Alexandra Palace is an historic entertainment venue in London, located
Muswell Hill and Wood Green. Originally built by John Johnson
and Alfred Meeson, it opened in 1873 but following a fire in 1875, was
rebuilt by Johnson. Originally to be named, and intended as, "The
Palace of the People" and still known as the "The People's Palace" or
informally as "Ally Pally", its purpose was to serve as a public
centre of recreation, education and entertainment; North London's
counterpart to the Crystal Palace in South London.
It was first a private venture, but in 1900 subsequent owners planned
to sell it and the Park for development. A group of neighbouring local
authorities managed to acquire it and by Act of Parliament turn it
into a charitable trust, its duty to keep both building and park
"available for the free use and recreation of the public forever".
In 1935, the trustees leased part of the palace to the
BBC for use as
the production and transmission centre for their new
In 1936, it became the home of the world's first regular public
television service. The broadcasting system was the 405-line
monochrome analogue television – the first fully electronic
television system to be used in regular broadcasting. Although other
facilities soon superseded it after the war, Alexandra Palace
continued to be used by the
BBC for many years and its radio and
television mast is still in use. The original studios 'A' and 'B'
still survive in the south-east wing with their producers' galleries
and are used for exhibiting original historical television equipment.
The original Victorian theatre with its stage machinery also survives.
The theatre and stage structure is on English Heritage's Buildings at
Alexandra Palace became a listed building in 1996,
at the instigation of the Hornsey Historical Society.
A planned commercial development of the building into a mixed leisure
complex including a hotel, replacement ice-skating rink, cinema,
ten-pin bowling alley and exhibition centre, encountered opposition
from public groups and was blocked by the High Court in 2007.
The Great Hall and West Hall are typically used for exhibitions, music
concerts and conferences, operated by the trading arm of the
charitable trust that owns the building and park on behalf of the
public. There is also a pub, ice rink and palm court.
The nearest railway stations are the
London Underground station Wood
Green on the
Piccadilly line and
Alexandra Palace with services from
Alexandra Palace is also served by
London Buses route W3.
1.1 19th century
1.2 20th century
1.3 21st century
2 Notable events
3 Notes and references
4 External links
Alexandra Palace on fire in 1873
The "Palace of the People" was conceived by Owen Jones in 1859. The
Great Northern Palace Company had been established by 1860, but was
initially unable to raise financing for the construction of the
Palace. Construction materials were acquired and recycled from the
1862 International Exhibition
1862 International Exhibition building in
South Kensington after
it was demolished: the Government had declined to take it over.
Alexandra Park was opened to the public on 23 July 1863. The planned
building was originally named "The Palace of the People"; it and its
park were renamed to commemorate the popular new Princess of Wales,
Alexandra of Denmark, who had married Prince Edward on 10 March 1863.
The Palace of the People, or the People's Palace, remained as
alternative names. In September 1865 construction commenced but to a
design by John Johnson and
Alfred Meeson rather than the glass
structure initially proposed by Jones.
Rebuilt Palace in 1875
In 1871, work started on the Edgware, Highgate and
London Railway to
connect the site to Highgate station. Work on both the railway and the
palace was completed in 1873 and, on 24 May of that year, Alexandra
Palace and Park was opened. The structure covers some 7.5 acres
(3.0 ha). The palace was built by Kelk and Lucas, who also built
Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall in
South Kensington at around the same time.
Sims Reeves sang on the opening day before an audience of 102,000.
Only 16 days later,
Alexandra Palace was destroyed by a fire which
also killed three members of staff. Only the outer walls survived; a
loan exhibition of a collection of English pottery and porcelain,
comprising some 4,700 items of historic and intrinsic value, was also
Alexandra Palace station,
With typical Victorian vigour, it was quickly rebuilt and reopened on
1 May 1875. The new
Alexandra Palace contained a concert hall, art
galleries, a museum, lecture hall, library, banqueting room and large
theatre. The stage of the theatre incorporated machinery which enabled
special effects for the pantomimes and melodramas then popular –
artists could disappear, reappear and be propelled into the air. The
theatre was also used for political meetings. An open-air swimming
pool was constructed at the base of the hill in the surrounding park;
it is long since closed and little trace remains except some reeds.
The grounds included a horse racing course with grandstand (named
Alexandra Park Racecourse
Alexandra Park Racecourse and nicknamed the "Frying Pan" and the "Pan
Handle" because of its layout), which was London's only racecourse
from 1868 until its closure in 1970, a Japanese village, a switchback
ride, a boating lake and a 9-hole pitch-and-putt golf course.
Alexandra Park cricket and football clubs have also played within the
grounds (in the middle of the old racecourse) since 1888. A Henry
Willis organ installed in 1875, vandalised in 1918 and restored and
reopened in 1929, survives. In its 1929 restored form, Willis's
masterpiece was declared by
Marcel Dupré to be the finest
concert-organ in Europe.
Reconstruction in 1982, after a fire in 1980 destroyed much of the
The Rose Window (southeast front)
In 1900, the owners of
Alexandra Palace and Park were threatening to
sell them for redevelopment, but a consortium of public-spirited men
in the district, headed by Mr. Henry Burt, JP a member of the
Middlesex County Council and of Hornsey District Council, at once
embraced the opportunity of securing the palace and the beautiful
grounds for the people of London. A committee was formed by Burt and
the consortium managed to raise enough money to purchase them just in
time. By the Alexandra Park and Palace (Public Purposes) Act 1900, a
charitable trust was created; representatives of the purchasing local
authorities became the trustees with the duty to keep both building
and park "available for the free use and recreation of the public
forever". In 1921 a plaque was erected at the entrance of the south
terrace in honour of Burt. His subsequent services and financial help
should here be recorded and his name held in remembrance by all who
appreciate this great public possession. It is this duty that the
present trustee, the
London Borough of Haringey, is currently trying
to overturn, protesters fear, by selling the building to a
commercial developer. The palace passed into the hands of the
London Council in 1967, with the proviso that it should be
used entirely for charitable purposes, and their trusteeship was
transferred to Haringey council in 1980.
First World War
First World War the park was closed and the palace and
grounds were first used as refugee camp for displaced Belgians,
and then later from 1915–19 as an internment camp for German and
Austrian civilians. The camp commandant was Lt. Col. R. S. F.
Walker until his death in May 1917.
In 1935, the trustees leased part of the palace to the
BBC for use as
the production and transmission centre for their new
service. The antenna was designed by
Charles Samuel Franklin of the
Marconi Company. The world's first public broadcasts of (then)
"high-definition" television were made from
Alexandra Palace in
1936, an event which is alluded to by the rays in the modern coat
of arms of the
London Borough of Haringey. Two competing systems,
Marconi-EMI's 405-line system and John Logie Baird's 240-line system,
were installed, each with its own broadcast studio and were
transmitted on alternate weeks until the 405-line system was chosen in
1937. The palace continued as the BBC's main transmitting centre
London until 1956, interrupted only by the
Second World War
Second World War when
the transmitter found an alternative use jamming German bombers'
navigation systems. In 1944, a German doodlebug
exploded just outside the organ end of the Great Hall and the Rose
Window was blown in, leaving the organ exposed to the elements. In
1947 some of the pieces of the shattered rose window were incorporated
in a new design by architect E.T. Spashett during renovation of
bomb-damaged public buildings by the Ministry of Works.
In the early 1960s, an outside broadcast was made from the top of the
tower, in which the first passage of a satellite across the
was watched and described. It continued to be used for
broadcasts until 1969, and for the
Open University until the early
1980s. The antenna mast still stands and is used for local terrestrial
television transmission, local commercial radio and DAB broadcasts.
London television transmitter is now at Crystal Palace in
Early in 1980 Haringey council took over the trusteeship of Alexandra
Palace from the GLC and decided to refurbish the building. But just
six months later, during Capital Radio's Jazz Festival, a fire started
under the organ and quickly spread. It destroyed half the building.
Again the outer walls survived and the eastern parts, including the
theatre and the
BBC Television studios and aerial mast, were saved.
Parts of the famous organ were destroyed, though it had been
dismantled for repairs so some parts (including nearly all the
pipework) were away from the building in store. Some of the damage to
the palace was repaired immediately but Haringey council overspent on
the restoration, creating a £30 million deficit. It was then reopened
to the public in 1988 under a new management team headed by Louis
Bizat. Later the council was heavily criticised for the overspend in a
report by Project Management International.
In 1991, the attorney-general stated that the overspending by the
council as trustee was unlawful and so could not be charged to the
charity. The council for some years did not accept this politically
embarrassing finding and instead maintained that the charity "owed"
the council £30 million, charged compound interest on what it termed
a "debt" (which eventually rose to a claim of some £60 million), and
to recoup it tried to offer the whole palace for sale — a policy
their successors are still trying to carry out despite being rejected
by the High Court in October 2007. As of June 2008, it is still
unclear whether the council in either of its guises has agreed to
write off its 1980s overspend.
Viewed from the south in 2007
An ice rink was installed at
Alexandra Palace in 1990. Primarily
intended for public skating, it has also housed ice hockey teams
including the Haringey Racers, the Haringey Greyhounds, the London
Racers and now the Haringey Huskies, as well as a figure skating
Alexandra Palace Amateur Ice Skating Club. During the 1940s
and 50s the palace also housed a public roller-skating rink.
The theatre was greatly altered in the early 1920s, with the general
manager, W. J. MacQueen-Pope, spending the war reparation money on
refurbishing the auditorium. He abandoned the understage machinery
that produced the effects necessary in Victorian melodrama; some of
the machinery is preserved, and there is a project to restore some of
it to working order. After these changes, the theatre was leased by
Archie Pitt, then husband of Gracie Fields, who appeared in the
theatre. Fields also drew an audience of 5,000 people to the hall for
a charity event. After the
BBC leased the eastern part of the palace
the theatre was only used for props storage space.
In June 2004, the first performances for about 70 years took place in
the theatre, first in its foyer then in July in the theatre itself.
Although conditions were far from ideal, the audience was able to see
the potential of this very large space – originally seating 3,000,
it cannot currently be licensed for more than a couple of hundred. It
is intended that the theatre will one day reopen, but much costly
restoration will be required first. It will never again reach a
seating capacity of 3,000 (not least because one balcony was removed
in the early part of the 20th century as a fire precaution, when films
started to be shown there), but it does seem likely that a capacity of
more than 1,000 may one day be achieved. A major season of the theatre
Complicite was planned for 2005 but the project, which would
have included some repair and access work, was cancelled due to
Plans by the current trustees, Haringey Council, to replace all the
charitable uses by commercial ones by a commercial lease of the entire
building, including a casino, encountered considerable public and
legal opposition, and on 5 October 2007, in the High Court, Mr.
Justice Sullivan granted an application by Jacob O'Callaghan, a London
resident, to quash the Charity Commission's order authorising a
125-year lease of the entire building to Firoka Ltd.
A masterplan for the future of the site was drawn up in 2012,
comprising six 'big ideas' to restore and redevelop the palace.
The first of these to be implemented aims to transform the derelict
eastern end of the palace, making accessible the Victorian theatre and
BBC Studios. In 2013 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a
Round 1 pass to develop the proposals, creating a new entrance in the
restored East Court, re-establishing the theatre as a flexible
performance space and re-opening the
BBC Studios as a visitor
attraction. There is currently controversy regarding plans to demolish
the brick infills in the colonnade on the south-east face of the
building, which the
BBC constructed after 1936 to form their
television studios within. Following a public consultation and
advice from English Heritage, Planning and Listed Building Consent was
given for the proposals and in March 2015 HLF awarded Round 2 major
grant funding securing a positive future for the historic areas.
Alexandra Palace (2007)
Alexandra Palace (2012)
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Alexandra Palace has hosted a number of significant events over the
course of its history. Recurring events held there include the Great
British Beer Festival (1977–1980), the
Brit Awards (1993–1995),
PDC World Darts Championship
PDC World Darts Championship (2008–present) and the Masters
snooker tournament (2012–present).
In November every year, a large fireworks display is scheduled there
as part of London's Bonfire Night celebrations.
The Observer's Wildlife Exhibition held here in 1963 was an important
early event in highlighting awareness of worldwide endangered species,
and it gained a large attendance (46,000).
In April 1967, a benefit event took place there. The 14 Hour
Technicolor Dream, organised by the International Times, demonstrated
the importance of the quickly developing Underground scene. Although
venues such as the
UFO Club were hosting counter-cultural bands, this
was certainly the largest indoor event at the time. Performers
included headlining act
Pink Floyd as well as the Pretty Things, Savoy
Brown, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Soft Machine, the Move and Sam
Gopal's Dream (featuring Sam Gopal, Mick Hutchinson and Pete Sears).
John Lennon attended, and
Yoko Ono (who was soon to become Lennon's
new romantic partner) presented her performance work "Cut Piece".
Audio description of
Alexandra Palace by former local MP, Lynne
In 1970, Italian director
Lucio Fulci filmed an important segment of
his giallo film
A Lizard in a Woman's Skin
A Lizard in a Woman's Skin here. Alexandra Palace
posed as a disused church. The rock band
Led Zeppelin played at
Alexandra Palace in December 1972.
In 1973, the
Divine Light Mission held a "Festival of Love" there.
Also in 1973, British rock band
Wishbone Ash played a Christmas
concert at the palace, billed as "Christmas at the Palace".
The American band
Grateful Dead played a series of three shows there
between September 9 and 11, 1974 and a recording of portions of all
three shows was released as part of the
Dick's Picks series in March
Campaign for Real Ale
Campaign for Real Ale held the
Great British Beer Festival
Great British Beer Festival there
from 1977 to 1980 (the 1980 edition taking place in tents outside the
fire-damaged Alexandra Palace).
After the fire, the burnt-out shell of the great hall of Alexandra
Palace was used as Victory Square in Michael Radford's 1984 film
adaptation of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Sinclair C5 battery electric vehicle was launched at the palace in
January 1985, one week after the closure of the 405-line television
system that was inaugurated there 49 years earlier.
In November 1989 the Stone Roses played their first major gig in the
South of England at Alexandra Palace, notable particularly as the band
sold the venue out before being featured significantly in the music
press or making any national television appearances.
Hugh Cornwell played his last gig with the Stranglers at Alexandra
Palace in August 1990.
Blur performed a major concert at the venue in October 1994 to promote
their album Parklife. The recording of the concert was released on
video in February 1995 with the title Showtime and used as the basis
for the video for the band's song "End of a Century".
From 1993 to 1995, the
Brit Awards were hosted at Alexandra Palace. In
November 1996 it was the venue for the annual MTV Europe Music Awards.
The Darkness performing at
Alexandra Palace in 2006
Mind Sports Olympiad
Mind Sports Olympiad was held at
Alexandra Palace in August
2000, with more than 4,000 competitors from around the world taking
part in mind sports.
In June 2007, a Hackday event was hosted at
Alexandra Palace by the
Yahoo! During the event, the building was struck by lightning,
causing the fire vents to open (and then get stuck open), and it
rained inside the building.
Since December 2007,
Alexandra Palace has hosted the PDC World Darts
Championship, following 14 years from December 1993 to January
2007 of the tournament being held at the
Circus Tavern in Purfleet,
Essex. The palace was previously home to the News of the World Darts
Championship between 1963 and 1977.
April 2008 saw the re-launch of the regular antiques fairs, now
held four times a year, organised by International Antiques &
Collectors Fairs (IACF).
The Masters snooker tournament has been played at Alexandra Palace
The band Portishead hosted one of two All Tomorrow's Parties festivals
titled I'll Be Your Mirror in July 2011 at Alexandra Palace. The
50th anniversary programme of
Songs of Praise
Songs of Praise was recorded there in
September 2011 and broadcast the following month.
Since 2012 and until 2019, it is the venue for the Masters snooker
tournament, held every January.
2012 Summer Olympics
2012 Summer Olympics it served as the official hospitality
venue for the Dutch Olympic team.
In November 2012, it was the venue for the annual Warped Tour, a music
and extreme sports festival.
Alexandra Palace continues to be a prolific and high-profile music
venue attracting internationally renowned artists. Suede appeared in
March 2013, playing one of the first dates in support of Bloodsports,
their first new album in more than a decade. In September 2013, Björk
performed one of the final concerts of her Biophilia Tour. The show
was the last concert to be held "in the round", a format which
characterised the tour, and the first to be performed in this way at
Alexandra Palace. The eclectic programming has included in
Florence and the Machine
Florence and the Machine playing 4 dates of their How Big, How
Blue, How Beautiful Tour in the palace as well as in 2016 alone, heavy
metal band Slipknot, Drum & Bass DJ
Andy C and the Last Shadow
Puppets; with sell out shows by Twenty One Pilots and Panic at the
The bootcamp stage for series 13 of The X Factor was filmed at the
Alexandra Palace from 6 to 8 July 2016.
Notes and references
Retail Price Index
Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from
Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for
Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved
November 6, 2017.
^ O'Connor, John J. (17 November 1986). "TV Reviews; Film Celebrates
BBC's 50th Birthday". New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1268256)".
National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
^ Banerjee, Jacqueline. "Alexandra Palace". Archived from the original
on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
^ "Charles Thomas Lucas at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography".
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
^ Pearce, Charles E. (1924). Sims Reeves: Fifty Years of Music in
England. London: Stanley Paul. p. 307.
^ Arthur Hayden, Spode and His Successors (Cassell,
London 1925), pp.
^ Felix Aprahamian, The
Alexandra Palace Organ, Sleevenote to
1199 (Hayes 1970).
^ "saveallypally.com". saveallypally.com. 1 June 2007. Retrieved 8
^ Ham & High
^ Palace, Alexandra. "
Alexandra Palace launches exhibition
commemorating WW1 heritage Alexandra Palace".
www.alexandrapalace.com. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
^ "Alexandra Palace's war time efforts to be showcased in new app and
video Middlesex University London". www.mdx.ac.uk. Retrieved
^ "WWI Internees at Alexandra Palace, London, England". Family History
Circle. 7 November 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
Alexandra Palace as a concentration camp". British association for
Local History. 2005. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011.
Retrieved 26 February 2011.
^ "No. 30278". The
London Gazette. 11 September 1917.
^ a b Burns, R.W. (1998). Television: An International History of the
Formative Years. London: The Institution of Electrical Engineers.
p. ix. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/0-85296-914-7
]0-85296-914-7 ]]] Check isbn= value: invalid character
(help). line feed character in isbn= at position 14 (help)
^ "Coat of arms".
London Borough of Haringey. Archived from the
original on 6 May 2006. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
^ Aprahamian 1970, loc. cit.
^ National Ar4chives: Records of the successive Works departments, and
the Ancient Monuments Boards and Inspectorate, Ministry of Works,
^ Archives of E.T. Spashett ARIBA
^ Project Management International plc, Alexandra Palace: Report for
London Borough of Haringey (1990)
^ Harris, Martin C. (2005). Homes of British Ice Hockey. History
Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0752425818.
^ Gillespie, Ruth (8 February 2005). "
Complicite scraps plans for
Alexandra Palace rebirth".
The Stage News. The Stage. Retrieved 25
June 2008. The company had announced plans for a £500,000
refurbishment of the 19th century building last year, more than 65
years after the venue went dark and planned to occupy the space for
12-weeks in the spring. However,
Complicite has been forced to abandon
its proposals after the cost of essential safety work on the
2,500-seat auditorium shot up from £160,000 to £310,000.
^ "Court rejects £55m Palace plans".
BBC News. bbc.co.uk. 5 October
2007. Retrieved 25 June 2008. Firoz Kassam, the former chairman of
Oxford United Football Club, wants to refurbish the building's
exhibition halls, add a 150-bedroom hotel, casino, bars and
restaurants and provide public leisure facilities on the site. But on
Friday the judge quashed a Charity Commission order which permitted
palace trustees to enter into a 125-year lease with Mr Kassam's
development company, Firoka Group. Mr Justice Sullivan said lease
details were not given in time for public consultation, so the whole
consultation process must be reopened.
^ Palace, Alexandra. "East Wing Restoration - Alexandra Palace".
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.
Alexandra Palace secures £18.8m funding for theatre revamp". BBC
^ William M. Adams, Against Extinction:The Story of Conservation
(Earthscan 2004), p. 61. Example of display, 
^ "Nothing Found For Npf Mag 311 Syd Barrett And The Beatles 1966 1969
By John J Olivar 404". Archived from the original on 28 January
^ "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin". 20 March 1973 – via IMDb.
^ Price, Maeve (1979): "The
Divine Light Mission as a social
organisation". Sociological Review, 27, Page 279–96.
^ Fierce rivalry in 'Olympics' for brainboxes, CNN, Paul Sussman, 23
August 2000,  Archived 26 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
retrieved 18 July 2012
^ "When hacks attack". The Guardian. London. 25 June 2007. Retrieved
24 Sep 2014.
^ "World Darts moves to London".
BBC News. 2 April 2007. Retrieved 8
^ Nelson Fairs Ltd. "antiques fair".
Alexandrapalaceantiquesfair.co.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
^ "I'll Be Your Mirror
London curated by Portishead & ATP – All
Tomorrow's Parties". Atpfestival.com. Archived from the original on 5
June 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
Songs of Praise
Songs of Praise 50th Birthday Celebration".
^ "The Masters Snooker Relocates to
Alexandra Palace for 2012".
Alexandra Palace. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
^ "to host Olympic Holland Heineken House". Alexandra Palace.
Retrieved 6 August 2011.
^ Murray, Robin. "Bjork Announces
London Show". Clash. Retrieved 11
Björk announces one
Björk announces one-off
London gig on
September 3 – ticket details". NME. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots Shows". bandsintown.com.
^ "Panic! at the Disco Shows". bandsintown.com.
^ "The X Factor 2016: Country house Boot Camp axed and new location
revealed". Andrew Bullock. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alexandra Palace.
Alexandra Palace (Victorian London)
Save Ally Pally: campaign to maintain the charitable status of the
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Detailed history of early
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Unofficial History of
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