Ahead of the Hall’s 150th birthday in 2021, we’re installing a new two-storey basement to house a new multi-purpose space, improving the experience here for artists, schools and visitors.

The project, affectionately named The Great Excavation, is well under way, and over 3,000m³ of earth has been removed from the south-west side of the building to make room for this new space.

As the digging part of the project nears its end, we thought we’d share with you a few of the items uncovered during the dig so far, all of which help tell the story of what life was like when the Hall was being constructed:


A lion’s foot

Well, a statue of one at least. We’re not sure where this came from, but the Royal Horticultural Society’s conservatory used to sit to the south of the Hall, so it’s quite possible that the foot is a discarded relic from there.

The Great Excavation. Royal Albert Hall)

Alternatively, we aren’t ruling out the idea that The White Witch actually got her way. Poor Aslan…


A pipe

The Great Excavation. Royal Albert Hall)

Clay pipes were a common fixture in the mouths of Londoners from about the 1600s. The white clay which held the tobacco was weak and cheap, so would often break and be discarded.


Ink pots

The Victorians didn’t have Facebook, which probably explained why they achieved so much. Old-fashioned ink was their thing, and given the amount of ink pots we’ve uncovered, they got through pots of it like there was no tomorrow.

The Great Excavation. Royal Albert Hall)

Our friends at the Museum of London have dated these pots to be from around 1850-1860, and whilst there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about these, we’ll just assume that some of the era’s great musical works were DEFINITELY written using the contents from these discarded pots.


Oysters

We found hundreds of these things down there…

Now regarded as a delicacy, oysters actually used to be cheap and plentiful, with sellers being common on the streets of London and oysters often given away free in pubs to encourage people to buy a drink.

The Great Excavation. Royal Albert Hall)

It’s estimated that Victorian-era costermongers sold around 124 million oysters a year in London, with most of them being brought up to Billingsgate market from Essex and Kent.


Bovril

A jar of the beef tea of choice for football fans the nation over was also unearthed.

Here’s a weird Bovril / Royal Albert Hall connection. Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s sci-fi novel, The Coming Race tells the story of the Vril-ya, telepathic beings powered by an electromagnetic substance named Vril, who posed a huge threat to the human race. This popular book spawned a six-day celebration at the Hall called the Vril-ya Bazaar in 1891 – widely regarded as the first sci-fi convention.

The Great Excavation. Royal Albert Hall)

Still with me? Great. Bovril inventor John Lawson Johnston was a fan of the book, and thought that the effects of Vril weren’t all too dissimilar to those of his new beef-extract drink, which inspired his naming of the product.

Johnston’s new creation, was showcased and sampled by the thousands of visitors to the Vril-ya Bazaa. So there’s the connection!


We’ll have some new pictures of how The Great Excavation is coming along shortly, but for now we’re all off for a cheeky oyster.

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