Chelsea Hospital for Women Ball
In June 1881, the first ball was held for the Chelsea Hospital for Women. The Hall was transformed into an English village for the Old English Fayre.
Fancy dress ball
A fancy dress ball in aid of the Bolingbroke House Pay Hospital.
Savage Club Entertainment
11 July 1883
The Savage Club Entertainment in aid of the Royal College of Music was held on 11 July 1883. Those attending went to great lengths to ensure their costumes were as authentic as possible. Peace pipes were smoked, and wild dancing went on until dawn.
Sheet music showing the Royal Horticultural Gardens
The cover of sheet music from around 1884 showing the Royal Horticultural Gardens with the Hall in the background, and a canal in the foreground. There is a river running beneath the Hall which used to provide water for the Hall and gardens.
Adelina Patti in 1886. She first sang at the Hall in June 1882, but it was in 1886 that her long association with the Hall really began, ending with her official farewell performance here on 1 December 1906.
In aid of The West End Hospital, an Ice Carnival was held in March 1889 in the arena, featuring an ice palace of Montreal, snow shoe races for adults and children, comic skaters and a fancy bazaar.
Henry Morton Stanley
5 May 1890
On the evening of Monday 5 May 1890 the Royal Geographical Society held a meeting to receive the explorer Henry Morton Stanley on his return from Africa.
The visit of the German Emperor
The visit of the German Emperor, July 1891, seen here seated in the Queen's box. Her box is the only double box in the Hall.
The Truth Toy Show
The Truth Toy Show in December 1894. This annual show was organised by the Truth weekly magazine, where huge numbers of dolls, toy soldiers and cuddly toys were exhibited, a prize being presented for the best dressed doll. The toys were then distributed to children in hospital.
London Hospital Ball
9 June 1903
Four thousand people attended, many having paid ten times the ticket price of a guinea for this charity event. The Hall was festooned with roses, and an international quadrille was danced by eight sets, dressed to represent the great nationalities of the world.
2 July 1904
On 2 July 1904 there was held a demonstration of Greco-Roman wrestling between the Estonian George Hackenschmidt, who lived most of his life in London and American champion Tom Jenkins, Hackenschmidt winning the purse of 2,500 pounds.
Central School of Speech and Drama
The Central School of Speech and Drama was founded at the Hall in 1906 in what was the West Theatre – now the Elgar Room. Famous actors such as Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, Vanessa Redgrave and Judi Dench trained at the Hall. In 1957 the Central School transferred to its present home in The Embassy Theatre.
Farewell appearance of Adelina Patti
1 December 1906
A poster announcing the farewell appearance of Adelina Patti on 1 December 1906.
The Civil Engineers Conversaziones
1907 - 1913
The Civil Engineers Conversaziones were held at the Hall from 1907 – 1913, the set demonstrating the early versatility of the Hall as a venue.
Women's Liberal Federation
5 December 1908
On 5 December 1908 Lloyd George, the Chancellor, addressed a meeting of the Women’s Liberal Federation. Although he delivered a speech largely in favour of votes for women, the more militant suffragettes constantly interrupted. A Miss Ogston, who was seated in a Second Tier box and who alleged she had been burnt by a lighted cigar and suffered a blow to the chest, defended herself with a dog whip. She was eventually removed by stewards.
Welsh National Eisteddfod
Two Welsh National Eisteddfodau were held at the Hall, one in 1887, one in 1909. In 1887 Prince Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales attended and in 1909, with the Prime Minister Asquith as guest speaker, suffragettes used this chance to cause disruption.
18 December 1909
On 18 December 1909 a marathon of 26 miles 385 yards or 524 circuits of the arena was run by Londoner C W Gardiner and Italian Dorando Pietri. Pietri retired in the 482nd lap; Gardiner completed the race in 2 hours and 37 minutes.
An early photograph of the exterior of the Hall
An early photograph of the exterior of the Hall taken around 1910. The chimney in the centre of the photograph was built around 1883-1887 with designs by Henry Y D Scott, the Royal Engineer who was the main architect of the Hall, in order to serve the flues; it replaced another that was further south- west. It sits above the main steam boilers and is still in use today, carrying CO2 from the boilers. The chimney is a listed building along with the Hall.
Chelsea Arts Club Ball
22 February 1911
Since the turn of the century, the Chelsea Arts Ball was held by local artists on Mardi Gras, initially in their Chelsea Studios, then at Chelsea Town Hall and later Covent Garden.
As the event became more popular, in 1910 it was moved to the Royal Albert Hall. Originally held in March, the date was eventually changed to New Year's Eve and the Balls were renowned for their exuberance and extravaganza. Unfortunately the high spirits got out of hand in 1958, when a smoke bomb was thrown and several revellers needed treatment. The Ball was banned until a revival in 1984/5 by the Chelsea Arts Club.
The event was themed each year, e.g. Old English in 1914, Prehistoric in 1920, Looking Backwards in 1935 and in 1950 The Crystal Festival. Art schools participated by decorating floats, which were driven on to the Great Floor and demolished at midnight. Dancing, dining and drinking continued until the early hours, and fancy dress or evening dress essential although nudity was not unheard of.
20 June 1911
For the Shakespeare Ball of 20 June 1911, designer Sir Edwin Lutyens transformed the interior of the Hall into an idyllic Italian garden with pillars, clipped yew trees, vine clad bowers, grassy slopes and a brilliant blue sky. Crowned heads of Europe dressed in Elizabethan costume danced until dawn.