Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, London, best known for holding the Proms concerts annually each summer since 1941. It has a capacity (depending on configuration of the event) of up to 5,272 seats. The Hall is a registered charity held in trust for the nation and receives no public or government funding.
In 1851, the Great Exhibition (for which the Crystal Palace was built) was held in Hyde Park, London. The exhibition was a great success and led Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, to propose the creation of a permanent series of facilities for the enlightenment of the public in the area, which came to be known as Albertopolis. The Exhibition's Royal Commission bought Gore House and its grounds (on which the Hall now stands) on the advice of the Prince. 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 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 civil engineers Captain Francis Fowke and Major-General Henry Y.D. Scott of the Royal Engineers and built by Lucas Brothers. The designers 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 Limited of Tamworth. The dome (designed by Rowland Mason Ordish) on top was made of wrought iron and glazed. There was a trial assembly made of the iron framework of the dome in Manchester, then it was taken apart again and transported to London via horse and cart. When the time came for the supporting structure to be removed from the dome after re-assembly in situ, only volunteers remained on site in case the structure dropped. It did drop – but only by five-sixteenths of an inch. The Hall was scheduled to be completed by Christmas Day 1870 and the Queen visited a few weeks beforehand to inspect.
The official opening ceremony of the Hall was on 29 March 1871. A welcoming speech was given by Edward, the Prince of Wales; Queen Victoria was too overcome to speak. At some point, the Queen remarked that the Albert Hall reminded her of the British constitution.
Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world's leading artists from several performance genres have appeared on its stage and it has become one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings. Each year it hosts more than 350 events including classical concerts, rock and pop, ballet and opera, sports, award ceremonies, school and community events, charity performances and banquets.
The Hall was originally supposed to have been called the Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed to the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences in tribute to Queen Victoria's deceased consort, Prince Albert. 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 road Kensington Gore.