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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Exterior of the Royal Albert Hall.

The Royal Albert Hall is an arts venue situated in the Knightsbridge area of the City of Westminster, London, England, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941.

The Royal Albert Hall is one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings, recognisable the world over. Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world's leading artists from every kind of performance genre have appeared on its stage. Each year it hosts more than 350 performances 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 supposed to have been called The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed by Queen Victoria to Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences when laying the foundation stone as a dedication to her deceased husband and 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 heavy traffic along Kensington Gore.

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, although the postal address is Kensington Gore. The site was part of the former Kensington Gore estate which was historically part of Knightsbridge. However it is in the Westminster borough.



The first ever performance at the Royal Albert Hall, 29 March 1871

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 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 Major-General Henry Y.D. Scott of the Royal Engineers and built by Lucas Brothers.[1] 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 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. 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-eighths of an inch. 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".

Acoustic diffusing discs in the roof of the Royal Albert Hall
Postcard of the Royal Albert Hall (circa 1903) with an inset of the Albert Memorial

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 used to be said that the hall was the only place where a British composer could be sure of hearing his work twice.

Initially lit by gas (when thousands of gas jets were lit by a special system within 10 seconds), full electric lighting was installed in 1897. During an earlier trial when a partial installation was made, one disgruntled patron wrote to The Times newspaper declaring it to be " a very ghastly and unpleasant innovation".

In 1936, the Hall was the scene of a giant rally celebrating the British Empire, the occasion being the centenary of Joseph Chamberlain's birth.

The Hall has more recently undergone a rolling programme (1996 - 2004) of renovation and development to enable it to meet the demands of the next century of events and performances. Thirty "discrete projects" were undertaken by BDP without disrupting events [2]. 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 vehicle 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: these works were undertaken by Taylor Woodrow Construction[3].

The works 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; The organ is now again the second largest pipe organ in the British Isles with 9,999 pipes (Liverpool Cathedral has 10,268).


The Triumph of Arts and Sciences

The hall, a Grade I listed building,[4] is an ellipse in plan, with major and minor axes of 83 m (272 feet) and 72 m (238 ft). The great glass and wrought-iron dome roofing the hall is 41 m (135 ft) high. It was originally designed with a capacity for 8,000 people and has accommodated as many as 9,000 (although modern safety restrictions mean that the maximum permitted capacity is now 5,544 including standing in the Gallery).

Around the outside of the hall is a great mosaic frieze, 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."


The opening ceremony on 29 March 1871

Since its opening by Queen Victoria on 29 March 1871 the Royal Albert Hall has played host to a multitude of different events and legendary figures and has been affectionately titled "The Nation's Village Hall".[5] The first concert at the Hall was Arthur Sullivan's cantata, On Shore and Sea, which was performed on 1 May 1871.[6][7]

As well as hosting the Proms every summer since they were bombed out of the Queen's Hall in 1941,[8] the Hall has been used for over 150,000 events, including classical and rock concerts, conferences, ballroom dancing, poetry recitals, education, motor shows, marathons, ballet, opera and even circus shows. It has hosted sporting events, including boxing, wrestling (including the first Sumo wrestling tournament to be held in London) and tennis.[9][10] It also hosts the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, held the day before Remembrance Sunday.[11]

A famous and widely bootlegged concert by Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on 17 May 1966 was mistakenly labeled the "Royal Albert Hall Concert." In 1998 Columbia Records released an official recording, The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, that maintains the erroneous title, but does include details of the actual concert location. Dylan actually did close his European tour on 26 and 27 May of that year; these were his last concerts before Dylan got into a motorcycle accident and became a recluse for a brief period of time.

Another concert that was mislabeled as being at the Royal Albert Hall was by Creedence Clearwater Revival. An album by CCR titled The Royal Albert Hall Concert was released in 1980. When it was discovered that the show on the album actually took place at the Oakland Coliseum, Fantasy Records retitled the album The Concert'.


The Proms

Proms in the Albert Hall

The Proms is a popular eight-week summer season of daily classical music concerts and other events held annually at the Albert Hall since moving from the Queens Hall in 1941.[12] The event was founded in 1895, and now each season consists of over 70 concerts in the Albert Hall, in addition to a series of events at other venues across the United Kingdom on the last night. In 2009 the total number of concerts will reach 100 for the first time. In the context of classical music festivals, Jiří Bělohlávek has described The Proms as "the world's largest and most democratic musical festival".[13]

Proms is short for promenade concerts, a term which arose from the original practice of audience members promenading, or strolling, in some areas of the concert hall during the concert. Proms concertgoers, particularly those who stand, are sometimes described as "Promenaders", but are most commonly referred to as "Prommers".[14]

Royal Albert Hall from Prince Consort Road

Other concerts

There have been many other famous concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, including artists such as Pink Floyd; David Gilmour; Cliff Richard; Noel Gallagher; Oasis; Peter Doherty; Janis Joplin; Muse; Cream; Deep Purple; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; The Beatles; The Rolling Stones; The Jimi Hendrix Experience; Herbie Hancock; The Mothers of Invention; Petula Clark; The Isley Brothers; Black Sabbath; Led Zeppelin; Depeche Mode; Erasure; Creedence Clearwater Revival; Joni Mitchell; James Taylor; The Corrs; Tangerine Dream; Lata Mangeshkar; ABBA; Yanni; Dusty Springfield; The Everly Brothers; The Animals; Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; Luther Vandross; Phil Collins; Carl Perkins; Jimmy Buffett; Mark Knopfler; Sting; Elton John; Eric Clapton; ;The Who; Elkie Brooks; John Fogerty; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Opeth; Porcupine Tree and recently, The Killers and Hong Kong singer Eason Chan. The Beatles song A Day In The Life mentions the Royal Albert Hall. Roger Daltrey of The Who has been intimately involved with the Teenage Cancer Trust which holds yearly charity concerts at Royal Albert Hall.

Transport links

Public transport access
London Buses Royal Albert Hall 9, 10, 52,360, 452
London Underground South Kensington Circle roundel1.PNG District roundel1.PNG Piccadilly roundel1.PNG

See also


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ retrieved 14 March 2007
  3. ^ Royal Albert Hall South Porch
  4. ^ - UK Charity Information
  5. ^ "A hedonist's guide to London - Google Book Search". Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  6. ^ From the G&S discography site
  7. ^ "The English musical renaissance ... - Google Book Search". Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  8. ^ "The history of broadcasting in the ... - Google Book Search". Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  9. ^ "Japan experiences: fifty years, one ... - Google Book Search".,M1. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  10. ^ "Paul Robeson: The Years of Promise ... - Google Book Search". Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  11. ^ "Architecture of England, Scotland ... - Google Book Search". Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  12. ^ "Ibbs and Tillett: the rise and fall ... - Google Book Search". Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  13. ^ Jiří Bělohlávek, Speech from The Last Night of the Proms 2007, 8 September 2007.
  14. ^ "Subjectivities, knowledges, and ... - Google Book Search".,M1. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′03.40″N 00°10′38.77″W / 51.500944°N 0.1774361°W / 51.500944; -0.1774361

Preceded by
Großer Festsaal der Wiener Hofburg
Eurovision Venue
Succeeded by
Teatro Real
Preceded by
Lyceum Theatre
Miss World Venues
1969 - 1988
Succeeded by

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|300px|right|The Royal Albert Hall, seen from Kensington Park]] The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences, usually just called the Royal Albert Hall, is a very big building in the City of Westminster, London, England. It was opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria and was called after her husband Prince Albert who had died ten years earlier.

The Royal Albert Hall is one of the most famous buildings in the world. Lots of different things happen in the Royal Albert Hall (or just “RAH”): concerts for classical music or pop music, ballet, even tennis or boxing matches, or large ceremonies or parties or conferences. In the summer the BBC Proms take place there every day.


The history of how it was built

In the early 19th century the whole area was still countryside. In 1851 there was a Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, just next to Kensington Park opposite where the RAH now stands. The exhibition building, called Crystal Palace, was a glass building which was just there for the exhibition. Prince Albert had the idea that public buildings should be built in the area for the arts and sciences. Some huge museums were built, including the Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum etc. When Prince Albert died in 1861 this plan had only just got started. The Royal Albert Hall was built and named after him. Queen Victoria laid the first stone.

The Royal Albert Hall is very large. As many as 9,000 people used to get in, but now the safety rules make about 5,500 the usual number. It is round, like an Ancient Greek or Roman amphitheatre. This is why the floor area is called the “arena” (as in an amphitheatre). There is a very large glass and wrought-iron dome. It is 41m high. Round the outside, a little lower than the roof, there is a big mosaic frieze with pictures of "The Triumph of Arts and Sciences" and some writing in terracotta letters. It says that the first stone was laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on 20 May 1867 and was opened by her on 29 March 1871. It also has some words from the Bible. When Queen Victoria opened the building she was so emotional that she could not speak. Her son Edward, the Prince of Wales had to say her words for her. He said: "The Queen declares this Hall is now open".

The RAH throughout its history

[[File:|thumb|left|200px|A promenade concert in the RAH]] The hall has been used for lots of important events ever since 1871. Many of the seats are still owned by members of a Corporation which was called “the Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences”. This group had been formed in 1866 as a charity to get money to build the hall. Its members still have a right to occupy 1,300 of the 5,200 seats.

There was a problem with the sound because there was too much echo. It was not until 1969 that something was done about it. Big fibreglass dishes were hung from the ceiling. People who go to the RAH today call them “mushrooms” or sometimes “flying saucers”. They make music sound much better.

There is a very large organ at the front of the hall. It was built by an organ maker called Henry Willis and was later rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison and most recently by Mander Organs; It is the biggest organ in the British Isles with 9,997 pipes.

The Promenade Concerts which were started by Henry Wood in 1895 have taken place in the RAH ever since 1941 when the Queen's Hall was destroyed by bombs in World War II. For two months there is at least one concert every day, and people can be seen queuing for standing tickets all the way down the steps towards Prince Consort Road.

People who go to the proms today can choose between standing in the arena (the flat area downstairs), or sitting in the stalls (the seats around the side of the arena), or sitting in the Loggia Boxes, Second Tier Boxes, Circle (upstairs), Choir (where the choir sit if there is one, i.e. behind the orchestra) or standing in the gallery (at the very top). For some events such as tennis matches or ballets or operas the action takes place in the arena, so audience do not sit or stand there.

Recent improvements

During the last few years a lot of money has been spent on improving the Royal Albert Hall. The 1,800 seats in the balcony (now called the “Circle”) were very uncomfortable, so new seats were put in which are slightly bigger. The south entrance has been made into the main entrance (as it was years ago), with a porch to match the north entrance. The area south of the hall has been blocked off to traffic and pedestrianised. Dressing rooms (where artists change) are now on stage level instead of down in a basement. There is an underground car park and loading area so that lorries bringing things do not need to unload in the street and get in the way of the people. Lots of other improvements have been made, including better ventilation.

Other pages

In Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 film, The Man Who Knew Too Much, starring James Stewart and Doris Day, a remake of his earlier film of the same name, the climactic sequence during which an attempted assassination takes place, was shot in Royal Albert Hall.

Other Websites

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