LONDON -- A hidden Victorian gem of London could reopen to the public this year, thanks to the hard work of the community that cares about it.
The splendid Crystal Palace subway was built 150 years ago, and its story is as colourful and turbulent as that of London itself. The Friends of the Crystal Palace Subway group has raised enough money to safely restore access to it, and eventually wants to turn it into a cultural events space.
It was built as a walkway from the High Line train station in south London to the Crystal Palace, the beautiful glass structure that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851. But the subway began its descent into obsolescencewhen Crystal Palace was destroyed in a fire in 1936.
It found use in World War II as a particularly splendid air raid shelter. But High Line train station was demolished in 1961, isolating the subway. It became a venue for "Subway Superdays" -- cultural and educational days -- in the '70s, and eventually illegal raves in '90s. Later, it was used in the Chemical Brothers' "Setting Sun" music video (It's clearly visible around the 2:35 mark).
The rave in the Chemical Brothers video.
Since then, the subway has been closed because of safety concerns, and visitors are only allowed once a year during London Open House days. There's always a huge demand for bookings to see it -- last year 900 places "sold out" in three hours.
Friends of the Crystal Palace Subway have secured planning permission to get back pedestrian access.
The group's treasurer, Jules Hussey, told the Evening Standard: "We really want more people to be able to enjoy it as it's a stunning site and we want to show its value.
"It's the community that have really got behind this project and who are working really hard to get the site open again."
The group is still seeking donations to pay for work on the subway via their GoFundMe page.
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