Alexandra Palace - History and Facts | History Hit

Alexandra Palace

London, England, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

08 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Alexandra Palace

Situated in the London Borough of Haringey, Alexandra Palace is a popular entertainment and sports venue and is known as ‘The People’s Palace’ or ‘Ally Pally’. This Grade II listed building opened in 1873 but had to be rebuilt following a fire two weeks later.

Today, the original Victorian theatre with its stage machinery survives and since 2019 has been back in use. Since 2004 when the first performance in around 70 years took place, Ally Pally has been host to a varied range of sports and music events, including sell out shows by Panic at the Disco and filming of The X Factor.

Alexandra Palace history

The ‘Palace of the People’ was an idea from Welsh architect Owen Jones in 1859, although the construction was delayed because raising funds was difficult. Materials for building were largely recycled from the 1862 International Exhibition building in Kensington after it was demolished.

The new public palace was to be built on the land of Tottenham Wood Farm and converted into a park, open to the public from July 1863. The palace was named after Alexandra of Denmark, the popular princess who married Prince Edward in 1863.

Tragedy struck only 16 days after opening when a fire destroyed the palace and killed three members of staff. However, the palace was quickly rebuilt and reopened in 1875, boasting a concert hall, museum, art galleries, a lecture hall, library, banqueting hall and large theatre. The theatre was equipped with innovative machines that allowed artists to disappear and be flown through the air.

The park grounds were also full of leisure opportunities: an open-air swimming pool was constructed as well as a horse racing course with a grandstand, London’s only racecourse until 1970 when it closed. During World War One, the park was closed and used as a refugee camp for displaced Belgians and later an internment camp for Germans and Austrians.

The palace was also home of the BBC broadcast tower from the 1960s, used for BBC News broadcasts until 1969. The antenna still stands and continues to be used for local television and radio services.

Alexandra Palace today

Today, the 196 acres of parkland surrounding Alexandra Palace offer a wealth of activities for visitors of all interests and ages. The parkland is open and boasts a GoApe adventure site, as well as an ice-skating rink that often hosts ice-hockey games.

After a drink on the terrace, come in under the glass arched ceiling tickled by palm trees, to see a gig or comedy show. From the top of the hill, the views across London from Alexandra Palace are also well worth the visit.

Getting to Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace is easily located using London’s central transport system. Alexandra Palace station operates on Great Northern and Thameslink services and the W3 bus will take you from there up the hill to the palace, or you can walk the 10 minutes uphill. There is also free parking on site for those driving.