Inventory Site Record

Crystal Palace Park * (Bromley)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Crystal Palace Park was pleasure grounds designed as a setting for the Crystal Palace, which had been built for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851 and was moved at the close of the exhibition to Sydenham Hill in 1852. The park was laid out with terraces, Italian Garden, Great Maze, English Garden, gravel walks, statues and elaborate fountains fed by 3 lakes. In the south of the park an early attraction were the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, a collection of models of prehistoric creatures. The Palace and Park were opened by Queen Victoria on 10 June 1854, but the Palace later burnt down in November 1936. Some of the trees from the original planting survive and the park has a number of lakes, initially part of the elaborate waterworks scheme.

Practical Information
Site location:
Crystal Palace Park Road/Thicket Road, Sydenham
SE20 8DY
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am weekdays/9am Sat/Sun/BHs - half hour after dusk
Special conditions:
Café, toilets, disabled parking, public parking, children’s play area, boating pond, fishing. Sports centre and athletic track separate from the park; One O'clock Club.
Various. Contact Landscape Help Desk for details
Public transport:
London Overground: Penge West; Crystal Palace. Bus: 2, 3, 63, 122, 137a, 202, 227, 249, 322, 358, 410, 417.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.bromley.gov.uk; www.crystalpalacepark.org

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

C19th pleasure grounds designed by Sir Joseph Paxton as a setting for the Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition in 1851 and moved at the close of the exhibition from Hyde Park to Sydenham Hill in 1852. Paxton's design for the grounds included terraces, gardens, gravel walks, hundreds of statues and an awesome array of fountains' which for grand displays had '11,788 jets .. . .pumping 120,000 gallons per minute and consuming . . . Six million gallons of water' (Crowe). The Palace and Park were opened by Queen Victoria on 10 June 1854 in the presence of 40,000 spectators, and with a choir of 1,000. It was the setting for numerous events from fireworks, performances, exhibitions and sports.

Working under Paxton was landscape gardener Edward Milner (1819-1884), who became superintendent of works in 1852 and was responsible for the Italian Garden and its fountains fed by 3 lakes, the Great Maze and the English Landscape Garden. Milner had been apprenticed to Paxton when the latter was Head Gardener at Chatsworth, and later worked with him at Prince’s Park in Liverpool. The fountains opened 2 years late and were little used due to the costs involved in running them, as a result of which they later became disused. In 1894 the two largest fountains were turfed over and in 1895 a football stadium was created on the south basin, used for FA Cup finals until 1914. Loddiges of Hackney supplied plants for the Palace and Park.

In the south of the park are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, a collection of models of prehistoric creatures, which were an early attraction. Designed by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins in 1852-4, the collection comprised 15 complete species of dinosaurs and mammals, although more were planned, and they were set on strata of appropriate age. Although they are now known to be largely inaccurate due to a lack of information at the time of design, they were the first life-size models to be seen. They became neglected over the years, but full restoration was completed in 2002 and unlike the Palace or many of the statues, they still remain; the site now has footpaths and information signs.

The Palace suffered a number of fires, in 1866 in the north wing, in 1923 in the south wing and eventually the entire structure burnt down on 30 November 1936. Some of the trees from the original planting survive and the park has a number of lakes, initially part of the elaborate waterworks scheme.

From 1961 each summer the park became the venue for popular open-air concerts in Crystal Palace Bowl. At that time among the park's other attractions was a Children's Zoo. In 1962 David Wynne’s 'Gorilla' was installed nearby, a powerful portrayal in black marble of London Zoo’s famous gorilla, Guy. The sculpture, found near the Lower Lake today, was commissioned under the LCC's Patronage of the Arts Scheme, which was launched in 1956, with an annual budget of £20,000 to either commission or purchase works of art to be sited on housing estates, educational facilities and other public spaces. Wynne (1926-2014), who had read Zoology at Cambridge, was commissioned in 1959 to create an animal sculpture and its site was selected once it was completed. Over the period of the scheme 50 or more works of art were installed before the demise of the LCC in 1965, some of which are still in place.

In the 1960s the National Sports Centre was built in the centre of the park, designed by the LCC, It opened in 1964 and was one of the first purpose-built sports centres in the UK.

In 1981 Crystal Palace Foundation was set up to restore and care for the park. In 2001 restoration works were underway, which comprised a new farm complex, restored dinosaur and geological illustrations, a new woodland garden, remodelled and landscaped tidal lake, the relocation of the park maintenance contractor's premises and replacement with parkland, a new car park, planting enhancement to Paxton's English Landscape Gardens and adjacent parkland, new public viewing areas and a restored rhododendron dell. In September 2006 Capel Manor College opened a new college centre at the park, leasing the model farm, and facilities include Animal Care training (pigs, goats, rabbits, rodents, poultry and exotica in form of lizards, snakes and spiders), horticultural and arboricultural training.

The park is now managed by idverde UK, which in June 2015 was contracted by Bromley Council for the management of the borough's parks, green spaces and countryside service, a relationship that was extended in April 2019 for a further 16 years. 

Crystal Palace Park is on the London Heritage at Risk due to its deteriorating condition and the listed terraces, pedestrian subway and railings are also at risk. English Heritage supported a master plan for repair and regeneration of the park and discussions were held throughout 2013 with the Heritage Lottery Fund to test the feasibility of an application through the Parks for People programme. 

The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

Sources consulted:

Many references are given with NHLE Register description and include B Cherry & N Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 2: South' (1983, reprint 1999), pp182-183; Elliot B, Victorian Gardens, 1990, pp107, 110, 127, 173; Andrew Crowe, 'The Parks and Woodland of London', (Fourth Estate, 1987). Municipal Dreams in Arts, London, Parks and Open Space, The LCC and the Arts II: the 'Patronage of the Arts' Scheme, posted 28 July 2015. See website: www.crystalpalacepark.org

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ345705 (534364,170938)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Bromley
Site management:
Sir Joseph Paxton; Edward Milner
Listed structures:
LBI: 22 statues of prehistoric animals. LBII*: National Sports Centre. LBII: Bust of Joseph Paxton; Paxton’s rustic iron bridge; Upper Terrace; Lower Terrace; Gorilla sculpture by David Wynne.
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II*
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Crystal Palace
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance I
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:

Crystal Palace Park *

Crystal Palace Park - dinosaurs - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 19/09/20 14:23

Dynosaurs (1997)
Geological Strata (1997)

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

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