My son and I were sitting on our front wall just beyond Alexandra Park Road, chatting. I looked up and noticed a small dark smoke cloud drifting up above the rooftops. I pointed it out to Charlie, and although we couldn’t see the source, we both agreed it was probably the Palace, and we ran out to see.
I had previously seen Blandford House burn down in the Palace grounds only a few years previously. Curious, we jumped into the car, and drove part of the way up the hill where it became obvious that it was indeed the Palace on Fire. We left the car a safe distance away and went the rest of the way by foot.
We could see the big window at the front of the Great Hall lit up with great orange flames licking out of it. At first it was hard to distinguish the flames from the yellow-red brickwork, but the intense moving colours soon drew our eyes.
During the afternoon the flames seemed to have died down a bit, but later that evening I happened to visit someone who lived high up in a flat in Shepherd’s Hill, Highgate, with a clear view of the Palace, which was again completely engulfed in flames, and I believe it burned all night.
Oh, and by the way, there had been local wrangles all the previous year about who was to take over the Palace, and who was to pay for substantial upgrading and renovation. Then came the fire, apparently started from an electrical fault whilst the renovations were being carried out, and there was a £3million insurance pay-out. Was that handy or what? Every cloud has a silver lining and this was quite a large cloud. Curious nimbus.
Here is a LINK to the BBC Television News Video Report in 1980.
And here is a LINK to the fire at St Andrew's Church, Alexandra Park Road, N10 in 2009.
And a LINK to the fire at Blandford Hall, Alexandra Park on July 17th 1971.
And a LINK to a very detailed article dated 1993 about the history of the great organ at Alexandra Palace.
(Acknowledgement to I Barwell for the picture on the right)
And this LINK is to my POEM "The Fire at Alexandra Palace"