One of the few surviving buildings from the magnificent Crystal Palace is today a museum that’s open one day a week to visit.

Sitting right next to the south tower was a small brick building used as a lecture room, and although the rest of the building was destroyed in the great fire, this small lecture hall managed to survive.

In 1980, it was reopened as the Crystal Palace Museum and is open every Sunday for free.

It’s just one fairly large room, and the museum is mainly an extensive collection of photos and drawings telling the history of the exhibition centre and the reshaping of the fields into the Crystal Palace Park.

Although I knew this part of London is named after the Crystal Palace, I had assumed without checking that the name was created by the arrival of the building — in fact, the area was officially part of Penge, but the Crystal Palace developers called the area Sydenham, after the nearby fashionable mineral water spas. Penge was a bit downmarket at the time.

Only later did the area adopt the name of the building that no longer stands here.

It’s nuggets such as that which fill the museum displays, and you can learn an awful lot here, although candidly, if you’re really interested, then a book will serve you better.

There are a few small displays of objects from the palace before it burnt down, and two large models of the building, with their tall water towers, and one showing the original long side arms which were removed before the rest was engulfed in flames.

There’s quite a lot to look at, and plenty to learn, but the reliance on photos and captions does leave the museum feeling a bit lacking in three-dimensionality in the displays.

It also has a bit of an odd air about it, which seems to remind me very strongly of 1970s-80s museums which seemed to predominantly use pale pastel shades for their display rooms so a visit here was a bit of a memory dump back to hours spent looking at old wooden display cases in pale austere rooms.

It’s a museum to visit if you’re in the area, if only to say you have visited.

What’s worth also seeing is what’s outside the museum, as in one corner are some old stone sculptures, but much more interesting is an old weighbridge in the road — used to ensure that vans arriving at the palace complied with weight restrictions.

There’s also the base of the southern tower right next to the museum entrance, not signposted, but pretty obvious once you realise what it once was.

The Crystal Palace museum is open on Sundays from 11am, and closes at 3pm in the winter and 4pm in the summer. The easiest way to find it would be to arrive by train, and when leaving Crystal Palace station, turn left onto the main road and then head up the hill. The museum entrance is signposted about halfway up the hill.

There’s also a monthly guided tour in the summer months, check their website for details.


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  1. Bob says:

    “Although candidly, if you’re really interested, then a book will serve you better.”

    Haha. Is this your first visit to a museum, Ian? No museum is as dense as a book…

  2. Johnny Directions says:

    Turn right up the hill not left

    • Patricia Wainwright says:

      Turn left out of the station, walk down to the main road then turn right up the hill.

  3. John Greatrex says:

    Congratulations ‘ian’ on creating this excellent site concerning the Crystal Palace Museum.

    Authentic items are whenever possible on display in the museum including the display cabinets which were donated by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

    The museum was established following the creation in 1979 of the Crystal Palace Foundation by two of its committee members Mr Ken Kiss and Mr Barrie McKay.

    John Greatrex FRSA
    Founder Chairman: Crystal Palace Foundation
    Director: Great Exhibitions Ltd

  4. Paulette says:

    Ian, please recommend a book about The Crystal Palace?

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