A Crystal Palace Park Walk

Route & what to see


The Great Exhibition, in a building designed by Joseph Paxton, opened in May 1851 in Hyde Park and was a great success. The Crystal Palace, as it became known, was rebuilt in Sydenham in 1852-4 where it was increased in size and set within a park providing additional attractions. It had mixed fortunes until in November 1936 it was destroyed in a spectacular fire. The walk looks at the legacy of the Crystal Palace. It mainly follows the marked heritage trail within the park but includes associated railway features outside.

This walk can be combined with my Upper Norwood and/or Penge routes for a longer walk.

A 3 mile circular walk (Climb and steps at top site) looking at the legacy of the Crystal Palace, mainly within the park but also viewing associated railway features. The route is based on Paxton’s Heritage Trail which has numbered posts around the park (metal ones with arabic numerals). Instructions are given from Penge West Station but Crystal Palace Station is on the route. Additionally a number of buses serve Crystal Palace Parade. The park has a cafe and information centre. Free car parking is available at the main entrance.

Begin at the station forecourt
The Croydon Canal was built by John Rennie between 1801-9 and went from West Croydon to Peckham then via the Grand Surrey into the Thames and was used for the carriage of bulk goods. However in 1836 it was sold to the London & Croydon Railway who drained the canal and used much of the route for its line, opened in 1839. The white building was the original station building and gatekeeper's house, as the line crossed the road at a level crossing. However this station was so little used that it closed in 1841. It re-opened in 1863 with a new station building - still in use.

Walk down Anerley Park to the main road. Go left passing the park entrance into Crystal Palace Park Road
In order to raise funds plots on the edges of the park were sold for the construction of houses.

Return and enter the park, walking ahead to the information centre
Park maps and 'Monster' trails are available here.

Continue along the Grand Central Walk (1)
This 2660’ long & 96’ wide avenue lined with London Plane trees would have led to the palace

At the top of the avenue take the path to the right
To the right is the Cricket Ground (2). The London County Cricket Club in which WG Grace was player & manager was based at Crystal Palace.

Look for a structure on the left
HMS Crystal Palace (3). The ship’s bell remains from WWI when the park was occupied by 125,000 men as HMS Victory VI. Beyond the end of the path was sited a Pneumatic Railway (4). This experimental 600 yard railway operated for a few months in 1864 carrying passengers across the park

Take the path to the left
This leads onto the former Race Track (6). A 2 mile circuit for motor racing was laid out and used 1937 to August 1939. It was re-opened with a revised shorter circuit and used again 1953 – 1972

Walk to the left of the lake
This former reservoir is now used by the Crystal Palace Angling Association. On the left is The Maze (8). The 160’ diameter maze of hornbeam hedges is a 1988 replica of the 1872 original which fell into disuse in WWII

Continue along the path
The Concert Bowl (9) was designed by Ian Ritchie in 1997 and is made from untreated Corten steel

There is a junction of paths at the lower terrace. From here go up to the upper terrace and bear right.
The Orangery (10a) survived the fire but was demolished in the 1950s. The north transept of the palace was destroyed by an earlier fire in 1866 and not rebuilt. The remains of the aquarium building that replaced it in 1872 can be seen at the base of the transmission tower.

Walk along the upper terrace
The remnants of the upper (11a) and lower terraces are Grade II listed. There are some sphinxes and a couple of statues.

Stop at the central steps
Below would have been the Italian Gardens (10) where grand firework displays were staged by Brocks 1865-1936. Look towards the sports centre to see the large bust of Joseph Paxton (11) provided by public subscription in 1873. The National Sports Centre was built 1960-4 on the site of the fountains and basins.

Continue to the end of the terrace
Look for remnants of the metal uprights in the ground. An ironwork corner has been reconstructed further along. This was cast in the same Birmingham foundry as the original and transported on the Grand Union Canal. The Crystal Palace Museum (12) occupies the former Crystal Palace School of Engineering established in 1872. Outside is the base of Brunel’s 284’ water tower. The north tower was dynamited in 1941 and the south tower dismantled in 1942.

Go up the steps to a walled garden
This was the site of the South Nave (11b) which featured Osler’s Crystal Fountain.

Exit at the Boundary Gate
The road junction marks the site of the Vicar's Oak which until about 1825 served as a boundary marker. It is still the point where the boroughs of Croydon, Bromley, Lambeth and Southwark meet. There are pubs and cafes in this area.

Go along Crystal Palace Parade (bus station & toilets) then cross to Farquhar Road opposite and stand on the bridge.
Below, the turntable area (now used for parking) is still visable. To the north would have been the grand station building by E M Barry. The former track of the railway beyond this has been re-developed with housing.
Note: there is a partial view the of tunnel entrance from Bowley Lane (access from Farquhar Road)

Return to the junction and go down Anerley Hill. Beyond the entrance to the sports centre bear left to Crystal Palace Station (13).
A tunnel is visable over the wall.
Note: If you have a valid ticket it is worth going down to the platforms to view other features.

Re-enter the park following the Green Chain walk signs
There is a partial view of the station platforms. Further along on the right is the South Basin Pool (14) and beyond this is a farm.

Just past this take the path to the left to Paxton's Bridge
A man made feature illustrated geology with seamed cliffs and a model lead mine (15). The strata have been restored but the mine has been sealed off for safety

Explore the 'Monster' trail around the lakes
The 27 (originally 33) life-size model dinosaurs (16) made by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins under the guidance of Professor Richard Owen have always been a popular attraction of the park. They are made of brick and iron encased in plaster and are listed buildings! Although based on the knowledge of the time it has since been found that there are a number of errors. The Boating (Tidal) Lake (17) is fed by artisian wells. This also acted as a reservoir for the water features so that the level of the water changed.

Return to the cafe and information centre. Exit the park and access the station via Anerley Park.


london-footprints.co.uk 2011

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