Crystal Palace Park

The hallowed playing surface of the first Crystal Palace FC is located in Crystal Palace Park.

This is the old Crystal Palace Cricket Club’s field and CPFC played on a portion of it. The cricket club leased the ground from the Crystal Palace Company.

The club’s cricket pavilion was on the left by the children’s play area and playing with the backdrop of the Crystal Palace would have been pretty special.

To give a perspective on the height of the Crystal Palace, the current TV transmitter is 219 metres (719 ft) high. The height of the Crystal Palace water towers was 86 metres (282 ft), while the central transept of the Crystal Palace was 33 metres (108 feet).

CPFC’s first recorded match here was a 4-0 loss on April 5, 1862 to Forest (who later became the Wanderers). This became the club’s biggest home defeat.

The weather was wet and the field was not in the best condition. The rules of Association Football had still not been agreed and this encounter had 15 players on each side.

The CPFC line-up that day included three Lloyd brothers whose great-great-grandfather co-founded Lloyds Bank.

James Turner also appeared. He was Palace captain, was involved in the early meetings in establishing the Football Association rules and became the FA’s second treasurer.

The players in this period were all amateurs, had no contracts and would play for other teams in the same season.

Football was of no public interest and not quite the same as we know now, with different rule variations depending on which part of the country you lived in.

In these early days, teams often arrived at a ground short of players due to transport problems or bad weather, so uneven sides were quite common and a player could be lent to the other side.

Formations evolved over time. During this era, there would typically be a goalkeeper, two backs, four wingers and four forwards. The keeper would often be used as a “rush goalie” against weaker sides. Other formations had one back and two half backs.

There was a big focus on dribbling with Association rules and players used to run forward in packs. Charging was encouraged. Later on, passing between teammates became more popular and eventually heading the ball.

Palace played in blue and white jerseys, dark blue serge-material shorts and dark blue socks. We don’t know what design the shirt was but the most common style of the time was hooped shirts.

For the 1864/65 and 1865/66 seasons, the club moved and played on a field behind the Crooked Billet pub in Penge.

In 1866/67 they were homeless, but returned in 1867/68 to Crystal Palace Park.

A Bell’s Life match report from December 1867 states that the club “last year appeared likely to become extinct, in consequence of the loss of their ground at Penge and the seeming impossibility of obtaining another to suit them.” The same report says the club would make “a fresh start… on part of the Crystal Palace Park Cricket Ground.”

An FA Cup match was played in Crystal Palace Park on December 16, 1871 when Palace hosted Maidenhead which they won 3-0.

On a damp afternoon, there were few spectators present with the majority coming from Berkshire to cheer on their team for this second-round tie.

Palace keeper Alex Morten was late and didn’t arrive until just before half-time with Maidenhead having the better of the opening exchanges.

On a heavy, thawed pitch, Alfred Lloyd put Palace in front, before William Bouch doubled the lead with a shot that went in off the tape and the keeper’s hands.

As the light began to fade, Charles Chenery nabbed the third goal to seal victory and a place in the quarter-finals.

The Sportsman blamed Maidenhead’s defeat on a combination of their “long flannel trousers” and the Palace ground being around half the size of their opponents’”. It reported the dimensions of the playing pitch at around 100 x 50 yards.

CPFC’s biggest home victory was a 9-2 success over Leyton on January 25, 1873.

The final recorded game played at the Crystal Palace was against Reigate Priory FC on January 9, 1875. It was a fitting end to the club’s first home ground as they bowed out with a 5-0 victory.

All the games for the remainder of the season and in 1875/76 were played away from home.

It was the loss of a ground for a second time that resulted in the club being disbanded in 1876.

There was a failed attempt to restart the club in January 1883. A team playing under the name “Crystal Palace Rovers” competed against Pilgrims FC in Walthamstow.

The Athletic News match report stated that this was an attempt to revive “the past glories of the old Crystal Palace Club which, in its day, was one of the strongest metropolitan societies, but eventually came to grief owing to a misunderstanding with the Palace authorities about their ground.”

Crystal Palace Cricket Club continued using the ground – which was established in 1857 – until it was dissolved in 1899.