Monday, 26 November 2012

The Subway

We've recently celebrated the restoration and reopening of our imposing Victorian Railway Station, but up until the 1950s there was a second equally grand station, situated parallel to Crystal Palace Parade at the top of Farquhar Road. The site has long since been redeveloped with an NHS prosthetics centre and housing, so it's unlikely that this station will ever make a comeback. The station, designed by Edward Barry, whose father, Charles was the Architect of the Palace of Westminster, was a grand Victorian terminus with a glass roof supported on a colonnade of arches down the middle. It closed permanently in 1954, eighteen years after the destruction of the palace it served. I suppose there were different concerns and priorities in the 1950s, but I always feel that having already lost London's greatest exhibition space, it's a shame nobody at the time saw any merit in retaining the vast station shed as an alternative Crystal Palace. If the building still existed today, it would no doubt be a thriving market hall, or quite possibly a cinema.

However, traces of the station and the railway line that lead to it, have not been totally erased. If you've ever walked through Dulwich and Sydenham woods for example, you will have come across the tunnel portal there. Another stands at the end of Crystal Palace Parade beneath the turn into College Road. But perhaps the most exciting structure is the most hidden. Below the Parade is a subway which formed a direct link from the station to the Palace. Subway is too prosaic a way of referring to what could be mistaken for the crypt of a long vanished cathedral.

It seems strange therefore that this extraordinary space - I once heard to referred to as London's Alhambra - is locked away from public view, except on special occasions, (my birthday as it happens). The one-off reopening was thanks to the persistence of 2 locals, Jules Hussey and Karl Richter, who, over a pint one day, decided something had to be done, and set up The Friends of Crystal Palace Subway. In the great tradition of local campaigning, they battled hard against the twin dragons of local bureaucracy  and health & safety. Thanks to the assistance of local volunteers, they were able to clear the site and make it safe enough for the powers that be, to agree to the opening. The longer term goal is to find an appropriate use for the site, and the funds for its restoration and development. While the vibrant Byzantine style cream and red brickwork of the vaults is in remarkably good condition, the rest, as you will see, requires plenty of attention.

Karl Richter & Jules Hussey
Karl & Jules with volunteers, Ray Sacks, Brian Abbs, Terence Smith, & Patricia Trembath MBE

Friday, 16 November 2012

Brown & Green - Crystal Palace Station

This is a travel announcement! Arriving at Crystal Palace station is now officially a pleasant experience. Not only has our great Victorian ticket hall been revamped and reinstated, thus dispensing with the tortuous inconvenience of the 1980s annexe with its precarious staircase, but those marvellous Tilli sisters have also opened one of their splendid cafes there. Done up with panache using salvaged and retro fittings and furniture, it makes jolly good use of the imposing space, I'm sure you will agree.

You can read all about the cafe, and all manner of other local news in the current issue of The Transmitter, the favoured gazette of Upper Norwoodians.