CRYSTAL PALACE (High Level) - NUNHEAD (Pt.1)


(London, Chatham & Dover Railway)




3 miles (Crystal Palace Branch)

Opened  1.8.1865
Closed  20.9.1954


Stations
- Nunhead 1st (opened 1871, closed 1925); Nunhead 2nd (opened 1825)
- Honor Oak
- Lordship Lane
- Upper Sydenham (opened 1884)
- Crystal Palace High Level r/n 1898 Crystal Palace & Upper Norwood r/n 1923 Crystal Palace High Level.


History
After the Great Exhibition of 1851 closed, the unique prefabricated glass building housing it was re-erected near Penge in south London and became known as the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace & South London Junction Railway (CP&SLJR) was backed by the LC&DR and was absorbed by that company when it opened in 1865. The established LB&SCR route to the Low Level station (opened in 1854), however, also provided direct access to the Palace and its existing stations were relatively close to those on this branch so traffic was sparse. In 1910 trains ran every half hour from either Victoria or Moorgate with 30 minutes allowed to cover the 9 miles from Victoria. The branch was closed between January 1917 and March 1919 and again between May 1944 and March 1946. The Palace itself burnt down in 1936 and the line closed to all traffic in 1954.


Route - when open
At Nunhead Junction (GR355760) it diverged from the Greenwich Park branch, turned south and after a mile parted company with the line to Bromley. It climbed continuously at 1 in 78 all the way, after 1 mile reaching Honor Oak station. Continuing south it bridged London Road, passed Lordship Lane station and Upper Sydenham station, which was located between two tunnels, the second of which gave access to Crystal Palace station (GR337708). This terminal station was connected directly to the Palace by an ornate and patterned colonnaded subway built in white and red brick by Italian crypt builders.


Route - today
From Nunhead there is nothing to be seen until one reaches Brockley Way from where the alignment can be followed through Brenchley Gardens. Cross Forest Hill Road and continue past Camberwell Old Cemetery to pick up the course through Horniman Gardens. Cross the South Circular Road and follow a path through to Sydenham Hill. Follow this road, turn left into Wells Park Road and drop down to the trackbed to view the first tunnel. Then walk along Vigilant Close, High Level Drive and The Gradient (a cul-de-sac) where the entrance to the second tunnel can be seen. Return to High Level Drive, turn right into Westwood Hill (A212) and walk along Crystal Palace Parade to view the site of Crystal Palace, the station and the tunnel exit.


Relics
-
Nunhead station (2nd) - still open (SE Trains London - Sevenoaks/Dartford)
- Honor Oak demolished - site built over by high rise flats
- Lordship Lane - demolished. Site built over by flats.
- Upper Sydenham demolished but station house over tunnel survives
- Crystal Palace High Level the large twin-vaulted terminal with vast train shed demolished - housing now covers a substantial part of the site but the subway survives as does a vast retaining wall alongside Crystal Palace Parade.


Bridge carrying Forest Hill Road (B238) at Honor Oak missing;
Footbridge south of Lordship Lane survived in 2005;
Bridge over London Road (A205) at Lordship Lane, missing;
Crescent Wood Tunnel: 400yds aka Upper Sydenham, both portals bricked up;
Paxton Tunnel: 439 yds under Sydenham Hill and College Road, both portals bricked up with opening doors.

(The above text courtesy of Ralph Rawlinson   ©2005.)



1930s map showing:

1) Crystal Palace Low Level station.
2) Crystal Palace High Level station and the location of the ornate subway linking it with the Crystal Palace itself.
3) The southern end of Paxton tunnel.
4) The northern end of Paxton tunnel.
5) Sub-station with a shaft to the tunnel below. The shaft still exists.
6) The southern end of Crescent Wood tunnel.
7) For good measure, a useful pit stop: the Dulwich Wood House public bar.



Also shown is the location of the Crystal Palace before it burnt down in 1936 and
the close proxity of the high level station to it, as opposed to the relatively poor
location of the low level station. The low level station was the one that survived however,
perhaps because it served more residential traffic than the high level station.

Some links about the Crystal Palace itself:

http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/CrystalPalace.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6613377.stm

 


 

 

The cavernous terminus at Crystal Palace is long gone but some remants of its existence are still to be found. The entrance on Crystal Palace Parade still exists, albeit now bricked up and minus its surrounding canopy and sign.
It is planned to reopen this entrance to provide access for the public to the ornate subway under the road.

(photo: c.1981)

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the other side of the entrance seen in the photo above this one, are the stairs leading down to the station area. The station was on the left. The subway linking the station with the Crystal Palace exhibition is seen on the right.

(photo: c.1981)

 

 

 

As above but turned 90° to the left, showing the area that led across to and then down to the platforms.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

 

 


The subway is Grade II listed.
This is a panoramic view comprising of four separate photos. The courtyard visible on the far side is on the south side of Crystal Palace
Parade, i.e. in the grounds of Crystal Palace itself.

(photo: May 2005)

 

 

 

The subway.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

The subway.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

The subway roof.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

The subway leads to a courtyard on the exhibition side. This is a view looking back at the subway from that courtyard.
The line of the roof that once covered this area can be seen in the brickwork at the top.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

Facing the other way (south).
Through the arches here, are steps on the left leading up to ground level.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

Showing the steps leading up to the surface. Note that there is another exit from the courtyard as seen on the left.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

The subway is on the left in this photo. Heading east toward the other exit to the surface, as seen here.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

Closer view of the alternate courtyard exit.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

Inside the alternate courtyard exit, looking back toward the courtyard.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

Inside the alternate courtyard exit, looking back toward the courtyard direction but heading toward the surface.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similar view as the photo above this one but taken from slightly closer to the surface.

(c. 1981)

 

 

 

The location where the steps reach the surface, this time facing away from the direction of the courtyard.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

Back at road level, the south side (exhibition side) of Crystal Palace Parade still has this wall, providing a screen between the road and the courtyard of the subway exit, as seen above.

(photo: Sep 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

The other Crystal Palace station (the Low Level one) has its own small disused area.
With the exception of the large wall on the left, all of this has now been cleared.

The remaining majority of the station has recently been refurbished at some cost (£4.5 million) and is well worth a visit for its
architectural splendour.

(continues on next page)


 



For a web page describing the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway,
click here.

 


 

 

Crystal Palace - Nunhead  Pt.2