The Royal Albert Hall is constructed of red brick and blocks of terracotta. A distinctive external feature is the 800 foot long terracotta frieze that runs around the top of building. It represents the various countries that were involved in the Great Exhibition, and reads:
This Hall was erected for the advancement of the Arts & Sciences and works of industry of all nations in fulfilment of the intention of Albert Prince Consort. The site was purchased with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of the year MDCCCLI. The first stone of the Hall was laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the twentieth day of May MDCCCLXVII and it was opened by her Majesty the twenty ninth of March in the year MDCCCLXXI. Thine O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. The wise and their works are in the hand of God. Glory be to God on high and on Earth peace.
The main auditorium is 185 feet wide by 219 feet long and the Hall is covered with a glass dome held up with iron girders. During WW1 and WW2 the dome was covered by black cloth and black paint respectively, as part of wartime black-out precautions.
Figure 2 – The Hall’s roof under construction in 1869.
The Building and Opening of the Hall
The building of ‘The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences’, as it was originally going to be called, was part of Prince Albert’s plans to form a site dedicated to encouraging the arts and sciences. After Albert’s death in 1861 the plans for the Hall continued to be developed by Henry Cole, a key member of the team that worked on the Great Exhibition of 1851. A grief-stricken Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone in 1867 and renamed the building the ‘Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences’ in Albert’s memory. She stated that,
It has been with a struggle that I have nerved myself to a compliance with the wish that I should take part in this day’s ceremony; but I have been sustained by the thought that I should assist by my presence in promoting the accomplishment of his great designs to whose memory the gratitude and affection of the country are now rearing a noble monument, which I trust may yet look down on such a centre of institutions for the promotion of art and science as it was fond his hope to establish here. It is my wish that this hall should bear his name to whom it will have owed its existence, and be called ‘The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences.’
Figure 3 – Trowel Used by the Queen in Laying the First Stone of the Royal Albert Hall.
Credit: Illustrated London News.
Figure 1 – The Royal Albert Hall’s opening ceremony, 1871.
Source: The Graphic
The Royal Albert Hall was officially opened on 29th March 1871 and has since hosted an array of events, from live orchestras, award ceremonies, charity events, banquets, ballet, opera, film screenings, sporting events, and music events: notably the BBC Proms concert series, which has been running since 1941. In the 1960s the acoustics of the Hall were improved by the installation of aluminium panels, colloquially known as the ‘mushrooms’. Today the Hall has a capacity of 5,272 and is a registered charity.
Figure 4 – Royal Albert Hall’s interior.
Open daily from 9am. Tours most days from 9:30 – 4:30. See www.royalalberthall.com for details and bookings.
Find out more:
F. H. W Sheppard (ed), ‘’South Kensington’ and the Science and Art Department’, Survey of London, 38, (London, 1975), pp. 74-96. British History Online <http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol38/pp74-96> [accessed 25 July 2018].
The Royal Albert Hall. ‘When would you like to go?’ Time Machine, 2018. <https://www.royalalberthall.com/about-the-hall/our-history/explore-our-history/time-machine/> [accessed 25 July 2018].