South Kensington's Royal Albert Hall has been one of London's most prominent entertainment venues and architectural landmarks since it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871. Located close by to The Milestone Hotel, the 5,200-capacity auditorium plays host to the finest popular and classical musicians from around the world, holding over 350 performances each year. Despite its global reputation, the Hall still has plenty of fascinating secrets to uncover. From a last-minute change of name to the history behind its instantly recognisable domed ceiling, here are a few lesser-known facts about London's famous Royal Albert Hall.
The Hall's huge pipe organ is the second largest in the UK
The imposing organ that dominates the backdrop of the main stage was built hurriedly over 14 months by Henry Willis himself. Although lauded as 'the voice of Jupiter,' the grand organ's rushed construction meant that its sound quality gradually declined. In 2002 a £1.5 million restoration project got underway, and by 2004 the instrument had grown to 9,999 pipes and 150 tonnes, making it the largest in the UK until Liverpool Cathedral's 10,268 pipes overtook it in 2007.
The Royal Albert Hall is just one small part of Albertopolis
It is a commonly known fact that the Hall's namesake is Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. A lesser-known fact is that it was originally going to be called the Hall of Arts and Science (hence the mosaic of artists and scientists that runs around the roof). The Hall was just one part of a South Kensington complex conceived by Albert, which includes the Natural History Museum, the Royal College of Art, and the V&A. The name was changed to the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate the deceased Prince Consort.
Criminals as well as musicians have graced the Hall's stage.
The Royal Albert Hall is better known for its musical matinees than its fight nights. But that didn't stop two of London's notorious gangster siblings, the Kray brothers, taking to the centre stage for a boxing match in 1951. This surprising footnote to the criminal careers of the twins makes them the only people in history to have both performed at the Albert Hall and been imprisoned in the Tower of London.
The Royal Albert Hall once banned Rock & Pop
Having welcomed in the world's biggest bands and artists, including The Beatles, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix during the 1960s, the Royal Albert Hall started the next decade with a very unloving attitude towards the rock and pop genre and a near blanket ban in March 1972. In 1971, only one of the 23 pop concerts held at the venue passed without disorder, vandalism, rioting, injury or destruction. The Hall cited public danger, staff safety, and building damage in its decision, which fortunately was soon overturned.
The Hall's oval dome is a big part of why it's so prestigious today
When the Hall's 279-tonne roof was installed, it broke the record for the largest unsupported glass dome in the world. During both World Wars, the roof had to be blacked out, but this didn't stop German pilots from using it as a navigation point. A happy side-effect of this was that the Hall survived the war relatively unscathed. The same could not be said for Queen's Hall, where the Proms had been held from 1895 until its destruction in 1941.
Hear the full story of the Royal Albert Hall for yourself on a tour whilst you stay at one of Red Carnation Hotels' London properties. The closest in proximity is The Milestone Hotel which is only a short ten minutes walk away.