Remains of Crystal Palace

Originally erected in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Crystal Palace was intended only as a temporary structure but in an impressive example of Victorian can do, it was reincarnated as a permanent attraction in the public space now known as Crystal Palace Park, enjoying its second royal opening by Queen Victoria in 1854.

For more than eight decades the Crystal Palace enjoyed mixed fortunes as a visitor attraction, for the main part being beset by the same problems that would dog the Millennium Dome a century and a half later. It never had enough visitors to break even, despite staging events which included the world’s first cat show in 1871.

By the early part of the 20th Century the building was in decline but in 1913 it was saved from developers by the Earl of Plymouth and saved for the nation by a public subscription. During the 1920s restoration work was carried out and the attraction began to make a modest attraction, but sadly in 1936 it caught fire and was totally destroyed.

Plans for redeveloping the site and even rebuilding the palace continue to the present day, but in seven and a half decades have come to nothing.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

City Hall, London

Designed by Lord Foster and opened in 2002, City Hall is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority. Located near Tower Bridge, the 45 metre high steel and glass structure is not to everybody’s taste and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone once referred to it as a “glass testicle”. More than one commentator has noted that the building is a statement on transparent government!

© Christopher Seddon 2009

Trellick Tower

Designed by Ernő Goldfinger, Trellick Tower in North Kensington was commissioned by the Greater London Council in 1966 and completed in 1972. The 322ft late Modernist towerblock is now a Grade II* listed building, but Goldfinger’s work has not always been to everybody’s taste.

Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, was definitely not a fan and it is no coincidence that 007’s most memorable opponent was named Auric Goldfinger. Auric’s real-life counterpart failed to see the funny side when the original novel came out and threatened to sue. As part of a rather bizarre out-of-court settlement, Ernő Goldfinger eventually accepted six copies of the book!

© Christopher Seddon 2009

Alexandra Palace transmission mast

The BBC began transmitting from Alexandra Palace in 1936. Transmissions were interrupted by the war with the closedown occurring in the middle of a Mickey Mouse cartoon. During the war, the transmitter was used to jam the radio navigation system used by the Luftwaffe (a forerunner of GPS). TV transmissions resumed after the war and continued until 1956, when operations were relocated to Crystal Palace. The transmitter is still used for local analogue television transmission, local commercial radio and DAB broadcasts.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

High and Over, Amersham

High and Over is a Grade I listed building in Amersham, Bucks. Designed by Amyas Connell and built in the late 1920s, the Y-shaped country house and the smaller Sun Houses nearby were controversial at the time, but are now admired as fine examples of the Modernist style. Originally a single dwelling, High and Over was divided into two units in the 1960s. Local legend has it that the building had to be camouflaged during World War II because enemy bombers were using it as a landmark to help them find their targets.



© Christopher Seddon 2009

Empress State Building, Earls Court







Named for the Empress Theatre which formerly stood on the site in Lillie Road, the Empress State Building was constructed in 1961. Originally intended as a hotel, it has thoughout its existence been used as an office building. People of a certain age (including myself!) will recall exterior shots of the building featuring in the ‘Sixties SF series Space Patrol. After it became vacant in 1997, plans were put forward for its use as a hotel, and thought was given to its demolition. Fortunately refurbishment turned out to be a cheaper option and this was carried out between 2001-03, with extra floors being added at the top. However it continued to be used as office space and currently the building is occupied by Metropolitan Police and Transport for London.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

Constructed in 1935, the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, East Sussex was one of Britain’s first Modernist public buildings.

The seafront building was the brainchild of Herbrand Sackville, 9th Earl de la Warr, Mayor of Bexhill. The Earl, who was a socialist, persuaded Bexhill council to develop the site as a public building. A competition was announced in the Architects Journal in February 1934 and run by the RIBA. The requirement was for an entertainment hall to seat at least 1500 people; a 200-seat restaurant; a reading room; and a lounge. Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff were selected from over 230 entrants. Construction work began in January 1935 and the building was opened on 12 December of the same year.

The building was damaged when a nearby hotel was bombed during the war and it was neglected during the postwar era. However in 1986 it was awarded Grade I listed building status and three years later a Trust was formed dedicated to restoring the building to its former glory. These efforts were eventually successful and with the aid of a £6 million Lottery grant the building was restored and converted into a contemporary arts centre. This opened in 2005, as the building marked its seventieth anniversary.

© Christopher Seddon 2009