Opened in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall is one of London’s most iconic buildings. The world’s greatest musicians, dancers, sportsmen and statesmen have appeared on its stage.
Coming to the Royal Albert Hall? Take a walk round the Hall and spot these 6 iconic features, including the ornate Albert Memorial, 400 famous faces on the Peter Blake Mural, 85 ‘mushrooms’ and 9,999 pipes of the great organ.
Door 6 is the historic royal entrance to the Hall. On 29 March 1871, Queen Victoria entered the building through this arched entrance to officially open the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences.
Standing at Door 6, it is hard to miss the huge gold monument over the road in Hyde Park – the Albert Memorial. This 54 metre high memorial is dedicated to Queen Victoria’s husband, the eponymous Prince Albert.
This Hall was originally going to be called the ‘Central Hall of Arts and Sciences’ but, after Prince Albert sadly died before seeing its construction fully realised, it was renamed by Queen Victoria the ‘Royal Albert Hall’, in honour of the man who envisioned it.
Peter Blake Mural
Inside the Royal Albert Hall at Door 12 you will see a magnificent mural masterpiece – Sir Peter Blake’s Appearing at the Royal Albert Hall. On this artwork you can spot over 400 stars who have performed on our stage from its opening in 1871 to the present day.
See if you can spot music legends Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix, and pivotal figures in world history including Albert Einstein, Sir Winston Churchill and Muhammad Ali, next to modern stars such as Adele, One Direction and Jay-Z.
Memorial for the Exhibition of 1851
The South Porch at Door 12 may look identical to the others, but it is much newer and only opened in 2004!
The steps leading south to the grand Royal College of Music are the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Steps, and in the middle is the Memorial for the Exhibition of 1851. This monument records the success of the Great Exhibition, the international exhibition held in Hyde Park in 1851 organised by Henry Cole and Prince Albert.
The success of this exhibition paid for the construction of not only the Royal Albert Hall, but South Kensington’s entire cultural quarter, including the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert museum.
As you walk around the outside of the Hall, take in the building’s distinctive exterior which is built from over 6 million red bricks and 80,000 blocks of terracotta.
Look up and you’ll spot a mosaic frieze encircling the top of the building. The frieze is 800 feet long and depicts the advancement of the Arts and Sciences of all nations through 16 different allegorical groups.
INSCRIPTION RUNNING THE LENGTH OF THE FRIEZE
Take a look in the auditorium
You can only go in the main auditorium if you have a ticket to a show there, or on a guided tour.
If you do get a chance to look inside this iconic space, check out these unique features:
The 85 fibreglass saucers which hang from the auditorium ceiling are acoustic diffusers affectionally known as mushrooms.
Before acoustic tests were carried out in the late 1960s, the Hall suffered badly from echoing caused by the cove of its ceiling. This arrangement of the fibre-glass dishes improve the quality and immediacy of sound for audience members all around the auditorium.
The Great Organ
The great Henry Willis organ was once the largest instrument in the world.
The instrument was first played at the Royal Albert Hall’s Opening Ceremony on 29 March 1871. Over the years the organ has been restored and enlarged, and now has a total number of 9,999 pipes which, laid end to end, would span almost nine miles!
The organ measures 70 ft high and 65 ft wide, and weighs in at 150 tonnes. The largest of the 9,999 pipes measures 2 ft 6” in diameter, 42 ft high and weighs almost 1 tonne – the smallest pipe is about as wide as a drinking straw.