blog.categories.trip-and-adviceHistory, art and culture
Dom Bewley

Royal Albert Hall Facts You Need to Know

From Nina Simone to One Direction, the Royal Albert Hall has withstood the test of time. It's persisted as one of London's most exciting performance venues, right up there with the best. And it remains one of London's most iconic buildings, a true gem in Royal Albert Hall London's cultural crown.

Designated a Grade I Historic Building, there's no surprise that it's brimming with interesting facts and history of Royal Albert Hall. That alone is a fact. But there are many more to discover. So why not take a few with you when you visit? Here are our favourite Royal Albert Hall facts!

When Was the Royal Albert Hall Built?

The first year that the Royal Albert Hall opened, it showed just 36 shows. While it may seem complicated to believe now, the venue opened its doors to the public in 1871. Sure, it was 1871 and things may have been slower back then. However, the growth of its events calendar has been phenomenal. These days, it hosts roughly 400 events a year. That's over ten times the shows. Well done, Albert. Quite the jump.

How Old is the Royal Albert Hall?

As one of London's oldest and most iconic performance spaces, the Royal Albert Hall has been a massive fixture of British entertainment. In 2021, it celebrated its 150th birthday. And you can bet your bottom dollar they celebrated in style.

In fact, the celebration involved a massive project called The Great Excavation. In a nutshell, a huge renovation project will be underway. However, unlike the ever-rising London skyline, Albert will benefit from a gargantuan basement. Because it's deep.

What is the Royal Albert Hall's Record-Breaking Feature?

The gigantic glass dome that covers Royal Albert Hall is no small feat, spanning over 20,000 square feet. It was designed by the team that conceived the glass roof of St Pancras station. However, the Royal Albert Hall was much more ambitious. The dome still stands as the largest unsupported glass dome in the world. They first built a test dome out in Ardwick before constructing it in London. At least they had a practice run.

During WW1 and WW2, the Royal Albert Hall was used as a landmark for war pilots. Since Albert has such an eye-catching roof, enemy pilots used it to reorient themselves while bombing the capital. The roof was painted black during the war, but it remained standing, resilient as ever.

The Inside Scoop - A Design Change

If you look up at the top of the Royal Albert Hall, a large white mosaic of scientists and artists lines the hall roof. Major-General Scott, its architect, originally intended for it to be a sculptural mosaic but had to settle for a flat version due to budget constraints.

How Many Seats in Royal Albert Hall?

It might interest you to know that the Royal Albert Hall can seat over 5,200 people. So, if you're planning to catch a show or book a tour through The London Pass®, make sure to pick your favourite spot.

There's a message written along the roof of the Royal Albert Hall

You'll have to squint to see this one. At the top of the hall's mosaic is a narrow white band covered in text. It reads:

This Hall was erected for the advancement of the Arts & Sciences and works of industry of all nations in fulfilment of the intention of Albert Prince Consort. The site was purchased with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of the year MDCCCLI. The first stone of the Hall was laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the twentieth day of May MDCCCLXVII and it was opened by Her Majesty the twenty-ninth of March in the year MDCCCLXXI. Thine O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. The wise and their works are in the hand of God. Glory be to God on high and on Earth peace.

So, yeah. That's a thing.

Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Steps

The grand staircase at the back of Royal Albert Hall originally had a very straightforward name. The South Steps. However, they were understandably subjected to brutal London weather and the wear and tear of thousands of feet. So, they were desperately in need of an upgrade.

Good news - they finally got one in 2004. Then, in 2013, they were renamed 'the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Steps'. The Queen even attended the naming ceremony.

The Cost of Preservation

The striking Henry Willis organ at the Royal Albert Hall originally cost 8,000 pounds to construct. However, its recent restoration between 2002-2004 cost over a million pounds! That's dedication to preserving its grandeur.

The 'Mushrooms' Solving the Acoustic Problem

Due to the unusual domed ceiling, the Royal Albert Hall had bad acoustics. Back in the 1960s, 135 fibreglass acoustic diffusers were hung from the top to solve the issue. They're commonly referred to as 'mushrooms'!

Queen Victoria laid the hall's foundation stone

Back in 1867, a big ceremony was held to celebrate the construction of the Royal Albert Hall. Queen Victoria attended, and she was given the honour of laying the hall's foundation stone. Befittingly, she used a golden trowel to do the job. If you're sitting in Stalls K, row 11, seat 87, you'll still be able to catch a glimpse of the inscribed slab. So pick the right seat!

Where is Royal Albert Hall?

If you're new to London and wondering where is Royal Albert Hall, it's located in South Kensington, right next to Hyde Park. Perfect for a little greenery before or after your visit.

And that's our list of Royal Albert Hall facts. Hope you enjoyed them! Why not take a closer a look and book a tour? With The London Pass®, where one pass gives you access to 100+ London attractions, it's never been easier. And after, go check out Kensington Palace.

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