Alexandra Park - A Brief History
Alexandra Park - A Brief History
The ridge on which Alexandra Palace is now situated marked the terminal moraine of the great ice sheet that covered most of Britain in the last ice age. Only ten thousand years or so ago, Alexandra Park, to the north of the Palace, was under the ice sheet. The debris of grit, silt and soil transported by the ice sheet was deposited to form the Northern Heights (running from Hampstead to Alexandra Park) while water flowing south from the ice sheet as it begun its retreat made Hornsey Vale. The contours of the land today still bear evidence to this momentous change.
(Anyone with any more insight on the formation of the local landscape, please add your contributions to the forum.).
Out of the ice age, Alexandra Park continued as forested wilderness until well into the nineteenth century. It does not feature at all in Doomsday Book, which contains descriptions of Edmonton, Enfield, South Minns and Tottenham. (Wood Green is included but not mentioned by name.) The last remaining bit of the once dense woods can still be found in the wildlife corner of the park, past the cricket ground and next to the reservoir. The river is still there, now merely a stream, but numerous brooks which once transacted the woods have disappeared and only the contours of the ground and boggy areas in the park reveal their past existence.
Development of the area started in mid 19th century in the woodlands around the railway track newly built by the Great Northern Railway that provided access to Finsbury Park and further into the city. The Wood Green Station (later renamed Alexandra Palace Station) opened in 1859. The name Wood Green Station, though, continued to be used on the main board on the King's Cross Station concourse, long after the change of the name and into the late nineties, causing much confusion among travelers looking for Alexandra Palace Station (marked on all other notices and in timetables). It finally disappeared when the old board was replaced by the new digital system a few years ago. The Alexandra Palace Hotel, erected in 1875 at the corner of St Michael's Terrace, later became Alexandra Palace Railway Hotel, then Railway Hotel, then The Starting Gate pub in the sixties (its name a reference to the nearby race course) and is now just "The Gate" pub and restaurant. Great Eastern Railways also built a station misleadingly called Palace Gates, several hundred yards further to the East from Wood Green Station, on the line from Liverpool Street to Tottenham. This station was closed in the 1980s. A short stretch of the track with one surviving bridge now forms a part of the little park on the corner of Buckingham Road and Park Avenue, and a walkway along the canal. The rest has been built on.
The development of Alexandra park accelerated when following the death in 1856 of Thomas Rhodes, the owner of Tottenham Wood Estate, his heirs sold the land partly for housing and partly for a "Palace of the People" and surrounding grounds. It continued piecemeal into the 20th century as is evident from the architecture. The first building on the corner of Palace Gates Road and the Bridge, that now houses "the Vase" florists, was erected a couple of decades before the rest of the terrace. The modern block of flats opposite occupies the site of another Victorian terrace of shops, destroyed by a German bomb in the WW II. Alexandra Park Road, laid out by 1891 over former Rhodes farmland, has been built on ever since, producing an eclectic mixture of styles and periods. The modern town houses of St Saviour's Court were erected on the site of the late St Saviour's Church, demolished in 1994 (apparently because its waterlogged foundations made the structure unsafe). The end of Victoria Road near the corner with Crescent Road and Dagmar Road was a waste ground used by the local Alexandra Park Cricket club (founded in 1888) until it moved to "Victoria Cricket Ground" (now Outram Road) at the end of the 19th century, then to the Racecourse ground in 1906.