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  • Prince Albert

    around 1850

    Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria, painted by Frederick Newenham around 1850.

  • The Crystal Palace

    1851

    Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, was  the driving force behind the Great Exhibition of the Works and Industry of all  Nations which opened in the Crystal Palace in 1851 at a spot in Hyde Park  almost  opposite to where the Hall stands today. (The Crystal Palace was later  moved to Sydenham and burnt down in 1936.)

    This exhibition was very popular and a great financial success, bringing together new inventions, fabrics, jewels and exquisite crafts from all over the world.  The entrance fee was such that even the poorest of the  British public could have the chance to see these wonders.

    Prince Albert wanted the huge profits from  the exhibition to fund the purchase of land and buildings to house permanent  exhibitions of the arts, industry and science which is how the Royal Albert Hall  and Museums area came to exist.

  • Gore House

    1851

    Gore House stood on the site which now houses the Royal Albert Hall.

    Monsieur Alexis  Soyer leased the property in December 1850 in order to open his 'Gastronomic Symposium to all Nations' flamboyant restaurant in 1851. Each room had a different theme and there was a Baronial Banqueting  Hall in the grounds. He wanted to attract custom from the Great Exhibition  opposite, but food was plentiful and cheap in the exhibition and the public did  not want to tear themselves away from the spectacle and excitement there.  He had to close down after 5  months, making an enormous loss.

  • The Gore Estate

    1857

    The Gore Estate in 1857, bought in August 1852 by the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851 with part of the exhibition profits, in order to build 'Albertopolis' – the museums and the Royal Albert Hall.

  • Henry Cole & Francis Fowke

    Around 1860

     Henry Cole, to the left of the photograph, is seen here in discussion with  Francis Fowke, second left, around 1860. They collaborated on the original  designs for the Royal Albert Hall.

  • The Royal Horticultural Gardens and conservatory

    Around 1861

    The Royal Horticultural Gardens and conservatory around 1861, looking  towards Kensington Gardens. A walkway which extended around the perimeter of the  gardens provided shelter and refreshment areas.

  • A plan of the Royal Horticultural Gardens and Exhibition Building

    1863

    A plan dated 1863 of the Royal Horticultural Gardens and Exhibition Building  of 1862.

  • Early design for the Hall

    1866

    An early design for the Hall dating from 1866.

  • Queen Victoria laying the first stone of the Hall

    20 May 1867

    Her Majesty Queen Victoria laying the first stone of the Hall on 20 May 1867.

    Around 7,000 spectators assembled to catch a glimpse of the rarely seen Monarch, who announced that 'It is my wish that this Hall should bear his  name to whom it will have owed its existence and be called The Royal Albert  Hall of Arts and Sciences'.

  • The Foundations of the Hall

    Around 1868

    The foundations of the Hall around 1868; the photograph was probably taken  from the scaffolding of the Albert Memorial.  The Royal Horticultural Society  conservatory and gardens can be seen clearly behind the Hall.

  • Construction of the Hall

    Around 1869

    The construction of the Hall took from 1867 – 1871. Here, around 1869, the  unfinished Albert Memorial can be seen in the background.

  • Construction of the Roof

    1869

    The roof of the Hall was the largest of its kind ever to span an unsupported  space. In order to test the unique construction, it was erected near the works  of the Fairbairn Engineering Company in Ardwick, Manchester, who had  made the ironwork, before being dismantled and transported to South  Kensington on horse drawn vehicles in 1869.

  • Henry Cole

    1871

    Henry Cole in 1871. Cole was an extraordinary man of enormous energy. In  his time he reformed the Public Records Office, designed the first Christmas  card and steered the Great Exhibition of 1851 to great success and profit. He  was the driving force behind the design & building of the Hall, basing it on the  Amphitheatres he had seen in the South of France.

  • The opening of the Royal Albert Hall

    29 March 1871

    The opening of the Royal Albert Hall was attended by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, who, too overcome to make the opening  address, had to ask her son the Prince of Wales to announce that 'The  Queen declares this Hall is now open'.  The Hall was built with a futuristic  heating and cooling system, an hydraulic lift, 11,000 gas burners which could  all be lit within 10 seconds, and the largest organ in the world.

  • The auditorium during the opening ceremony

    29 March 1871

    The auditorium of the Hall at the opening ceremony on 29 March 1871 where  every seat was taken. There were over 50 Mayors, the Prime Minister Mr Disraeli, ambassadors, diplomats, royalty and a huge cross section of the  society of England, with an orchestra of 500 and a choir twice that size. The air was sweetened with the scent of Eau du Cologne being pumped through the ventilation, supplied by Mr Rimmel.

  • Demonstration of the first use of electricity at the Hall

    June 1873

    In June 1873 the Shah of Persia was invited to a concert, followed by a demonstration of the first use of electricity at the Hall from five points in the gallery.

  • Her Majesty Queen Victoria

    1876

    Her Majesty Queen Victoria in her box at a concert in 1876. The situation of  this box was judged to be the best acoustically in the auditorium. Note the  Hammer Cloth draped over the front of the box; this is still used today when  Her Majesty is present.

  • Wagner Festival

    May 1877

    In May 1877, Wagner himself conducted part of the Wagner Festival. It contained orchestral and sung extracts (with vocalists from the  Bayreuth Festival) from Wagner's operas, as well as marches written  by the composer.

    Later Wagner wrote to a friend that 'On entering the  Hall for the first time, it struck me at once as the beau ideal of a place  for performing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in a manner and on a  scale really worthy of the great master. If I had to conduct it, the choir would occupy the gallery and the orchestra I would arrange in the centre of the arena. The effect would be stupendous.'

  • One of the earliest photographs of the auditorium of the Hall

    Around 1880

    One of the earliest photographs of the auditorium of the Hall, taken around  1880.

  • the Royal Horticultural Gardens

    1880's

    The Hall was built at the end of what was the Royal Horticultural Gardens,  abutting their conservatory which became the South entrance to the Hall. This  conservatory which housed a fine display of plants and statues was  demolished in 1889.