Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences is an arts venue dedicated to Queen Victoria’s husband and consort, Prince Albert.
It is situated in in the South Kensington area of London – within the area also known as Albertopolis and was originally to have been called The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed by Queen Victoria when laying the foundation stone.
The hall also accommodates the largest pipe organ in the UK, and is the home of The Proms.
As the best known building within the cultural complex known as Albertopolis, the hall is commonly and erroneously thought to lie within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The hall is actually within the area of the City of Westminster. The site was part of the former Kensington Gore estate which was historically part of Knightsbridge.
In 1851 the Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park, London, for which the so-called Crystal Palace was built. The exhibition was a great success and led Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, to propose that a permanent series of facilities be built in the area for the enlightenment of the public. Progress on the scheme was slow and in 1861 Prince Albert died, without having seen his ideas come to fruition. However, a memorial was proposed for Hyde Park, with a Great Hall opposite. The proposal was approved and the site was purchased with some of the profits from the Exhibition. Once the remaining funds had been raised, in April 1867 Queen Victoria signed the Royal Charter of the The Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences which was to operate the Hall and on 20 May, laid the foundation stone.
The Hall was designed by Captain Francis Fowke and Colonel H.Y. Darracott Scott of the Royal Engineers. They were heavily influenced by ancient amphitheatres, but had also been exposed to the ideas of Gottfried Semper while he was working at the South Kensington Museum.
The recently-opened Cirque d’Hiver in Paris was seen in the contemporary press as the design to outdo. The Hall was constructed mainly of Fareham Red brick, with terra cotta block decoration made by Gibbs and Canning Ltd. of Tamworth. The dome (designed by Rowland Mason Ordish) on top was made of steel and glazed. There was a trial assembly made of the steel framework of the dome in Manchester, then it was taken apart again and transported down to London via horse and cart.
The Hall was scheduled to be completed by Christmas Day 1870 and the Queen visited a few days beforehand to inspect. She was reported as saying “It looks like the British Constitution”.