On this Day - June 9th

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ally pally fire

Ally Pally burns

The "Palace of the People" was conceived by Owen Jones in 1859. The Great Northern Palace Company had been established by 1860, but was initially unable to raise financing for the construction of the Palace. Construction materials were acquired and recycled from the large 1862 International Exhibition building in South Kensington after it was demolished and the Government had declined to take it over.

In 1863 Alexandra Park Co. Ltd. acquired the land of Tottenham Wood Farm for conversion to a park and to build the People's Palace. Alexandra Park was opened to the public on 23 July 1863. The planned building was originally named "The Palace of the People"; it and its park were renamed to commemorate the popular new Princess of Wales, Alexandra of Denmark, who had married Prince Edward on 10 March 1863. The Palace of the People, or the People's Palace, remained as alternative names. In September 1865, construction commenced but to a design by John Johnson and Alfred Meeson rather than the glass structure initially proposed by Jones.

In 1871, work started on the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway to connect the site to Highgate station. Work on both the railway and the palace was completed in 1873 and, on 24 May of that year, Alexandra Palace and Park was opened. The structure covers some 7.5 acres. The palace was built by Kelk and Lucas, who also built the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington at around the same time. Sims Reeves sang on the opening day before an audience of 102,000.

Only 16 days later, on June 9th 1873, Alexandra Palace was destroyed by a fire which also killed three members of staff. Only the outer walls survived; a loan exhibition of a collection of English pottery and porcelain, comprising some 4,700 items of historic and intrinsic value, was also destroyed.

With typical Victorian vigour, it was quickly rebuilt and reopened on 1 May 1875. The new Alexandra Palace contained a concert hall, art galleries, a museum, lecture hall, library, banqueting room and large theatre.

...and eventually of course the BBC.

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