Who Is Alexandra Palace Named After?
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Alexandra Palace hosts some of London's biggest music events, a threatened Victorian theatre, a permanent ice rink, the darts, and a sprawling park. But who was Alexandra, and why was this renowned building named after her?
Originally called The People's Palace — because that's exactly what it was intended to be — the building was renamed Alexandra Palace before it was even opened, in honour of the new Princess of Wales. (Coincidentally a later Princess of Wales would become 'the People's Princess'.)
Also known as Alexandra of Denmark, the wife of Prince Edward (later King Edward VII) became the longest-serving Princess of Wales. The exhibition space was named after her partly in commemoration, and partly to congratulate her on the marriage to Edward.
Alexandra was popular with the British public because of her charming nature. She also suffered from ill health — and the fact her husband was away from home a lot (often with one of his many mistresses) increased the public's affinity towards her. According to The London Encyclopaedia, as of 1992, 67 roads in London were named after her.
Opened in May 1873 after 10 years of building (following six years of planning), the palace burnt down after only 16 days. A burning ember from the timber in the dome set the building alight, and many precious artefacts were destroyed. A £30,000 musical organ designed by Henry Willis fell, and it was said the crash could be heard from six miles away.
Rebuilding the palace took less than two years; but why did it take so long to build the first time and such a short time the second? In the brief window it was open before the fire, at least 120,000 people visited Alexandra Palace; it seems that the venue's popularity with Londoners pressured a hasty rebuild.
Alexandra Palace later affectionately came to be known as Ally Pally, a nickname thought to have been coined by the singer Dame Gracie Fields who performed on the theatre's stage in the 1920s.
In November 1936, the world's first high-definition programme was broadcast by the BBC from Alexandra Palace. While the grounds are today used for festivals and the palace building is used for conferences, fundraising is underway to restore the palace's east wing and BBC studios.