With a history of hosting some of the biggest names in music, art, sport and politics, the Royal Albert Hall is one of the most distinguished and symbolic buildings in the UK. Located on the Northern edge of South Kensington sits the iconic dome, with Hyde Park as its stunning backdrop. It truly is one of London’s most astonishing attractions and well worth a visit to marvel at the architecture alone.
The development of the Royal Albert Hall began after the success of the Great Exhibition in 1851. It inspired Prince Albert to propose a permanent fixture to showcase the works of industry. Built in Prince Albert’s memory, the hall instantly became a pillar of admiration. It officially opened in 1871 for Queen Victoria’s Grand Jubilee Concert as a celebration of the Royal Choral Society.
The style and structure of the Grade I listed building are magnificent. The huge iron-framed roof weighs 338 tones at 135 ft high and was used as a landmark for war pilots during WWI and WWII. Built in the style of Italianate architecture, the hall is predominantly made up of red brick with a great mosaic frieze depicting ‘The Triumph of Arts and Sciences’ which encircles the dome.
The venue was originally going to be called ‘The Hall of Arts and Science’, relating to the beautiful frieze, however, the name was changed to commemorate the deceased Prince Albert. The foundation stone was laid with a time-capsule underneath, a feature which is still partially visible. So, anybody who is lucky enough to sit in Row 11, seat 87 will be resting upon a piece of history.
Inside the dome is equally impressive, with the grand organ dominating a huge space behind the stage. Installed in 1871 and made up of 9,999 pipes, the organ demands the attention of the room, if not only for its appearance but for its sound. The acoustics of the dome took a while to perfect, and it wasn’t until after the installation of fibreglass acoustic diffusers, known as mushrooms, that optimal acoustic levels were achieved.
The organ, referred to as ‘the voice of Jupiter’, was once the largest in the UK until 2007 when Liverpool Cathedral installed an organ with 10,268 pipes. The amazing acoustics contributed towards the Royal Albert Hall becoming the iconic setting for the BBC Proms, which has been held here annually since 1942.
What you wouldn’t expect is that even criminals have graced the iconic stage. London’s famous gangsters, the Kray brothers, both had a boxing match here in 1951, making them the only people to have ever performed at the Royal Albert Hall and also be imprisoned at the Tower of London.
It hosts more than 400 events a year and has served as an iconic venue for some historical greats, including Albert Einstein, Frank Sinatra, The Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. From music concerts and dance performances to award ceremonies and community events, the Royal Albert Hall is a hub for variety and culture.
After your visit to the Royal Albert Hall, why not head to the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill? We would also love to see you at Aubaine Kensington for some delicious French cuisine.
Next up: Science Museum