The Norwood Society

Crystal Palace

We have often emphasised the almost mesmeric attraction of the Crystal Palace in its hey-day and more evidence is to be found in pages of the C.P. Magazines of 1900.

Under the heading ‘Popular Musicians of today’, we read - ‘the advent of Mr. Henry Wood (later Sir Henry Wood) and his superb orchestra to the Crystal Palace this season serves to draw attention to the remarkable personality of a conductor who has succeeded in exercising with an orchestra the spell wielded by a Paganini with his fiddle.

The orchestra nowadays is held in very different esteem to what was the case in years gone by. Whilst the appearance of a solo artist on stage would be a signal for silent attention, the commencement of an orchestral performance was regarded as a stimulant for conversation. If a catchy waltz or ditty were given, people would make the concession of humming it or wagging their heads and the absence of such behaviour would indicate an indifferent audience.

The fact that this is all changed must be attributed in large measure to the untiring efforts first of Mr August Manns and later to those of Mr Henry J. Wood.

‘The visit of Mr. Wood and his orchestra, where in common with those other famous conductors August Manns and Doctor Richter he will maintain the high standard of the Palace’s Saturday Concerts, should be a source of great pleasure to the patrons of these world-famous performances’.

Then on to Cricket… ‘The London County Cricket Club has every reason to be pleased with its initial year as a first-class club. It has done very well indeed and, more important, it has been the means of introducing many cricketers to first-class cricket. . . . As is now well-known, the Club has its headquarters at the Crystal Palace and a prettier or better cricket ground is not to be found in England. Some players object to the surrounding trees, but nowadays as so many catches are missed it is a good thing for the fielders to have some excuse and at the London County Cricket ground missed catches are put down to the trees . . . the following players have all done well - C.B.Fry, W.G.Grace, C.J.B. Wood, C.L. Townsend, J. Gilman, L. Walker, W.L. Murdoch, W.G. Grace, Jnr., Smith, Braund, Quaife, Robson and Board.

Most of the bowling was done by Braund and W.G. Grace…’ We never doubted it!

Then follows reports on Crystal Palace Hockey Club and the new outdoor winter game ‘Bicycle Polo’ and then a few words on Football…

‘I am not surprised to hear that the Editor considers his capital-looking publication will not be complete without some gossip about Association Football for hasn’t the Palace become the national home of the game, the great meeting-place for football legislators, and the playing-off of International contests and national games of very description?

Last April, when we had a gloriously sunny day for the English Cup Final, I bumped into an old acquaintance on the Palace Terrace and he was positively radiant with joy. He had been round the football enclosure and inspected his reserved seat, surrounded the pitch, kicked several imaginary goals for Bury (the other team in the Final is not mentioned) and formed the opinion that there was nothing to touch the Palace in all the wide, wide world.’

There is more in this vein - under Cycling Chat we read ‘to compile a history of the many splendid performances on the Palace track since it was built in 1896 would mean writing up the history of speed cycling in England over that period…’

Yes, everyone wanted to be at the Crystal Palace and in 1900 they could travel there from Victoria in about 35 minutes for 2s.6d, first class, 2s. second class and 1s.6d. third class. These fares also applied if you went from Holborn or London Bridge and included 1s. admission to the Palace. Naturally!

C. P. Corner

The Norwood Review Edition #81. Published 1982