The twin towers… Of Crystal Palace

On Saturday I finally got round to doing something that I’ve been meaning to do for ages, it started with a picture of Westow Hill, Crystal Palace.

But first, a little history… For those of you that don’t know, there once were two huge 275 ft water towers used to power the fountains at the Crystal Palace when it was relocated to the area after the Great Exhibition. Built by the Great Isambard Kingdom Brunel they afforded amazing views of the surrounding area and dominated the landscape.

In the 30s John Logie Baird used the southern tower to broadcast his early developments in television. Searching around I even found a set of Baird’s lecture slides, Powerpoint on Glass! There’s also this great article on the history of early telly showing Baird demonstrating his invention at Selfridges in 1925, as well this one which I’ve linked to before. Fire claimed Baird’s facilities on the 30th November 1936 and his developments came to an end shortly after that. The Television Advisory Committee, appointed by the Postmaster General and made up of seven members of the Post Office and the BBC had decided to use the rival EMI-Marconi system. (Bags more early TV, including watchable content here)

The end came for the towers a few years later during WWII, as it was feared that German bombers could use them as a guide when coming in on bombing runs. There’s a short Movietone style news reel in the Crystal Palace museum showing the North Tower being dynamited with a typical patriotic narration along the lines of ‘yeilds up it’s steal for Spitfires’. However the southern one had to be taken down brick by brick due to it’s proximity to nearby buildings on Anerley Hill.

But what if the towers hadn’t had to be taken down? What would the Crystal Palace skyline look like?

Well that’s what I wanted to know, and so here’s a very large (1.5MB) animated gif started with an Edwardian Image of Westow Hill and fading to the present day. (Flash version to follow..maybe) It’s great that the frontage of what is now the Crystal Palace cafe, next to the ugly looking Woolworths, has remained releativly unchanged, apart from some chimney shortening.

Look at all the street furniture in the present day version, lines painted all over the road, lamp-posts, for sale signs, shop signs, traffic enforcement signs. It just looks a mess! Now perhaps the Edwardian version has had some re-touches, removal of horse shit, street urchins, who knows. Anyway, an interesting exercise for a wet Saturday afternoon.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
November 2005
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