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A history of Alexandra Palace

(page 2 of 2)
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Blue plaque on the exterior wall of Alexandra Palace commemorating the inauguration of the world's first regular HD TV service by the BBC in 1936.
Image : Blue plaque at Alexandra Palace
Date: 2017
Clip: History of HD TV
Duration: 00:01:58
Date: 09-09-1990
The Alexandra Palace fire on the 10th July 1980.
Image : Alexandra Palace fire
Date: 1980

In 1935 the BBC rented about a quarter of the building to develop a new kind of popular education – television. On 2 November 1936 the world’s first regular high-definition public television broadcast took place from the BBC studios at Alexandra Palace.

After Crystal Palace burned down in 1936, a number of events and festivals were relocated to Alexandra Palace. In 1937 the pitch of the Willis Organ was lowered by a semi-tone to facilitate new musical events.

From 1939 Belgian refugees returned to Alexandra Palace. During WWII television broadcasts stopped but BBC transmitters at Alexandra Palace were used in a secret decoy operation to jam radio signals used by German bomber pilots to identify their positions and targets. A flying bomb exploded to the north of the building, damaging the roof of the Great Hall. As a result, the organ suffered water penetration and was covered in snow.

After the war the Palace became the centre of the BBC’s Television News and continued until 1969 when it was extensively adapted as the BBC’s production centre for The Open University.

On the 10th July 1980, for the second time in its history, fire broke out across Alexandra Palace burning a large part of the building to the ground. Substantial restoration works began shortly after the fire and the Palace finally re-opened in 1988.

In 1996 Alexandra Palace was recognised as a building of special architectural or historic interest and received a Grade II listing.

Reference: "Palace of the People" by John Robinson, published in OU staff magazine Open House, June 1973.

A history of Alexandra Palace (page 2 of 2)