Plans to restore the grade II* listed subway at the top of Crystal Palace has been given approval by Bromley Council, allowing the restoration works to start later this year.

The subway owes its existence to the Crystal Palace and the arrival of a High-Level railway station next to the Palace. To get from the railway to the palace, if you were first class, there’s a grand subway under the road leading to your private entrance. After the palace burnt down, the station declined, closed and was demolished, leaving behind just the Victorian subway, which has been decaying ever since.

It’s now on the Heritage at Risk Register, but a campaign has been raising funds to restore it.

The restoration works will see the repair of the Victorian subway, including the rebuilding of existing walls, construction of new parapet walls, and replacing the roof that was lost in the years following the great fire of 1936. That plan has now been granted planning permission.

It can be described as being in three zones — three sets of grand staircases leading to the Palace above, a once glass-roofed atrium, and the famous brick subway itself.

A proposed new roof will be visible from Crystal Palace Parade, with the subway exterior being made from glass and stainless steel, and the gable enclosed with Corten steel. It is envisaged that the following restoration works, the subway will be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

The estimated £3.2m cost of restoring the subway follows successful grant allocations of £2.3m from the City of London Strategic Investment Pot and an additional £500k from Historic England. Contributions to the works are also coming from the Friends of Crystal Palace Subway.

To date, survey work has been undertaken and the site has been cleared of vegetation. The clearance uncovered the remains of the subway’s south staircase that has been inaccessible since the early 1900s.

Works on the restoration will start later this year.

Although the subway’s future is still to be determined, it is envisaged that following restoration, the site will become a multi-functional space that will be accessible throughout much of the year. At present, no commercial proposals for the function of Subway have been established.

The subway straddles the boundary between Bromley and Southwark, and a separate application is pending at Southwark for their side of the site, which is a small open terrace on the side closest to the former railway station.

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5 comments
  1. John says:

    What a good idea, I think finding more places like this would encourage more people interested in Heritage projects.

  2. Chris Rogers says:

    Visited about 25 years ago when fascinated by that kind of thing and pre-internet, more or less. Disappointed to find it far smaller than the fanciful Victorian engraving that is usually used to illustrate it, but it is odd to look over the cutting the was once the station and is now a housing estate.

  3. Cllr Nicholas Bennett says:

    As Bromley Council’s Design and Heritage Champion I’m delighted that the restoration is finally going ahead. I have asked that the roof is made of very toughened glass as otherwise it will be in danger of vandalism as a result of it’s proximity to Crystal Palace Parade.

    In someways it is a pity the High Level branch was closed in 1954 and replaced by an extension of the 63 bus route but at the time the line was very underused. Today it might well have proved a useful alternative link to London as trains went into Blackfriars rather than Victoria as on the low level line.

  4. Lizebeth says:

    Hooray. Anything like this — historic, individual, different, user-friendly — must be saved if we stand any chance of saving London from glass box oblivion.

  5. les Drain says:

    I recall visiting the under-path around 1982 when it had been restored after being alerted by an article in the Sunday Times.
    At first it was open and one could gain access from both sides. Then due to Graffiti it was sealed off with a steel fence a few years later. The north side was only accessible if you were prepared to hop over the wall, clearly indicated by the later addition of a later bricking up of the entrance in the low wall on the parade, that lead to some stairs. One wonders if this investment in time and money will not have the same history?

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