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Alexandra Palace was so named after Princess Alexandra, the wife of the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), when the the concept of building a 'People's Palace' was inaugurated in 1863. The same year the marriage took place between the Prince of Wales and his Danish bride Princess Alexandra. The creation of a 'People's Palace' in North London was in response to the success of the 'Crystal Palace' in South London, which had been erected there following its removal from the site of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851. Following many years of economic turmoil and construction delays, the building, affectionately known as 'Ally Pally', was eventually opened to the public in 1873.  However, within just 2 weeks of its opening, disaster struck when the Palace caught fire causing extensive damage.

The Palace was subsequently rebuilt and re-opened to the public in 1875 but has been beset by innumerable problems ever since amid many rumours that a curse had been set upon the building. 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 until 1956, when it was used exclusively for news broadcasts.

Just six months after the transfer of trusteeship to Haringey Council, on 10th July 1980 the Palace caught fire for the second time. An area comprising the Great Hall, Banqueting Suite, and former roller rink together with the theatre dressing rooms was completely destroyed. Only Palm Court and the area occupied by the BBC escaped damage.

We have now received some moving photographs of the fire in July 1980 from Ken Haynes. He was on his way home from work on the night of the fire and saw the smoke in his rear view mirror as he turned out of the Roundway into Lordship Lane. As soon as he got home he grabbed his camera and drove up there and took the following photographs.

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But perhaps one of the most fascinating photographs was the one Ken had taken on the day following the fire, which was  from a vantage point in Downhills Park Road Tottenham, which shows Alexandra Palace on the horizon with just the skeleton of its former roof .

Ironically the photograph of Downhills Park Road has been take adjacent to the spot where the 'Downhills Shelter Tragedy' occurred in September 1940. The former site of the bombed shelter was just beyond the fence of Lordship Recreation ground on the right hand side of the photograph.

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Photographs reprinted with permission from Ken Haynes. Jan 2010

For anyone requiring more information on Alexandra Palace we would recommend  'Alexandra Palace - A Hidden History' by Janet Harris obtainable from Bruce Castle Museum or local bookshops - Published by Tempus Publishing ISBN 0-7524-3636-8

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