Whether you’re headed to a concert in London or simply out sightseeing, you may find yourself at the Royal Albert Hall. This 140-year-old venue is certainly a stunning piece of Victorian architecture, but it also has a number of intriguing stories to tell. Here are some things you might not know about this amazing building:
1. It’s a busy place
The Royal Albert Hall hosts more than 390 events throughout the year. These include concerts, sporting events, ballet performances, film screenings, award ceremonies, charity events and banquets. It’s also used for school and community events.
It can seat more than 5,200 people – but this is actually less than when it first opened. It was originally designed to accommodate up to 8,000 people – changes to the layout, seating and safety requirements have caused the maximum capacity to decrease over the years.
2. It has a big organ
When it was created, the hall’s pipe organ was the largest in the world. It was built by Henry Willis & Sons in 1871 and had four manuals and 111 stops.
The current organ was rebuilt in two stages by Harrison & Harrison in 1924 and 1933. This increased the organ to 146 stops, including three percussion stops, and converted the organ to electro-pneumatic action. It was again rebuilt in 2002 by Mander Organs. The current instrument has 147 stops and 9,997 speaking pipes, making it the second-largest of its type in England.
3. It was supposed to have another name
The venue was originally supposed to be called the Central Hall of Arts and Sciences. However, Queen Victoria changed the name during the laying of the foundation stone in 1867 to honour the memory of her beloved Prince Albert who had died six years later.
The location of the hall, directly across the street from the Albert Monument makes the whole area feel like a memorial to the prince consort, and the area is sometimes referred to as Albertopolis.
4. Its shape may have saved it during the war
The Royal Albert Hall suffered minor damage from a bomb blast in October 1942. However, it’s believed that the hall survived the war because its distinctive shape made it a guidance landmark for the bomber pilots.
5. It has terrible acoustics
Or, at least it did. The hall’s design was based on the Coliseum in Rome, but the domed roof meant that the venue suffered from terrible echo problems. For many years, a canvas awning was suspended over the dome. This helped reduce the issue, but the problem was far from solved, and the awning blocked the view of the beautiful ceiling.
Other measures were installed to fix the issue, but the problem wasn’t adequately solved until 1969 when a series of large fibreglass acoustic diffusing discs was installed below the ceiling. These are sometimes referred to as “mushrooms” and they now form a distinctive part of the hall.
6. It’s protected
The Royal Albert Hall is a Grade I listed building.
7. It has been in continuous use
Since 1871, the hall has been in continuous use. The BBC Proms have been hosted at the hall since 1941 – this annual summer event lasts eight weeks and comprises a variety of classical musical concerts and other events.
8. The roof was built twice
The dome, which is made primarily of wrought iron and glass, was fully assembled in Manchester for testing, before being disassembled and transported to London.
9. The mosaic frieze
An enormous mosaic frieze goes all the way around the building. This work of art is called The Triumph of Arts and Sciences and it depicts a variety of subjects, including music, sculpture, architecture, agriculture, astronomy, philosophy, engineering and pottery.
Above the frieze is an inscription, which states: “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.” It goes on to explain how the building was funded, when the foundation was laid and when it was opened. There’s also a biblical quotation.
10. There’s a lake underneath
Okay, well not exactly. But there are two water tanks containing 4,000 gallons of water each. These are used for shows that require the floor of the performance area to be flooded, such as Madam Butterfly.
11. There’s some great local accommodation
If you’re looking for a hotel near the Royal Albert Hall, then one option to consider is the Park Grand London Kensington. This stylish boutique hotel is less than a mile from the world-famous concert venue, and a two-minute walk from Earl’s Court Tube station, meaning you could be at the hall in less than 20 minutes.
As well as being conveniently located, the Park Grand London Kensington hotel offers plenty of additional benefits. Our well-appointed rooms are decorated in a contemporary style, and we’ve worked hard to ensure each room is comfortable and inviting. Our team is always on hand to provide friendly and professional service, and we also have a restaurant, which serves delicious meals throughout the day.