Find out more about events at the Royal Albert Hall during the 1800s.
HRH The Prince of Wales declared the Hall officially open on behalf of his mother HM Queen Victoria, who was present but too overcome with emotion to speak as she was reminded of her late husband, Prince Albert, who had died a decade earlier, never having seen the Hall named in his honour.
The Royal Choral Society was founded at the Hall as the Royal Albert Hall Choral Society in 1871. Their first concert was held on 8 May 1872 attended by HM Queen Victoria and conducted by Charles Gounod, and they have performed Handel’s Messiah on Good Friday afternoon at the Royal Albert Hall every year since 1878.
They regularly perform here on occasions other than this and are probably the organisation with the longest standing relationship with the Hall.
In accordance with its Royal Charter, the Hall was used almost instantly after its opening as a venue to house an array of national and international exhibitions promoting the Arts and Sciences. The first was the London International Exhibition of Fine Arts and Industry in 1871.
Subsequent exhibitions were held for a whole variety of trades including medical and sanitary wares, electric lighting, food and drink, and even bicycles.
The state reception of The Shah of Persia included him attending a music concert at the Hall, which was lavishly decorated for the occasion.
Before the music began, a demonstration was held displaying the first ever use of electric lighting at the Hall, which shone down from five points in the gallery.
Richard Wagner himself conducted the first half of each of the eight concerts which made up the Grand Wagner Festival.
After his turn with the baton he handed it over to conductor Gerhard Richter and sat in a large arm chair on the corner of the stage for the rest of each concert.
Organised by The Savage Club, a London gentleman’s club, this was the Hall’s first ever ball.
Those who enjoyed a champagne supper and fancy dress included HRH the Prince and Princess of Wales.
The crowd-pleasers of their day, Sunday Concerts were a constant for more than six decades.
Organ recitals and singers like Dame Nellie Melba and Adelina Patti provided popular weekly afternoon entertainment.
Famous Welsh explorer and journalist Sir Henry Morton Stanley took to the stage in front of an audience of the HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Princess of Wales to talk about his life’s adventures, including his travels in Africa and legendarily finding Dr Livingstone.
Thomas Barnardo founded his children’s charity in 1866 and appeared here in person in 1890 and throughout the 19th Century.
Today the Barnardo’s Young Supporters Concerts are an annual fixture, with schoolchildren making music to raise funds for Barnardo’s, the UK’s leading children’s charity.
‘The Coming Race and Vril-Ya Bazaar and Fete’ is widely regarded as the first sci-fi convention ever held, being a gathering specifically inspired by the science fiction story, Vril: The Power of The Coming Race by Lord Lytton.
The Hall was transformed to resemble the city of Vril-ya, inhabited by a race of winged, subterranean super-beings. Mannequins representing winged Vril-ya flew above the auditorium. Stalls featured Vril themed magic shows, fortune telling, indoor fishing and one stall sold cups of Bovril (the beef extract) drink, whose brand name was a created from a mix of the words ‘Bovine’ and ‘Vril’.
The Truth Doll and Toy Show was an annual Christmas fixture at the Royal Albert Hall, organised by the journal Truth. The show was originally held in hotels before it became so popular a larger venue was needed.
70,000 visitors filled the Hall for the first show held here in 1892. Thousands of dolls made and dressed by the journal’s female readers were displayed which were judged and later presented to children in London’s hospitals, workhouses, orphanages and Poor Law schools.
Since 1895 the religious and charitable organisation the Salvation Army has held fundraising, music and commissioning events here.
Founder General William Booth was an early speaker.
Almost 100 missionary meetings were held from the end of the 19th Century, bidding farewell to missionaries before they embarked on overseas journeys to evangelise.
Organisations such as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and the Church Missionary Society continued to use the Hall annually up until the 1950s.