Royal Albert Hall

LINKS to other pages in the 'Christmas in London' site and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Introduction
2 : London Lights
3 : Albert Memorial and Kensington Palace
4 : Albert Hall
5 : St Paul's Covent Garden
6 : New Year Sales


Londonrahtitle.jpg - 97396 Bytes

The following information has been condensed from articles in Wikipedia:

The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences is an arts venue dedicated to Queen Victoria's husband and consort, Prince Albert. Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, leading artists from every kind of performance genre have appeared on its stage. Each year it hosts more than 350 events including classical concerts, rock and pop, ballet and opera, tennis, award ceremonies, school and community events, charity performances and lavish banquets.

The Hall 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. It forms the practical part of a national memorial to the Prince Consort - the decorative part is the Albert Memorial directly to the north in Kensington Gardens, now separated from the Hall by the heavy traffic along Kensington Gore (see the previous page in this site). The Hall also accommodates the largest pipe organ in the UK, and is the home of 'The Proms' (Promenade Concerts).

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 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 glass.

The official opening ceremony of the Royal Albert Hall was on 29 March 1871. After a welcoming speech by Edward, the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria was too overcome to speak, so the Prince had to announce that "The Queen declares this Hall is now open".

A concert followed, when the Hall's acoustic problems became immediately apparent. These were not properly tackled until 1969 when a series of large fibreglass acoustic diffusing discs (commonly referred to as "mushrooms" or "flying saucers") were installed in the roof to cut down the notorious echo. It was reportedly said that the hall was the only place where an audience could be sure of hearing a concert twice on the same night!

Initially lit by gas (when thousands of gas jets were lit within 10 seconds by a special system), full electric lighting was installed in 1897.

The Hall has recently (1996 - 2004) undergone a programme of renovation and development to enable it to meet the coming demands. Although the exterior of the building is largely unchanged, the south steps leading down to Prince Consort Road were demolished to allow reconstruction of the original underground access to take modern vehicles. The steps were then reconstructed around a new south porch on the same scale and in the same style as the three pre-existing porches.

The works also included a major rebuilding of the great organ, originally built by "Father" Henry Willis, subsequently rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison and most recently rebuilt by Mander Organs. It is now the largest pipe organ in the British Isles with 9,997 pipes. Londonrah6.jpg - 117963 Bytes

Londonrah4.jpg - 82468 Bytes
Around the outside of the hall is a great mosaic frieze (left and below) depicting "The Triumph of Arts and Sciences", in reference to the Hall's dedication. Proceeding anti-clockwise from the north side the sixteen subjects of the frieze are: (1) Various Countries of the World bringing in their Offerings to the Exhibition of 1851; (2) Music; (3) Sculpture; (4) Painting; (5) Princes, Art Patrons and Artists; (6) Workers in Stone; (7) Workers in Wood and Brick; (8) Architecture; (9) The Infancy of the Arts and Sciences; (10) Agriculture; (11) Horticulture and Land Surveying; (12) Astronomy and Navigation; (13) A Group of Philosophers, Sages and Students; (14) Engineering; (15) The Mechanical Powers; and (16) Pottery and Glassmaking.

Above the frieze is an inscription in one-foot high terracotta letters. This combines historical fact and Biblical quotations:

"This hall was erected for the advancement of the arts and 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."

Londonrah3.jpg - 97997 Bytes

The 'Proms' festival of classical music were founded by Sir Henry Wood and have been held in the hall every summer since 1941 after the original venue, the Queen's Hall in Langham Place, was destroyed in the bombing of London in WWII.

In 1944, however, many of the concerts to be held in the hall had to be abandoned due to the 'flying bomb' raids. The series was completed by the BBC orchestras broadcasting from Bedford. (For further information on the BBC orchestras in wartime contained in this series of websites please click here.)

Londonrah7a.jpg - 96954 Bytes

Every year at Christmas time a number of Carol Concerts are held in the hall. This is one of them presented by the (left)

A visit to London continues on the following page.
Please click on the 'Next' button (below right)

buttongo.jpg - 7212 Bytes
buttonnext.jpg - 5586 Bytes