It is named after the enormous glass-and-iron greenhouse designed by Joseph Paxton, which was moved there from Kensington after the Great Exhibition in 1851 and which sensationally burnt down in 1936 in a conflagration that was seen and heard for miles around.
Today, Crystal Palace is a busy suburb with shops, restaurants, pubs and some of London’s most spectacular views, both north towards the City and south to the North Downs and beyond. A huge, much-visited park put it firmly back on the map when its life-size dinosaurs arrived.
The new transport links, with an Overground service now running to West Croydon in the south, and Dalston via Canada Water and Shoreditch High Street in the north, have dramatically cut journey times into town.
This corner of London - also known rather confusingly as Upper Norwood - deserves to be better known. Houses prices remain relatively affordable; large family houses are around half the price of nearby Dulwich and first-time buyers have a good choice of starter one- and two-bedroom flats.
Polly Ogden, manager of local estate agents Pedder Wates, says the area has areal sense of community. “It is a very green, buzzy part of London. There is always something going on. There are festivals and campaigns and the traders get involved in local events.”
Property: many large mansions were built in and around Crystal Palace following the arrival of Paxton’s great greenhouse, but most of these have now been divided into flats and the majority of homes for sale are flats.
The area attracts: young professionals priced out of other more expensive locations. For example, a large two-bedroom garden flat in Crystal Palace sells for about £270,000, whereas in Clapham a similar flat costs between £400,000 and £500,000.
Since the arrival of the Overground service in May, rental demand in the roads around Anerley Hill close to the station has been particularly strong among young couples and sharers, who also appreciate being close to the park and the National Sports Centre.
Staying power: couples wanting to start a family often want to move from a flat to a house but a shortage of three-bedroom houses frequently forces them to look elsewhere.
Best streets: the Fox Hill conservation area between Church Road and Anerley Hill is sought-after. It has both mid-Victorian villas and terraces and later Victorian terraces, all set on the slopes of some of the steepest residential streets in the capital.
Hamptons (020 7738 7622) is selling a fine five-bedroom semidetached villa in Belvedere Road for £965,000, while Haart (020 8670 5845) is selling a seven-bedroom, four-storey Victorian house in need of modernisation in Fox Hill for £950,000. Pedder Wates (020 8670 7160) is selling a rarely available Victorian house in Fox Hill Gardens, a private road, for £925,000.
Postcodes: Crystal Palace is in SE19, the Norwood postcode; Thicket Road, on the southern edge of the park, is in SE20, the Anerley and Penge postcode; and Crystal Palace Park Road is in SE26, the Sydenham postcode.
Up and coming: the area west of Church Road, where in Eversley and Chevening roads there are four-bedroom detached and semi-detached Twenties houses. Semis sell for about £450,000.
What’s new: Scholars Court in Versailles Road, between Crystal Palace and Anerley stations, is a development of 108 one- and two-bedroom flats with prices ranging from £152,495 to £209,995. Call Taylor Wimpey (0845 672 4196).
Schools: following a tricky period, the local primary school, Paxton, in Woodland Road, is now judged good and improving by Ofsted after it was joined with two successful primary schools, Kingswood and Elm Wood, to form the Gipsy Hill Federation. The local state secondary school, HarrisCity Academy Crystal Palace gets excellent results and is judged outstanding by Ofsted.
Private schools include Sydenham High in Westwood Hill, a GDST school for girls aged five to 18 years, and the three nearby Dulwich schools: Dulwich College for boys; Alleyn’s, which is co-ed, and James Allen’s Girls’ School.
Shops and restaurants: the “triangle” at the top of the hill is where the action is. Formed by Westow Hill, Westow Street and Church Road, it is frequently choked with traffic but locals throng there to eat and shop.
The triangle hasn’t yet reached the yummy-mummy delights of nearby East Dulwich, which has been transformed over the past five years, but there is still a pleasant morning’s browsing to be had. The place is getting a reputation for mid-20th-century vintage clothing and antiques.
The antiques market in Jasper Road and the collectors’ market in Haynes Lane are worth checking out. The Secret Garden is a garden centre by the Sainsbury’s car park, and there is a branch of the Blackbird Bakery. Joanna’s is a longstanding Crystal Palace institution serving modern European food; other notable restaurants include The Exhibition Rooms and the French-Algerian, Numidie.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF LAMBETH:
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Open spaces: from the TV masts on its heights to the dinosaurs plodding around in their primordial swamp, Crystal Palace Park dominates the neighbourhood. There is also a children’s farm but, sadly, the beautiful concert bowl is currently unused.
The park’s much-needed renovation, by the London Development Agency, is controversial as it involves selling two small sections of the park for housing. The then minister, Hazel Blears, called a public inquiry, which reports later this month. Sydenham Wells Park is small, well-maintained
and a few paces north of Crystal Palace Park.
Transport: Crystal Palace and Gipsy Hill stations are in Zone 3 (annual travel card £1,208); Penge West and Anerley are in Zone 4 (annual travel card £1,472). There are four northbound Overground trains an hour from Crystal Palace; commuters can change at Canada Water for Canary Wharf or continue north to the new Shoreditch station on the edge of the City. Southbound Overground trains to West Croydon go from Penge West or Anerley. Trains from Crystal Palace also go to Victoria (26 minutes) and London Bridge (23 minutes).
Leisure and the arts: the National Sports Centre in Crystal Palace Park has one of the most beautiful swimming pools in London. Situated in the recently renovated listed 1964 concrete building, it has a 100-station gym and a 50-metre pool. Locals are running a campaign to open a cinema in the old bingo hall in Church Road.
Council: the Band D council tax for the four councils which meet at the triangle are: Lambeth (Labour) £1,235.11; Southwark (Labour) £1,221.96; Bromley (Conservative) £1,301.13; and Croydon (Conservative) £1,459.93. Lewisham (Labour) £1,351.93 is on the eastern boundary of the park.
Buying property in Crystal Palace (average prices)
One-bedroom flat: £160,000
Two-bedroom flat: £297,000
Two-bedroom house: £226,000
Three-bedroom house: £315,000
Four-bedroom house: £417,000
Renting property in Crystal Palace (average prices)
One-bedroom flat: £700 to £800 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £850 to £1,200 a mth
Two-bedroom house: £900 to £1,050 a mth
Three-bedroom house: £1,100 to £1,400 a mth
Four-bedroom house: £1,250 to £1,500 a mth
(Source: Pedder Wates)
Pictures by Barry Phillips
All details correct at time of publication (7 July, 2010)