The campaign to reopen Crystal Palace Subway is well underway, but the community initiative still needs your help to reach its Go Fund Me target
UPDATE 12/04/2016: Jules Hussey of Friends of Crystal Palace Subway has confirmed in an Evening Standard article that the group now has ‘enough money to start the work and begin reinstating safe access to the subway’. The group will continue to fundraise for additional minor works and to fund events in the subway. Click here to visit the Reopen Crystal Palace Subway crowdfunding page.
Stumbling across the Crystal Palace Subway en route home from the pub one night, Karl Richter hit upon the idea to try and reopen the underpass – a stunning underground heritage site – and launched a campaign to do just that during Open House weekend in 2013.
The tunnels have since opened to the public as part of the Open House weekends, which take place annually every September to allow the public to explore the capital’s building design and architecture. The campaign to open the subway more frequently for heritage and community activities is well underway, but the Friends of Crystal Palace Subway still need your help. They have planning permission to reinstate safe pedestrian access on the Southwark side of the subway, with all the relevant experts and paperwork in place, and have raised just over £19,000 from HOLT, Southwark CGS and local heritage and community groups. But sadly, the group is just over £8,000 short of their target figure.
Running beneath Crystal Palace Parade, the beautiful, crypt-like piece of Victorian architecture, masterminded by Edward Middleton Barry (son of Sir Charles Barry, the architect behind the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster), features ornate orange and cream brickwork by Italian crypt builders. The Grade II-listed underpass is one of the last surviving elements of Crystal Palace, transferred here from Hyde Park after The Great Exhibition of 1851 and tragically destroyed by fire in 1936. The subway connected the palace with the High Level Station, but a safety issue with one of the retaining walls has seen it closed off to the public since 1995.
The subway was once a venue for illegal raves
Built in 1865, the subway reached the grand old age of 150 years old in December 2015 and has enjoyed a lively history as an air raid shelter, a venue for illegal raves (oh, to have been there!), as well as for filming.
‘It’s exquisite. It’s more than just a hole in the ground,’ said Karl, who founded the community-led initiative to reopen the subway and now runs the project with fellow resident Jules Hussey. ‘This project has captured people’s interest so we now have broadly unanimous support from the community. We want to create a multi-function open space that can be used for everything from cheese and wine events to poetry readings and concerts – all very low key and in keeping with the heritage.
‘The subway, apart from being a great historic link to the glory days of the former Crystal Palace,’ continues Karl, ‘will be a welcome kick-start for future exciting developments in the Crystal Palace Park. It’s a perfect example of what can happen when a community gets excited by something.’
Words: Victoria Purcell
Photos: James Balston