Letter: Awestruck by old Crystal Palace

From Mr E. Paull

Sir: A new Crystal Palace at Sydenham (letters, 21 October) would meet with my approval, but could never engender the powerful emotions I experienced when, as a child, I visited the original there in the Thirties.

It was fusty and decaying at that time, and for me was redolent of a past age. It was a mixture of mausoleum and cathedral, filling me with an inexplicable awe. A feeling induced, I now assume, by its vastness and its exhilarating spookiness.

Strangely, when I heard that the pall of smoke rising to the east of our neighbourhood in Streatham was Crystal Palace burning, the prospect of its destruction evoked little emotion in me, perhaps because at 13 I was less sentimental about the structure and was too involved in the excitement of the event, as the few fortunate boys with bicycles jumped on their machines and pelted off towards the conflagration.

It was only recently that I learnt that Churchill was present at the fire: a fireman recalling that he turned round to find the great man standing behind him in carpet slippers.

Yours faithfully,

E Paull

London, SW16

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