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HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

On his death in 1856, Thomas Rhodes' grandchildren inherited Tottenham Wood Farm, a large dairy farm between the villages of Muswell Hill, Wood Green and Hornsey. Influenced by the success of the Crystal Palace (1851), they drew up a scheme for a similar venture for a north London Palace of the People. The site was described as 'undulating and well timbered with abundant springs and water', and the situation with its extensive and beautiful views was considered 'remarkably healthy' (The Times, 12 November 1858). Of the 450 acres (187.5 hectares), 150 acres (62.5 hectares) was to be set aside as park, and the remaining 300 acres (125 hectares) was sold for building to finance the project. By 1858, a layout of the grounds had been submitted by Mr John Spencer of Bowood, but nothing came of these early plans. Mr Francis Fuller then made a detailed survey of Muswell Hill Park, dated 1860, with a view to opening the park as an amusement centre, with a building to rival the Crystal Palace of which he had been manager for three years. Fuller failed to raise the necessary funding and his scheme was also shelved.

In 1863, the 'Alexandra Park Committee' was formed with the purpose of acquiring the land in order to lay it out as a place for public recreation and amusement. The exhibition building from the Great International Exhibition of 1862 was at the time being taken down at South Kensington, and this was brought to the site and re-erected. Financial difficulties meant that the Palace was not opened until 1873. Sixteen days after the formal opening, it burnt down. Rebuilding to the designs of a Mr Johnson started at once and the new Palace was opened in 1875, many new features having been added to the park.

The 200 acre (about 83 hectare) park which surrounded the Palace was opened in July 1863 and included 10 acres (about 4 hectares) of the grounds of the adjacent Grove estate, purchased in 1863. The layout was designed by Alexander McKenzie, who chose an informal landscape style, in direct contrast to the formal approach used at the Crystal Palace, and kept in view that the place was a park rather than a flower garden, and so required general effects rather than minute detail.

Efforts to improve the financial situation of the series of companies who ran the Palace resulted in parliamentary powers being obtained in 1877 to sell off 80 acres (about 33 hectares) of the grounds north of the Palace for housing. The land to the west of Alexandra Park Road, including what became Grove Avenue, was sold off in the late 1870s and used for housing. Bills in the 1880s and 1890s to sell off the whole of the park for building were however unsuccessful. Land to the east of the northern end of The Avenue was also later sold, with the subsequent development of Vallance and Elgin Roads; houses were also built to either side of The Avenue itself.

Following an Act of Parliament, in 1901 the Alexandra Palace and Park Trust was set up, administered by the local authorities. It required that the Trustees maintain the Palace and Park and keep them 'available for the free use and recreation of the public forever'. Only 173 acres (about 72 hectares) were purchased, despite the 1864 Act which had specified that 240 acres (100 hectares) were to be devoted to public recreation in perpetuity. In 1935, the BBC leased the eastern part of the Palace; the first public transmissions were made from here in 1936. In 1967, the Palace and park were handed over to the Greater London Council. In 1980, the Palace again caught fire, the damage being followed by a programme of restoration and development by Haringey Borough Council.

Site timeline

1863: The 200 acre (about 83 hectare) park which surrounded the Palace was opened in July 1863.

1873: The newly-erected palace caught fire 16 days after its official opening.

1875: The new palace was opened in 1875.

1901: In 1901 the Alexandra Palace and Park Trust was set up.

1935 to 1936: In 1935, the BBC leased the eastern part of the Palace; the first public transmissions were made from here in 1936.

1967: In 1967, the Palace and park were handed over to the Greater London Council.

1980: In 1980, the Palace again caught fire, the damage being followed by a programme of restoration and development by Haringey Borough Council.

People associated with this site

Designer: Alexander McKenzie (born 1829 died 1893)

Features

boating lake