The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, London, which holds the Proms concerts annually each summer since 1941. It has a capacity 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. A further 400 events are each year in the non-auditorium spaces. In 1851, the Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park, the Exhibitions Royal Commission bought Gore House and its grounds on the advice of the Prince. Progress on the scheme was slow and in 1861 Prince Albert died, 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, 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 exposed to the ideas of Gottfried Semper while he was working at the South Kensington Museum. The recently opened Cirque dHiver in Paris was seen in the press as the design to outdo. The Hall was constructed mainly of Fareham Red brick, with terra cotta block decoration made by Gibbs, the dome on top was made of wrought iron and glazed. There was an assembly made of the iron framework of the dome in Manchester, then it was taken apart again and transported to London via horse. When the time came for the structure to be removed from the dome after reassembly in situ. 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 Hall reminded her of the British constitution, a concert followed, when the Halls acoustic problems became immediately apparent. Engineers first attempted to solve the strong echo by suspending a canvas awning below the dome, in July 1871, French organist Camille Saint-Saëns performed Church Scene from the Faust by Charles Gounod, The Orchestra described his performance as an exceptional and distinguished performer. Initially lit by gas, the Hall contained a system where its thousands of gas jets were lit within ten seconds. Though it was demonstrated as early as 1873 in the Hall, full electric lighting was not installed until 1888, during an early trial when a partial installation was made, one disgruntled patron wrote to The Times declaring it to be a very ghastly and unpleasant innovation. In May 1877, Richard Wagner himself conducted the first half of each of the eight concerts which made up the Grand Wagner Festival
Image: Royal Albert Hall, London Nov 2012
Interior viewed from the Grand Tier
The first performance at the Hall. The decorated canvas awning is seen beneath the dome.
Acoustic diffusing discs (lit in purple/blue) hanging from the roof of the Hall. The fluted aluminium panels are seen behind.