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On the evening of 30th November, look towards the top of Crystal Palace Park to mark the Great Fire of 1936, or visit the top of the park to pay your own tribute.

Richard Dimbleby was the BBC’s first out-and-about roving radio reporter to capture the event live, and made a milestone event in radio broadcasting history, that also marked the end of an era for The Crystal Palace…

FIRST REPORTER: “It’s a pretty clear sky and a moment ago it was almost a full moon looking straight at me across this blaze of smoke and ruins. It’s a fairly strong wind. I’m up on the top of a house here. There’s somebody got an umbrella behind me trying to shield the microphone and I don’t quite know how much wind on the microphone you may be getting, but I hope you can hear what I am saying. [Noise of fire engine bell]. There goes one of the bells. I don’t know what that means. By the North Tower there…. there’s eh…the.. the.. um… building just behind me the South Tower… It’s beginning to blaze up and I can see smoke coming through all the tiles on the roof… 
BBC4 Radio4 “The Friend in the Corner 1936 Broadcast”.


The Daily Mirror reported on 1st December: With flames rising to a height of 500 feet, streams of molten glass forcing back firemen and sparks being hurled three miles… Millions watched the fire. It could be seen in Brighton, fifty miles away. An air liner pilot in mid-Channel, eighty miles away, sighted the glow… For three miles around roads were completely blocked by cars. Many fire engines found it impossible to get within half a mile…The tremendous heat could be felt half a mile away. Firemen could not work near the flames for more than a minute. Several were injured and taken away. The noise as the roof crashed could be heard five miles away.

Winston Churchill described the loss as “The end of an age“. Churchill, as First Lord at the Admiralty oversaw The Crystal Palace to become Royal Navy Division training base in 1914. formally known as HMS Victory. The base was very soon endearingly called “HMS Crystal Palace”.  125,000 Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves trained at HMS Crystal Palace for the Great War, as commemorated by the HRH The Prince of Wales on 6th June 1931 in the park.

Great Fire film clip click here. From the Guardian archive originally published on 1st December 1936.

Books, photos, videos about the Great Fire can be found from

Before and after…