Alexandra Palace first opened in 1873 as "The People's Palace" to provide the Victorians with a great environment and recreation centre. Situated in 196 acres of parkland, with spectacular views over the Capital, the Palace, joined by a branch line of the Great Northern Railway to Highgate, attracted thousands of people who came by train, carriage or on foot.

Sixteen days after it opened, when 124,000 people had visited the Palace, it burned down as the result of a fire in the dome which could not be extinguished.

On 1st May 1875, less than 2 years after the destruction of the original building, a new Palace opened. Covering 7 acres, it was centred on the Great Hall, which seated 12,000 people in addition to the 2,000 in the orchestra stalls, beneath the mighty Willis Organ which was driven by two steam engines and vast bellows.

In other parts of the Palace, there were displays of painting and sculpture, exhibitions, a museum, lecture hall and library, banqueting rooms, a 3,500 seater concert room which was subsequently turned into a roller skating rink and a theatre capable of seating 3,000.

The cost of the Palace including materials, building and grounds amounted to £417,128. The Park had a popular race track, a trotting ring, cricket ground, ornamental lakes, and a permanent funfair.

Its popularity continued unabated until the end of the century. After certain financial difficulties, an Act of Parliament in 1901 created the Alexandra Palace and Park Trust, which was administrated by the local authorities in the area. The Act required the Trustees to maintain the Palace and Park and make them, subject to several provisions, "available for the free use and recreation of the public forever". From this point, the Palace continued to develop its organ concerts, shows, exhibitions and other events.

In 1935, the BBC leased the eastern part of the building from which the first public television transmissions were made in 1936. Alexandra Palace was the main transmitting centre for the BBC but after 1956 was used exclusively for the news broadcasts.

On 10th July 1980 the Palace caught fire for the second time and an area comprising the Great Hall, Banqueting Suite, and former roller rink together with the theatre dressing rooms was completely destroyed. This represented just under half the total building (143,00 ft sq. of a total 329,00 ft sq.). The area occupied by the BBC was not damaged nor was Palm Court.

It was immediately decided to proceed with rebuilding, with funding partly from the GLC dowry and partly from the anticipated insurance settlement.

There was much public interest in the proposed development and the planning application for the revised scheme was called in by the Secretary of State and a Public Inquiry was held at the Palace in February - May 1982. There was then considerable delay in receiving the outcome of the Inquiry which was not released until August 1983. Development and restoration work began soon after phase one of the Palace was re-opened on 17th March 1988. It currently operates as a Charitable Trust administered by the London Borough of Haringey.

Alexandra Palace Way, Wood Green, London N22 4AY
Telephone: +44 181 365 2121 Facsimile: +44 181 883 3999
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