This page starts with a brief history of Alexandra Park. A report of some of our History Walks can be found after.
Although the Alexandra Park is nowadays principally known as the home of the Alexandra Palace it actually began life before the palace was built. In 1856 the owner of Tottenham Farm died and his heirs sold off the land for house building, and in the event, the establishment of a new local amenity - Alexandra Park.
Plans for a ‘Peoples’ Palace were first formulated in 1858 but in the meantime the Tottenham Farm estate was acquired in 1864 and an area of 220 acres was set aside for the park to be named after the wife of Prince Albert Edward, later to become King Edward VII. The park was soon laid out to provide sport and recreation for the rapidly-increasing population of the area and prior to the construction of the palace a small building - The Tudor Hall (later renamed The Blandford Hall) - was erected on the east side of the park to accommodate early visitors. Over the years this served as a gymnasium, a banqueting hall, an experimental aircraft hangar, a dance hall, a clothes factory and a paint store. It burnt down in 1971.
The completion in 1873 of the original palace and the establishment of a railway line right into the park enabled people from a much wider area to visit the park and after the palace burnt down just 16 days after it opened the park become a popular place for people to visit so as to gawp at the ruins.
The new palace was completed in 1875 and for the next 30 odd years the park was used for a variety of activities including horticultural shows, firework displays, air balloon launches or as a place to visit to see ornamental gardens or the three lakes. Due to a financial crisis at the start of the twentieth century (one of many to afflict the park and palace over the years) the north-west area of the park was sold off for housing - an area bounded by the now Grove Avenue and Vallance Road. The area lost included the three lakes and a permanent circus together with a tree-lined avenue that led up to the then main entrance.
Meanwhile a horse racing course had been established in 1868. The course was not ideal - the horses were required to run around a tight circle known as ‘The Frying Pan’ and along a sloping straight - but within a few years crowds of up to 30,000 were attracted to watch and bet on the racing in the park. Both horses and riders were regularly injured and race days attracted some unsavoury characters according to contemporary accounts. In spite of this racing at the park continued until 1970 when the course was finally closed down for safety reasons.
In addition to trains the park had two different tram lines running into it, one from the east (from 1898) and one from the west (from 1905 - on and off!). However it wasn’t until the switch over to buses in 1938 that the two routes were joined together to allow buses to pass all the way through the park.
In more modern times the park has undergone a great deal of refurbishment and at different times has hosted boxing matches both in the open air and, for some time after the 1980 palace fire, in a purpose built ‘temporary’ hall (which lasted for a number of years in the 1980s), car auctions (on the site of the railway station), an Indian festival, a tudor village, a ski slope, a donkey enclosure and a café known as ‘The Dive’!
To this day at the truncated north west side of the park is a children’s play area and of course the boating lake (not connected with the original three lakes).
Over the last few years volunteers have devoted much energy to developing a nature area at the south east end of the park. And within the old ‘frying pan’ cricket is played throughout the summer and football in the winter.
For many years, a firework display was an annual event, held on the nearest Saturday to 5th November. The last of these free events took place in 2009.
Although most people associate the park with the palace, the park has provided much leisure and entertainment to people in its own right and will probably long outlive the palace.
19 March 2010
© 2010 Stuart Little
History Walk, June 2016
We looked at the old Race Course which covered the bottom of the park. Horses used to run right up until 1970.
We gathered around the "bomb" and Stuart explained that it was used as a tether for balloons in order to take men and famous a woman, Dolly Shepherd up to parachute down. It may also have been used for tethering barrage balloons in the Second World War.
Up to the Palace and The Dive, a drinking place especially for the BBC, was evoked as well as the trams that used to come up to the Palace.
We finished on the South Terrace evoking the Park and Palace's First World War history with its interred Enemy Aliens kept here for most of the war.
Throughout the walk, Stuart, passed around many pictures of the Park in times gone by.
History Walk -"Where they Stood", June 2015
There were pictures of tennis courts near the Boating Lake and outdoor Boxing by the Pavilion Car Park.
Some things hardly changed and in other places trees completely blocked the earlier vista.
One picture taken from the East of the Palace was very difficult to accurately place...
History Walk, June 2014
he topic of Alexandra Palace and Park at the time of World War 1 (as illustrated here). He explained that after the accommodation of Belgian refugees the place was used to house interned "enemy aliens" showing us many interesting photos from the period. Also Margaret Scholes updated us on her research into the history of the "Ally Pally Lido" (by the Wood Green Reservoir).
On a beautiful balmy evening Stuart Little described the lead up to the opening of Alexandra Park in 1863. We found out that a large part of the land was previously owned by the Rhodes family (to which Cecil Rhodes belonged) and that the portico of the original Tottenham Wood house was preserved and is still to be seen in place at Rhodes Primary School in Rhodes Avenue.
We had quite an illustration of the steepness of the hill on which Alexandra Palace stands as we wound our way up to the top.
The role that fire has played in the history of the Park was touched on including the original Palace burning down only a fortnight after opening and the Blandford Hall later suffering a similar fate. Stuart showed us some great photographs including one of archery which was one of the original activities that took place in the Park.
Thanks a lot to Stuart Little, helped by Linda, for leading this walk.