Crystal Palace – Peckham Walk– 10.02.2014

With the sun shining so brightly, emitting its lovely warmth it was almost hard to believe it was an early February day. Our walk picked up where we left off back in February 2013 at Crystal Palace. Whilst leaving the station to embark on our walk, I made one observation and that was how Grand and large it was. The extent of the station was designed to cope with the immense amount of visitors came to view the “Crystal Palace”, which had been re-homed here from its original site in Hyde Park in 1854. However, the building we were looking at was not the original station and the current building that stands today was constructed in 1875. A visitor made the following comment about the rebuilt station as the following: “Although the Roman Catholic chapel room is no longer used the station still has a cathedral-like atmosphere as one passes from the period booking hall to the vault-like station and the stairs down to the original station area”.

We started to climb the hill to see where the entrance was to the Crystal Palace park, when we soon spotted the “Canada gates”. These gates are part of Movie history, as a famous, van was once parked nearby them. This van was blown up and the one of the gang watching famously said “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”, this is because the movie Italian Job was filmed here :-). Once we had walked through them, we followed the footpath into the park. We approached some concrete steps which would have once led to the entrance of the palace, there enormity made me struggle to imagine how immense the Palace would have been. Joseph’s Paxton’s Palace, forged of Iron and Glass would have glistened in the sunshine and would have been seen for miles around. People came in there swathes to see this magnificent building, in all its grandeur. Bradshaw’s Victorian Guide said of it –

““the most remarkable work of its kind the world has ever witnessed, appealing to appreciation of the wonderful with a force unknown in this country, and unrivalled in any other,”

Unfortunately catastrophe befell the palace in 1936 when it completely destroyed by fire. Palace Staff had been unable to contain a small fire that had started in the building, so they called out the Fire Brigade with the hope to extinguish the flames. Even so, 89 fire engines and over 400 fire men were unable to stop the fire sweeping the heart of the Palace completely devastating it. The neighbouring streets filled with streaming hot liquid glass running down them, whilst the resulting blaze lit up the skies was visible for hundreds of miles…

The centre staircase had taken us what had originally been known as the “Italian Terrace”. There was amazing view from the top, I was now beginning to imagine strolling along the terrace and admiring the vista, in my Victorian flowing frock! At one time there would have been sunken gardens and fountains adorning the park in front of the terrace, that would have been a lovely sight to see! Once large towers stood beside the Palace that you were able climb and at the top you could see views right along the Thames Estuary. At one time Brock fireworks were once held here every Thursday and Tuesday night, these displays were famous throughout the world and became more elaborate over time. The fireworks would have soared into the “heavens” and would have been visible in all directions. I know I would have loved to have seen such a stunning spectacle.

From 2014 – 10.02.2014 – Crystal Palace – Peckham Walk

Strolling along the terrace, I was saddened to see that some of it had been cordoned off and the statues are now crumbling away. One of the statues seem to be relatively intact and from what I can learn these statues would have represented different counties and this one idealized Turkey. Egyptian Sphinxes adorn either side of staircases that do not seem to lead anywhere, the whole place now seems to be a place of memories. I almost could hear those visitors of yester-year laughing, talking and their haunting voices speaking in wonder all around me every time I closed my eyes. We found ourselves leaving the palace behind and walking into the parkland. Passing by a large construction which we presumed to be a stage, we discovered the “Maze”. The “Maze”, was constructed in 1879 and is the largest in the UK! Despite falling into disuse in World War II it was carefully rebuilt to how it was originally put together and was adopted by the Girl Guide Association!

Beyond the maze we walked past a strange looking bell supported by some very ornate dolphins. The bell is a Memorial and has been in the park since 1931, when HRH Prince of Wales unveiled it. It was dedicated to the to the Royal Naval Volunteers who lost their lives in the Great War. Since the original dedication, the Bell has been rededicated to all Men and Women who have lost there lives whilst serving in the Royal Naval Reserve Forces . Further along, we reached the lake, which was surrounded by carefully crafted creatures including a gorilla and bear. Walking around the waters, we were suddenly confronted by more frightening creatures than the ones we had just encountered – Dinosaurs! These may have been made of stone, but they are a sight to behold, as they are still standing here since there creation in the 1850’s! Creatures seem to emerge from the murky depths, stretching themselves to eat the local flora and fauna, I could almost hear the eerie cry of the pterodactyl whilst stretching its Wings! I am sure that the sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, would be pleased to know that his sculptures survived the destruction of the Palace and now stand over 100 years later.

From 2014 – 10.02.2014 – Crystal Palace – Peckham Walk

As we finished our walk around the lake, I noticed the stonework around one of the lovely waterfalls. Around the fall, the Victorians had cleverly created a mosaic of stone to represent the Earth’s Strata and how it is created. I am sure that this area would have stirred some great conversations in late C19th when Victorians were discovering the natural world! As we made our way from the falls, I thought I would take one last glance at them and as I did I was surprised by a large stone dinosaur head peeking out of the ground! We hastily made our way onwards away from the menacing dinosaurs and on with our walk. We made our way past a small farm which is run here, I will say that there is a noticeable country smell here for being so close to London!

We walked past the large Crystal Palace Football Stadium. We both thought the path we were walking was a great place to watch the footie from! :-). In the Late C19th this was the home to the FA Cup Final, from 1895 to 1914 and it attracted a very large number of Spectators, over 100,000! We followed the path around the stadium and which was to lead of out of the park, which was to lead past the Crystal Palace Museum. Unfortunately not open, but I am sure it would be well worth a visit. We joined the path which was to take us around the edge of and along the “Crystal Palace Parade”. Along the parade we passed the Crystal Palace mast which towered above us and standing at over 219m (~718ft). The mast is the tallest free-standing transmitter in the UK!

From 2014 – 10.02.2014 – Crystal Palace – Peckham Walk

Evidence of this once beautiful palace still is around with the old wrought iron fences and brickwork that sinks into the ground. We thought we had spotted an old basement which would have been part of the Palace. However, this was subway which would have linked the “High Level Station” to the Palace, both of which no longer exist. The Subway itself is blocked off, but if we could have seen inside, we would have been treated to a spectacular sight. The subway was designed and built by Cathedral craftsmen from Italy, who carefully created a wide vaulted and tiled chamber ceilings resembling a Byzantine crypt. From this point on, we improvised our route, following the roads, some of which were marked as the “Green Chain Link” Walk. Alongside part our route, we seemed to be following a dark and menacing wood most of the way. Eventually we discovered a very muddy footpath into the woodland, “Sydenham Hill Wood”. Unfortunately as it was too muddy and we were unprepared for a woodland trek, so we saved that for another day! It was then the lovely winter sunshine promptly disappeared and the rain came down, we found ourselves walking very fast to find some shelter.

As we tried to dodge the rain, we did stumble across a small park named Brenchley Gardens which was another part of the Green Chain Walk, but it was then we spotted a sign for the “Horniman Museum” and agreed that would be a best bet for shelter from the rain! The Museum Building was very impressive and it was a shame we did not have time to stop to go round it. The Museum was originally opened in Victorian times when the founder Frederick John Horniman opened his house to the public to display his own Collection of Objects! After our rest in the Museum, we were rather pleased to know the rain had passed and the sun was out was out once again. Just behind the museum, it was rather a delight to see a beautiful glass conservatory just behind it, I was rather taken for a second to think maybe this would have been how Crystal Palace may once have looked? (albeit 30x smaller!) Turning away from the Museum we walked into the Museums Gardens, taking a stroll to the top of the small hill, we were treated to the most most amazing views over London.

From 2014 – 10.02.2014 – Crystal Palace – Peckham Walk

We left the Horniman Gardens behind and continued onwards. As we did so, my eagle eye spotted a blue plaque across the road stating that William Henry Pratt was born right here in Honor Oak London. Who was William Henry Pratt? None other than the actor Boris Karloff, best known for his performance as Frankenstein’s Monster in the 1931 classic Film Frankenstein. Further down the road we reached Peckham Rye Park, where we sat and rested once again to eat some food. I will not claim to say this park was an inspiration to me, but to the Poet and visionary William Blake, he clearly saw things when he came here. When he was a mere 8 years old, he saw

“a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars.”

Unfortunately, I did not see any visions or the replanted Oak tree in Blake’s Honour, it would have been interesting though! As we left the park we finally reached Peckham Rye, I do not know much about Peckham except from the program “Only Fools and Horses, I was almost expecting Del Boy to emerge from the Nags Head when we walked past! We did not spend much time here as we were finishing our walk, so we will need to return to find out more about it. Just before we caught the train home from Peckham Rye Station, I must admit I was fascinated by the building. As we were waiting outside, I peered inside the one of the windows and noticed this most wonderful staircase, it was a shame the the doors were bricked up and no one could walk on it 😦 , there was even an old painted wall sign to the “Billard Hall”. In fact the Billard Hall was in use to the 1970’s and was used in one of the episodes of the TV series “The Sweeney”.. I have recently found out that the station is being renovated and it would be lovely to see the result!

It was from here we caught our train home and finished our walk :). All the photos are here –

2014 – 10.02.2014 – Crystal Palace – Peckham Walk

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3 responses to “Crystal Palace – Peckham Walk– 10.02.2014

  1. Pingback: Stanmore – Elstree Walk | Karen's Sponsored Walks

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