1 May, 1875: The Second Palace

Alexandra Palace was first opened, to rave reviews, on 24 May 1873. Only 16 days later it was destroyed by fire. A redesigned Palace was built on the same site within two years, reopening to much fanfare on 1 May 1875.

The new Palace boasted a concert hall, theatre, circus, extensive dining areas, so that the venue could host entertainment for all on a grand scale. In the spirit of Victorian conscience, the Park and Palace also laid on educational shows too.

To celebrate this anniversary, we thought we’d introduce a few features you might not know about Alexandra Palace!

  • For the 1875 rebuild approximately 15 million bricks were used to construct the seven acre Palace in Italianate architectural style.

  • The 1875 Palace featured an Italian style formal garden in the Palace courtyard where we now have the West Hall. This is where Nick Cave recently recorded his brilliant Idiot Prayer and where we’re used to hosting thousands of darts fans for the World Championships. How times have changed!

  • To mitigate against another disaster like the fire of 1873 – four 16,000 gallon capacity water towers were built at the corners of the building, fire breaks were designed into the layout and the whole structure was more solid and functional.

  • The hand of the “People’s Designer” Christopher Dresser, in his role as art adviser to the Alexandra Palace Company, can be seen in the newly presented park as well as the reconfigured interiors. Innovations and new attractions to pull in the holiday crowds included:
    •   A diving pavilion where displays of the latest inventions of underwater equipment could be demonstrated (see image at bottom of page).

    • A permanent circus building seating audiences of 3,000 lay just beyond the water village.

    • A Japanese garden with authentic buildings brought from the 1873 Vienna International Exhibition at a cost of £600! This would have been the first time the British public had seen real Japanese design of any kind.

    • A chain of three lakes on the northern edge of the park boasting a whale skeleton exhibit.

Unfortunately, the late 1800s wasn’t the last time fire changed the face of the Palace. Nevertheless, so many features of othe 1875 Park and Palace survive to this day and, of course, we continue our mission to maintain and improve the ‘People’s Palace’ for generations to come.