On this day in history….9th June 1873

On this day in history : 9th June 1873 – After only being open to the public for 16 days Alexandra Palace in London is destroyed by fire…. Less than two years later a new Palace opens….

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The ‘Palace of the people’ had been an idea conceived in 1859 by Owen Jones, an English-born Welsh architect…. Designed to compliment South London’s Crystal Palace it was to provide the Victorians with a place of recreation, entertainment and education….

Alexandra Palace was built by Kelk and Lucas (who also built the Royal Albert Hall around the same time) – and many of the building materials used were recycled from the 1862 International Exhibition building in South Kensington, after it was demolished…. In 1871 work started on the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway to connect the site to Highgate Station…. Both Palace and railway were completed in 1873….

The grand opening took place on the 24th of May 1873, Queen Victoria’s 54th birthday….with concerts, recitals and fireworks…. In its first couple of weeks over 120,000 people were to visit….but then sixteen days after it opened disaster struck…. A fire in the dome quickly caught hold and all that was left standing were the outer walls…. Three members of staff lost their lives – and a loan exhibition of some 4,700 pieces of historic English pottery and porcelain was destroyed….

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Original Alexandra Palace on fire in 1873 – Illustrated London News – PD-US

However, the Victorians were never ones to hang around…. Within two years, on the 1st of May 1875, a new Palace opened…. Covering 7.5 acres, the new Palace and surrounding Park boasted many features….centred around the Great Hall with its new Henry Willis organ – one of the largest in Europe at the time…. As well as the Hall a museum, lecture hall, library, banqueting room, a large theatre and art galleries were all included…. The grounds held a Japanese village, boating lake, nine-hole pitch and put golf course – and even the Alexandra Palace Racecourse….London’s only racecourse from 1868 until its closure in 1970….

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Rebuilt Palace in 1875 – Illustrated London News PD-US

Of course the Ally Pally continues to be a leading venue for arts, sport and entertainment….but not without having to be largely rebuilt once again after being ravaged by fire…. In 1980 much of the building was destroyed when a fire broke out under the Henry Willis organ….

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Image: John Bointon CC BY-SA 2.0

On this day in history….9th June 1873

On this day in history – 9th June 1873 – Alexandra Palace, often referred to as the ‘Ally Pally’, is burned to the ground – just sixteen days after being opened to the public….

Original Alexandra Palace on fire – Illustrated London News – Public domain

In an idea conceived by architect Owen Jones in 1859, the intention was to build a counterpart to South London’s Crystal Palace…. It was to be North London’s centre of recreation, entertainment and education – ‘The People’s Palace’….

By 1860 The Great Northern Palace Company had been established – however, it was unable to raise the required finances to start work immediately…. The building materials were eventually acquired and recycled from the 1862 International Exhibition which had been demolished in South Kensington….

In 1863 the company managed to secure Tottenham Wood Farm as land on which to build its Park…. The Park opened to the public on the 23rd of July 1863 and was named after Alexandra of Denmark, the Princess of Wales and wife of the future King Edward VII….

The building of the Palace began and in 1871 construction started on the Edgware, Highgate & London Railway – to connect the site with Highgate Station…. The work on the Palace was undertaken by Kelk & Lucas – who also built the Royal Albert Hall around the same time…. Both Palace and railway were completed in 1873…. On the 24th of May 1873, just in time for Queen Victoria’s birthday, the Palace and Park officially opened to the public…. Some 120,000 people gathered for a performance by Victorian operatic singer Sims Reeves, to listen to recitals and watch a spectacular firework display….

Sixteen days later, at around lunchtime, workmen were working on the roof of the dome – when a burning ember escaped from a brazier they were using…. At first it was thought the fire could be contained – and so there was a delay in calling the fire service…. But the fire was to spread rapidly – staff rushed from room to room, tearing valuable paintings and tapestries from the walls and gathering up books and artefacts….

At 1.30pm the roof collapsed – falling on to the £30,000 organ below which had been designed by Henry Willis…. It is said the crash could be heard six miles away…. Three members of staff were killed and a priceless collection of some 4,700 pieces of historic English pottery and porcelain on loan to the Palace was destroyed….

All that was left of Alexandra Palace were the outer walls…. Never-the- less, in true Victorian form, the Palace was rebuilt and reopened on the 1st of May 1875….

Rebuilt Palace 1875 – Illustrated London News – Public domain