Crystal Palace Park has been an important part of Britain’s education landscape since the Crystal Palace’s grounds opened in 1854 in Upper Sydenham.
The Crystal Palace was born out of the Rational Recreation Movement of the 19th century. This movement sought to introduce learning opportunities into people’s growing leisure time. The Palace was intended as an encyclopaedia of “this great and varied universe”, and in its heyday received 2 million visitors a year.
In a time when ordinary people would never have the opportunity to travel, it offered a true adventure learning experience, where people could wander through an Egyptian Palace, see arts and crafts from across the world and witness the latest industrial and technological innovations. In the park itself, they could gaze upon lifesize dinosaurs modelled from newly discovered fossils, and experience the vast potential of the industrial revolution in thrilling rides powered by electricity and steam. A visit to the Palace was an unforgettable experience.
The terrible fire that destroyed the Palace in 1936 still lives on in the memory of locals. But relics of it remain – the classical terraces and Egyptian sphinxes, the dinosaurs, the geological strata face; the subway that once welcomed millions of visitors, the bases of Brunel’s mighty water towers, the foundations of the fairground rides. The Palace has gone, but its memory lives on.
The Park has had many other key moments since first landscaped as Palace grounds: the first Cup Final was played there, Baden Powell announced the beginning of the Girl Scouts on its grounds, it was a training ground in WW1, the Baird Television Company was begun there in 1933, it was a popular motor racing circuit. In World War 2 it held a refugee camp, and played a major role in several other wartime activities. Towering above it still is the BBC’s major transmitting mast built in 1957.
Crystal Palace is a place rich in history and with an extraordinary legacy. It has all the activities and resources of any large park, but with an added dimension that makes it unique. It’s an incredible location for learning adventures and we make full use of it in our innovative programme, that reimagines “rational recreation” for London children in the 21st century.
Crystal Palace Park Events
There is a myriad of other great learning activites and events happening in the park. Follow this link to find out more and to keep up to date http://crystalpalacepark.org.uk/events/