Kensington Gore, London, United Kingdom, SW7

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About Royal Albert Hall

A great Central Hall, dedicated to the promotion of Art and Science, was a key part of Prince Albert’s vision for the South Kensington estate, which was to be developed on land purchased with the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851. From the outset the Hall was intended to be a versatile building used not only for concerts but for exhibitions of art and of manufactured goods, and for scientific conferences and demonstrations. Its purpose was to enable the population at large to engage with the work of the surrounding museums and educational institutions.

Plans for the Hall fell into abeyance with Albert’s premature death and the construction of what was to called the Royal Albert Hall in his memory was due to the determination of Henry Cole, one of Albert’s collaborators in the Great Exhibition and who was later to serve as the first director of the South Kensington museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). The design and robust structure of the Hall were inspired by Coles’ visits to the ruined Roman Amphitheatres in the South of France and to his determination that the building should be placed in the hands of Royal Engineers as he distrusted architects. Detailed design of the building was started by Captain Francis Fowke and completed, following Fowke’s death, by another engineer Lieutenant Colonel (subsequently General) Henry Darracott Scott.

The original intention that the Hall should accommodate 30,000 was, for financial and practical reasons, reduced to approximately 7,000. Today’s fire regulations have reduced that figure to around 5,500. Much of the money originally intended for the construction was diverted to the building of the Albert Memorial and work on the Great Hall was further delayed while Cole raised the necessary money by selling “permanent” seats in the Hall for £100 each.

The Hall was designed to connect at its South End a large glass conservatory, 265 feet long and 75 feet high, which overlooked the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society which stretched down to the Cromwell Road. The
conservatory itself was flanked by two-storey brick and stone arcades, one of which connected to the underground tunnel from the newly opened metropolitan railway station at South Kensington. These arcades and the conservatory contained restaurants and other public spaces and provided the principal access (except for the wealthy who arrived by carriage) to the Hall itself.

Royal Albert Hall