seems to be a limited amount of information/photos available of the Crystal Palace, in order to build up an overview. I've not seen any photos of the north transept area, old maze, north fountain, nor any cascades that ran parallel with the grand central walkway. If anyone has purchased the latest book on the Crystal Palace, you will know that the interior had certain blue coloured beams/framework.
Interior..

However, I only just found out today that the exterior also had blue framework, and yet I've always envisaged the palace as being completely white.
Exterior 1..
Exterior 2..

BTW, I made a small mistake in my opening post, but can no longer edit it; the so called former German embassy was a few houses up from the Sydenham Avenue entrance--not the Penge entrance; just thought I would clarify this.

12) I once came across a website with a detailed timeline of Crystal Palace events--more detailed than the site below--including information about famous visits. Does anyone have the link handy?
http://www.lda.gov.u.../setPaginate/No

Edited by Mantis2K, 22 June 2006 - 11:29 AM.


#7 Mantis2K

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 12:11 PM

Hi Andreas; many thanks for your reply! :)

1) Yes the orginal water towers were designed by Paxton in glass but when they began to fill them up the alarming creaks and groans led to them never being used in earnest. Instead they were replaced by the circular water towers designed by Brunel.

This book I got is really misleading, as it shows construction of the water towers, but with a circular framework. One would have assumed these were the Brunel towers, when really they must have been the Paxton towers without the glass exterior. All I need now is a photograph showing the completed glass towers before they were demolished; I wonder if one exists?

[3) The English Heritage book which came out last year - Bookseller Crow can order a copy for you - has some excellent photographs of the North transept area.

If that's the one with the 47 newly purchased photographs then I only noticed the one on the front cover with the birdseye view, showing the north edge of the palace with a few pots and possibly the bandstand I saw on the 1894 map. I've not seen anything on the reservoir, aquarium, and how the fairground attractions fitted into that area. I know this part was least photographed because it showed the lack of symmetry with the rest of the palace, so this is a problem.

8) There was a partial excavation of part of the tunnel in the late 1980s - there's a a photograph in Nicholas Reed's book "Crystal Palace & Norwood" I think. Some traces of sleepers were found.

I saw that, but it's not clear whether there's still a tunnel that runs underneath the park or not.

#8 jamesl

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 12:27 PM

I think Nick forgot the link to pictures of the subway and the entrance which he previously gave as

http://www.loveplums...ace_line_1.html

#9 Mantis2K

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 05:03 PM

Latest mystery...
13) Why does this 1857 plan of the palace and park show a Lower Reservoir (P) at the start of the Grand Central Walkway!?
http://www.ideal-hom...-00068-1483.jpg
In a similar plan printed in the newest book on the palace, the Grand Central Walkway is a straight path at this point--still is to this day! Instead, the Lower Reservoir is indicated as being the Tidal/Boating Lake. But the funny thing is... this plan was published in 1856, a year before the plan shown above!

Edited by Mantis2K, 22 June 2006 - 05:04 PM.


#10 Chris Doran

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 05:38 PM

Permit a small gripe: is really Beckenham/Penge; only a tiny part of the grounds are in Sydenham, though that was the Palace's postal address and managed to stick, to the chagrin of Beckenham and Penge people.

A suggestion for the future: It's best to put separate questions in individual topics, as it's making it very difficult to respond coherently (or at all if I have to rewrite my reply when someone adds a new question!).

1) In Patrick Beaver's book, some images show the construction of the palace and water towers in 1854. Am I right in assuming that these water towers were not the ones designed by Brunel, but were the square towers that were covered in glass like the rest of the palace? I heard they were too weak to hold the water for supplying the fountains, and were demolished in 1855; do any photos exist of these original completed towers?

Photography was in its infancy at the time, so I doubt it. I have only seen sketches.

2) Apparently, the replica buildings of the British Commonwealth constructed in 1911 for the Festival of the Empire, such as the Candian building, were supposedly made of wood or some lesser materials? What was it like inside these buildings? I saw a photo with some people in the foreground, and the buildings looked very tall, so were they really just models?


They were 2/3 scale, so quite big. I know the Canada and Australia buildings at least were retained for some time after the exhibition; Canada is marked on a 1933 map. This also has two other unnamed buildings at the locations of New Zealand and Australia, but they don't look big enough to be the original models.

3) Is there any photos of the 1866 fire, North transept area, and/or the reservoir? Was the reservoir used for the Fairy Archipelago?

I haven't seen any photos of the fire, but engravings of the resultant damage appeared in the Illustrated London News of 12-Jan-1867. The reservoir at the North Transept was indeed the location for the Fairy Archipelago. On an aerial view of the top part of the site in Henry Buckland's 1930 guide, you can just about make out the waterslide and lighthouse if you know they're there, but he doesn't mention it so perhaps it had gone by then. Postcards of the Archipelago itself are common.

4) Was the central fountain converted into a Bandstand for the Festival of Empire, and converted back into a fountain afterwards? Was it then drained before the palace burnt down? On a 1894 map, another Bandstand is shown near the reservoir.


Maps and photographs certainly suggest that the fountain was replaced by a bandstand and then restored, but I don't have details. The 1933 map shows the fountain restored and a bandstand in front of the centre transept; maybe it was moved there. I have a postcard of the one near the reservoir. At some time there was one near the low level station, as seen in the top picture here, however it is not present in all copies of this most common view, and must have been short-lived.

5) On the same 1894 map is the Maze! Is there any photos of the maze during the days of when the Crystal Palace was still standing? How does the maze today compare with the maze back then?

I have one early photo from a distance and know of another closer view of the outside. Scroll down a bit on the above page for other answers. Achtung! The LDA intend to replace some of the paths by wide rings "in the interests of security", making it look like an RAF roundel. So visit it before it's too late to follow the original paths!

6) Can anyone tell me some information about the inaccesible mine cut into some rock behind a bridge, in the corner of the park near the dinosaurs and boating lake?


A bit on the above web page. It's not mentioned in Buckland's guide, so must have been closed by then.

7) Where exactly is the Subway located? Is it near the roundabout or further down the middle of the parade? Most intrigueingly, where is the entrance on the park side of the parade, and how is it blocked off from the public?

The entrance I know is about halfway along the parade, surrounded by evilly-spiked metal railings, but the aerial view Mantis2K found could well show another one.

10) When was the Crystal Palace museum built (same time as the the palace?), and what was this building used for during the time the palace stood?


I don't know when it dates from. It was one of the many homes of the School of Practical Engineering, which at various times also used the South Tower, one of the side-wings, and buildings on the opposite side of ANerley Hill.

I have a small library myself of local history books, but there seems to be a limited amount of information/photos available of the Crystal Palace, in order to build up an overview. I've not seen any photos of the north transept area, old maze, north fountain, nor any cascades that ran parallel with the grand central walkway.


Postcards and photos of the Palace and grounds regularly appear on eBay. Fountains are fairly common. I'm not sure that the cascades were any more than water flowing over half a dozen steps. I have a modest collection as you'll have gathered, but there are some very deep-pocketed bidders who grab anything rare, sometimes buying multiple copies, so I guess there must be dealers out there.

#11 Mantis2K

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 07:17 PM

Excellent response! Cheers Chris...

A suggestion for the future: It's best to put separate questions in individual topics, as it's making it very difficult to respond coherently (or at all if I have to rewrite my reply when someone adds a new question!).

I considered doing this, but thought it might seem like I was taking liberties filling up the whole page with Crystal Palace topics. I've opted to keep all my main questions in one topic, albeit clearly indicated by numbers, so that they stand out from the rest of the text.

Photography was in its infancy at the time, so I doubt it. I have only seen sketches.

I think Delamotte took all of the construction photos, but he may have finished his session before the palace was completed. I don't know how regularly he visited the palace in-between this batch and the recently published c1859 batch, but he could have taken a shot of the glass towers maybe? I think last week's expensive Ebay listings I refer to above included some other rare ones taken by Delamotte.

The reservoir at the North Transept was indeed the location for the Fairy Archipelago. On an aerial view of the top part of the site in Henry Buckland's 1930 guide, you can just about make out the waterslide and lighthouse if you know they're there, but he doesn't mention it so perhaps it had gone by then.

What exactly is this 1930 guide you refer to? Is it easily available to purchase or is it some rare colectors item you own? Thanks for the confirmation about the water splash ride.

Maps and photographs certainly suggest that the fountain was replaced by a bandstand and then restored, but I don't have details.

I thought so, but wasn't sure... I've been studying some photos, and it appears the restored fountain was drying up, but still had water in it during the burning of the palace.

I have one early photo from a distance and know of another closer view of the outside. Scroll down a bit on the above page for other answers. Achtung! The LDA intend to replace some of the paths by wide rings "in the interests of security", making it look like an RAF roundel. So visit it before it's too late to follow the original paths!

Nice one! It's good to communicate with a real collector like yourself, with postcards of photos I thought maybe never existed. Thanks for the link; some good info there, including the funfair I used to work at 8 years ago--was actually looking for a photo of this, too! :D Tell me something... Was there 2 identical/symmetrical Rosaries when the park first opened? I know the south Rosary was later replaced with Maxim's Flying Machine... Was the north one replaced with the maze?

Postcards and photos of the Palace and grounds regularly appear on eBay. Fountains are fairly common. I'm not sure that the cascades were any more than water flowing over half a dozen steps. I have a modest collection as you'll have gathered, but there are some very deep-pocketed bidders who grab anything rare, sometimes buying multiple copies, so I guess there must be dealers out there.

I've still not found any photos of the big north fountain, but I assume it's identical to the south fountain, so I doubt if I'm missing any additional details. Have you come across any close-up shots of either of the big fountains in operation? I saw a distant shot of the cascades from behind the south fountain (inactive) in the new book, and although it appears quite long on the plan, I can sort of imagine how it must have looked from the details you mention. However, it would be nice to see it close-up from the walkway. One major feature I have yet to see close-up is the Water Temples.

Anyway, Chris, thank you very much indeed for your help so far; your time is much appreciated! I'll be on the lookout for some more Crystal Palace photos on Ebay...

Edited by Mantis2K, 22 June 2006 - 07:27 PM.


#12 Chris Doran

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 11:09 PM

What exactly is this 1930 guide you refer to? Is it easily available to purchase or is it some rare colectors item you own?

It's a 45 page book by the General Manager, Sir Henry James Buckland, dated 1930 and is collector's item I got on eBay. I wouldn't have paid much for it, as I rarely fight the deep-pocketed bidders who must have been asleep at the time. So it's probably not rare, but I've never seen another copy. It has a history of the Palace, brief descriptions of its "courts" and grounds, photographs, and lists of 1000 statues and busts. He lived until 1946 so it's still in copyright.

Tell me something... Was there 2 identical/symmetrical Rosaries when the park first opened? I know the south Rosary was later replaced with Maxim's Flying Machine... Was the north one replaced with the maze?

There was a north and south "mound" with catherine-wheel like paths leading up to each. The Rosary went on the south one. According to the leaflet Bromley issued when the maze was refurbished, a second rosary was intended but never happened, and the north mound was eventually used for the maze.

I've still not found any photos of the big north fountain, but I assume it's identical to the south fountain, so I doubt if I'm missing any additional details. Have you come across any close-up shots of either of the big fountains in operation?

No close-ups, but I have a longshot from the terrace with both great fountains in operation. The north one looks higher than the south at the time. You can see the water temples and cascades. This photo is rather faded. I will have to try to enhance it.

I saw a distant shot of the cascades from behind the south fountain (inactive) in the new book, and although it appears quite long on the plan, I can sort of imagine how it must have looked from the details you mention. However, it would be nice to see it close-up from the walkway.

Sorry, my mind was in 1933 when my earlier post referred to the short cascades from side fountains into the main basins. The longer cascades beside the walkways from the water temples had gone by then.

One major feature I have yet to see close-up is the Water Temples.

I have a nice coloured engraving of one of them (the big bidders were asleep again) but it doesn't show what happened inside it. The long shot photo I mention above seems to show water pouring out of the tops and over the domes.

#13 Mantis2K

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 07:10 AM

I wouldn't have paid much for it, as I rarely fight the deep-pocketed bidders who must have been asleep at the time.

I know what you mean... I consider myself a collector in another field, but I wouldn't take on the men with the money, unless it was something I desperately needed.

There was a north and south "mound" with catherine-wheel like paths leading up to each. The Rosary went on the south one. According to the leaflet Bromley issued when the maze was refurbished, a second rosary was intended but never happened, and the north mound was eventually used for the maze.

Thanks for the clarification!

No close-ups, but I have a longshot from the terrace with both great fountains in operation. The north one looks higher than the south at the time. You can see the water temples and cascades. This photo is rather faded. I will have to try to enhance it.

Any chance of scanning this in? I'd be very interested to see it if you get the time...

Here's a question for everyone, including Chris... I better number this one...
14) Which documentaries/footage is known to exist of the Crystal Palace?
The Crystal Palace is on fire! (1986)
Crystal Palace Reflections (1993)
Time Team's History Hunters (1998)
People's Palace (2001)

Can anyone add to this short list? I never caught the first half of the People's Palace; did it include footage of Joseph Paxton?

Edited by Mantis2K, 23 June 2006 - 07:13 AM.


#14 Chris Doran

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 09:39 AM

14) Which documentaries/footage is known to exist of the Crystal Palace?

The Pleasure Garden, fiction/comedy made in the grounds, has some nice scenes and has been discussed on VN.

There are about 125 old newsreels at British Pathé. Putting crystal palace london in the search box will cut out most of the elsewheres. crystal palace sydenham lists just 5; I haven't checked whether they're also in the London list. They are rather expensive to buy, but you can view stills and download previews for free, though some are truncated.

Movietone have 89 clips of Crystal Palace which can be viewed free online. You have to register, but they don't spam you.

#15 Mantis2K

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 11:21 AM

There are about 125 old newsreels at British Pathé. Putting crystal palace london in the search box will cut out most of the elsewheres. crystal palace sydenham lists just 5; I haven't checked whether they're also in the London list. They are rather expensive to buy, but you can view stills and download previews for free, though some are truncated.

Wow, that site is really amazing! Shame they charge so much for only short clips, and don't have any feature length documentaries. If I find any good clips of the fountains or anything that particularly interests me, I might end up buying a few in high quality... thanks for the link!

Movietone have 89 clips of Crystal Palace which can be viewed free online. You have to register, but they don't spam you.

I've registered, but they don't appear to have a search function, and I cannot find anything on the Crystal Palace. Please could you point me in the right direction?

I would never have known about these sites, so thanks again for your help!