Summary

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Brief description of site

A public park, now occupying 78 hectares, laid out by Alexander McKenzie and opened in 1873.

Brief history of site

The park around the palace was opened in 1863, but the palace itself was not opened until 1873. It burnt down after only 16 days, but was re-built and re-opened in 1875. Many new features were added to the park at this time.

Location information:

Address: Alexandra Palace, Wood Green, London, N22 7AY

Locality: Muswell Hill

Local Authorities:

Greater London; Haringey

Historical County: Middlesex

OS Landranger Map Sheet Number: 176 Grid Ref: TQ297900
Latitude: 51.5939 Longitude: -0.128991

Directions:

Station - Alexandra Palace
Tube station - Wood Green

Visitor facilities

Opening contact details:

Visitor information:

Public park. Boating lake

Key information:

Form of site: landscape park

Purpose of site: public park

Context or principal building: parks, gardens and urban spaces

Site first created: 1863 to 1875

Main period of development: Late 19th century

Survival: Extant

Site Size (Hectares): 78

Description

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/

A public park laid out by Alexander McKenzie and opened in 1863. 

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Alexandra Park, c 76ha, lies to the north of Hornsey, north-east of Muswell Hill and to the west of Wood Green. The site is surrounded by dense housing except to the east where the boundary is formed by the railway line. The Palace stands on a natural platform with extensive views over London to the south. The land falls steeply from the platform to the south-east and north-east.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

The main entrance to the park from the north is at the south end of The Avenue and leads directly to the terrace on the north side of Alexandra Palace. As first laid out, the park was entered via the gate off the west end of Alexandra Park Road, and The Avenue, lined with chestnuts, led through the park.

A second entrance is situated at the south end of Bedford Road at the north-east corner of the site. From here a drive leads south-west across the site to the north-east corner of the Palace platform.

There are also entrances from the north off Alexandra Park Road; into the west side of the park from the south end of Grove Avenue; and north from the junction of Muswell Hill and Priory Road, into the south end of the park. The entrance from Duke's Avenue, under the railway arch, was opened in 1906, mainly to provide access from Muswell Hill to the new tram terminus.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

The original Alexandra Palace was the exhibition building from the Great International Exhibition of 1862 which was re-erected in Alexandra Park and opened in 1873. It burnt down sixteen days after the opening but was rebuilt by Meeson and Johnson and re-opened in 1875. The building was again destroyed by fire in 1980. Alexandra Palace (listed grade II) was restored and re-opened in 1988 and now provides facilities for exhibitions, conferences, and an ice-rink.

The Palace stands on a natural platform c 76m above the level of the railway to the east, from where there are extensive views. Originally at the centre of the park, due to subsequent housing development the Palace now stands towards the west side of the site.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The Palace forms the focus of the park. To the south-east, the ground slopes steeply down towards the southern boundary. When laid out, this was set with a pattern of informal walks leading down through lawns set with specimen trees, shrubs, and informal bedding. The arrangement has since been simplified. Due east of the Palace, a miniature golf course was added in the 1920s, one of several sports facilities put in at this time. On the upper slopes of the park north of this is an oval, hedge-enclosed rose garden at the centre of which is a fountain, moved here following the fire in 1980 from its original site in the Italian Garden which occupied the courtyard of the Palace between the Great Hall and the western conservatory. On the level ground at the foot of the hill is a race course (opened in 1868), the centre of which is now used as a cricket ground. Between the rose garden and the east entrance is the site of the Banqueting Hall and former diving pavilion and tank.

To the north of the Palace is a substantial terrace, c 300m long by c 50m wide, supported by Italianate arcades. This covered the new railway station (closed in 1954) from which a branch line ran to Highgate, giving a through-connection to King Cross and City termini. Beyond the northern end of this feature a substantial area of hard standing has been put in, used for events and car parking.

The main feature in the northern part of the park is the irregular boating lake which lies immediately north of the Palace. This was one of a series of ornamental pools formed by the damming of the stream which originally ran down the western boundary of the site. Originally it formed the setting for a water village, constructed on piles within it. The rest of the lakes were lost as part of the sale of land in the late 1870s. Until the 1880s a permanent circus, with provision for seating an audience of 3000, was situated to the east of The Avenue. The land was sold for housing and developed in the 1880s.

To the south-west of the Palace, the Park continues beyond Grove Avenue as an area known as The Grove, linking the site to Muswell Hill station. A miniature Japanese village, exhibited at the Vienna Exhibition of 1873, was re-erected in this area, placed in its own miniature landscape laid out by a Japanese gardener. It was burnt down in 1897, to be replaced, in the 1920s, by tennis courts. In 1911, a chalet was built in The Grove to accompany the bandstand which had already been put up. In the 1920s, a new avenue was planted and an area was made for dancing.

Although the site has been subject to a number of alterations, the arrangement of the original path system can still be traced in most areas of the park.

REFERENCES

The Times, 12 November 1858

Illustrated London News, 16 July 1859

Haringey History Bulletin, no.29 (1988)

B Elliott, Victorian Gardens (1986)

Maps

OS 6" to 1 mile:

1st edition published 1873

2nd edition published 1894-6

3rd edition published 1920

 

Description written: March 1999

Register Inspector: CB

Edited: May 2000

 

Owner: Haringey Council

Civic Centre, High Road, Wood Green, London

Site designation(s)

The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens Grade II Reference GD 2265

Principal building:

Palace Created 1873 to 1875

The exhibition building from the Great International Exhibition of 1862 was being taken down at South Kensington, and this was brought to the site and re-erected. It was opened in 1873, but caught fire and was re-built and re-opened in 1875.

Environment

Terrain: The Palace stands on a natural platform with extensive views over London to the south. The land falls steeply from the platform to the south-east and north-east.

External web site link: http://www.alexandrapalace.com

External web site link: http://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001253

External web site link: http://www.londongardensonline.org.uk/gardens-online-record.asp?ID=HGY002

History

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/

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

References

Organisations associated with this site

London Parks & Gardens Trust

Historic England Role: Designating Authority

Sources of information

Alexandra Palace Landscape Restoration Proposals Stage Two

Land Use Consultants Alexandra Palace Landscape Restoration Proposals Stage Two (2002)

Alexandra Palace Outline Management Plan

Land Use Consultants Alexandra Palace Outline Management Plan (2002)

Alexandra Park Landscape Management Plan

Land Use Consultants Alexandra Park Landscape Management Plan (2004)

Alexandra Park Management Plan 2012-2018

Haringey London Borough Alexandra Park Management Plan 2012-2018 (2011)

Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest

English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest (Swindon: English Heritage 2008) [on CD-ROM]

Images

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