Crystal Palace Subway
Charles Barry Junior
- Original design
- Charles Barry Junior, 1865
The 2018 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2019 programme mid-August.
The Crystal Palace subway is a beautifully designed and crafted relic of Victorian construction hidden under the A212, Crystal Palace Parade. Despite the unglamorous underground location the Grade II* listed subway is a source of pride for those locals who know of its existence. New visitors are always amazed to find such a spectacular space propping up a main road but remaining out of sight.
Friends of Crystal Palace Subway are very proud that under a designation review by Historic England the subway was recently upgraded from Grade II to a Grade II* listing which brings the subway in line with the rest of Crystal Palace Park. The stairs and terrace on the Southwark side are now also included in the listing. This helps Historic England to mark the subway’s significance and celebrate its special architectural and historic interest, while giving the subway specific protection particularly when managing its future.
On Christmas day 1865 The Morning Post reported that the arched subway leading from the High Level station into the centre transept of the Crystal Palace had been opened two days earlier, this was some four months after passengers began using the High Level line and the opening seems to have been much anticipated with The Illustrated London News including a drawing of the subway during a September edition of the same year.
Much is written about the Crystal Palace, less about the High Level railway line and station. The mixed fortunes of the Palace meant the station never handled the passenger numbers predicted. The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936, the High Level station was closed to passengers in 1954 and demolished in 1961 leaving the subway, formerly joining the two, in splendid isolation.
During WWII the subway was converted into an air-raid shelter with bunk beds for 190 people and chemical toilets (emergency use only!). During the 1960s it was easily accessible to children looking for an exciting playground with wooden steps still in place so that it could be used as a cut through to track level and the disused tunnels in what is now Spinney Gardens.
By the late 1970s the subway was home to ‘Subway Superdays’ hosted by the Norwood Society and The Crystal Palace Foundation. These were cultural and educational days and continued infrequently until the early 1990s. The 1990s also saw a new generation of visitors – party goers. This era was recorded in the video for the Chemical Brothers’ first number one single ‘Setting Sun’ that was partly shot in the subway and on the terraces.
In recent years the subway has been closed due to safety concerns and has only been opened for special ocassions. The Friends of Crystal Palace Subway have campaigned to reopen it for community use and in 2016 successfully reinstated safe access from the Southwark side of Crystal Palace Parade via a new entrance gate. The subway is now open for several events each year and in 2017 had over 10,000 visitors.
The Friends of Crystal Palace Subway is a voluntary run organisation and open days are only possible because of community support and visitor donations. We would like to thank all the visitors, businesses and volunteers who have helped to reopen this space.