Explore Themes

A history of Alexandra Palace

(page 1 of 2)
Skip to description
Alexandra Palace
Image : Alexandra Palace
Date: 1974
Clip: History of Alexandra Palace
Duration: 00:03:55
Date: 1973

Alexandra Palace opened on 24th May 1873 – Queen Victoria's 54th birthday – as a place of entertainment for Victorian Londoners with a grand celebration including concerts, recitals and fireworks. 120,000 visitors passed through its turnstiles in just 16 days. Then on 9th June tragedy struck when a devastating fire broke out in the Palace, caused by a plumber who was working on the dome at the time.

Work on a new building began in October 1873 and was completed in August 1874. The new Alexandra Palace opened to the public with its new Henry Willis organ - one of the largest in Europe at the time. Extraordinary exhibits included a full sized Egyptian villa, life sized models of Laplanders with sledge and reindeer and a Japanese village. In the grounds the Victorian public could watch cricket on a ground two acres larger than at Lords.

Sadly the new Palace was not a success and was closed down seven times between 1875 and 1900. It was described as the “great white elephant of North London”.  In 1899 it was bought by the local councils of North London for the benefit of their constituents. A “pop-up” style roller skating rink and indoor cycle track were constructed. Orchestral and military band concerts were held during the Edwardian period.

Alexandra Palace and the Palace Park were transferred to a Trust in 1900 by an Act of Parliament. This Act required the Trustees to maintain the Palace and Park and make them “available for the free use and recreation of the public forever”. This also placed a statutory duty on the Trustees to “uphold, maintain and repair the Palace and to maintain the said park and Palace as a place of public resort and recreation and for other public purposes.”

The Palace participated in the 1908 London Olympics where marksmen from the Alexandra Palace Rifle Society represented the UK and won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals

When war broke out in 1914 Alexandra Palace was requisitioned by the Government to be used first as a Belgian refugee camp and later as a German and Austrian internment camp. War prisoners interred during WW1 were civilians of the UK who were collected and imprisoned due to their German, Austrian or Hungarian heritage. The Palace was transformed with barbed wire, watch towers and armed guards. The Palace reopened to the public in 1923.

The video on this page is a clip from OU programme Open Forum 7 1973. Presenter Kevin Maloney gives a brief history of Alexandra Palace.

A history of Alexandra Palace (page 1 of 2)