The Crystal Palace Subway is believed to be designed by Charles Barry Jr. and opened in 1865. The Byzantine-style construction comprises dramatic vaulted ceilings of red and cream brickwork. Initially, the connected station was segregated by passenger class. It led first-class passengers through the beautiful subway into the central transept of the Palace. Lower-class passengers we directed straight through to the south transept. The subway sits across the boundary of the boroughs of Bromley and Southwark. It is a Grade II* listed building, and is a well-loved site with a dedicated friends group – the Friends of Crystal Palace Subway.
The subway has not been used as a station since 1956. As a result, it has fallen into significant disrepair and is included on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register. The Regeneration Plan looks to secure the subway’s future firstly through restoring the structure. It will later be established as an open air event and outdoor exhibition space by adding an adjacent cultural venue. The connected venue will activate the subway as a historic site and create a destination in the north of the park.
In December 2019, Bromley Council was awarded a grant of £2.34 million from the City of London Strategic Investment Pot (SIP) Fund, to undertake the first part of the vision for the subway – the restoration works. The Friends of Crystal Palace Subway additionally committed a generous £5,000 towards this project.
The project is supported by a wide range of stakeholders including: the Boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham, Croydon and Southwark, whose borders meet at the park; Historic England; local businesses; MPs and Councillors; and the South East London Chamber of Commerce.
The Council is currently raising the outstanding match funding needed for the SIP Fund award. Officers are also appointing the project team to undertake the works. Stage one of the project is intended to begin in April 2020, subject to funding. This will include undertaking surveys to determine the condition of the building. It will also include developing a detailed scope of works for the subway’s full restoration. Stage one should take six months and will be followed by stage two which will see the restoration works carried out on site.