We are delighted to feature a guest post this week by Peter Manning, who used The Archive to research his new book Palace at the Palace – A History of The Crystal Palace & Its Football Club 1851-1915.
My project started out as research into the Crystal Palace football teams that played at the old Crystal Palace at Sydenham, but the history that was revealed by searching the BNA’s archives was so interesting and so compelling that I ended up writing a book about the Crystal Palace itself, the largest building in the world in the second half of the 19th century and the world’s first theme park.
The book charts the detailed history of the Crystal Palace from when it was built in Hyde Park in 1851, its move to Sydenham in 1854, until its closure in 1915 when it served as a naval training depot for WW1. As far as I could see no such history had ever been written before because it takes detailed forensic research of the newspaper archives to build its month by month and year by year history and this was virtually impossible until BNA digitised their archive of old newspapers.
The Crystal Palace was the scene of many world and British ‘firsts’, many of which have been lost to history until now. The world’s first model dinosaurs, ‘gigantic animals and reptiles who peopled the earth before it became a fitting habitation for man’ were sculpted for the Crystal Palace in 1854 and still sit in the park today as a Grade I listed monument.
The Crystal Palace Football Club played in the first football match between two teams that would go on to become founder members of the Football Association on March 15th, 1862.
The first attempt at a modern Olympic games took place there in 1866, thirty years before the current modern Olympics were started in Athens.
The first recorded music in Britain was recorded there on 19th April 1878, only two months after Thomas Edison had patented his invention of the phonograph in the United States.
On 3rd April 1899 Britain’s first ever motorcycle race was held there and it was also England’s first dedicated football stadium hosting twenty Cup Finals between 1895 and 1914. These are just a few of the memorable events that took place at The Crystal Palace that are covered in my book and there are many more.
The overriding aim of the project and the book was to see if the newspaper archives could provide enough evidence to link the early Crystal Palace amateur football club of 1861 to today’s current professional club, making the current club the oldest professional football league club in the world. I feel I’ve achieved this and, in the process, added to the history of soccer itself, the founding of the Football Association and the history of Crystal Palace F.C. The BNA’s digitised archives made my book possible and I’m sure there must be many more long-forgotten gems waiting to be discovered in its pages.