AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

Royal Albert Hall Collection

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2000 RAH
Held at: Royal Albert Hall Archive
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Royal Albert Hall Collection
Date(s): 1860s-
Level of description: Collection level
Extent: 100 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences


Administrative/Biographical history:

Following the 1851 Great Exhibition (May 1-Oct 15 1851), the Commissioners of the Exhibition spent the bulk of the profits together with money from the government to buy the Kensington Gore Estate, in South Kensington, which lay opposite the Exhibition's location in Hyde Park. Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, proposed that a permanent series of facilities be built on the site for the enlightenment of the public including a 'music hall' . Progress on the scheme was slow and sadly in 1861 Prince Albert died without having seen his ideas come to fruition. The following year, Sir Henry Cole was given H.M. Queen Victoria's blessing to build the music hall if built in conjunction with a memorial to Albert. Sir Henry Cole directed the project and Captain Francis Fowke's drew up the Hall's designs, but unfortunately died in December 1865 leaving the design work to Colonel Henry Scott R.E. In 1867 the Commissioners granted the lease of 999 years on the site of the Hall at an annual rental of one shilling. To fund the Hall's construction private investors could buy seats at 100 pounds each - two of the first buyers were Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. In April Queen Victoria signed the Royal Charter under which the Hall operates and Lucas Brothers began building the foundations of the Hall. In April Queen Victoria laid the Hall's foundation stone and declared the building would from then on be known as the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences. The Hall's official opening ceremony was on 29 March 1871, at which the Hall's aim was described as, to be the 'finest in Europe for seeing, hearing and convenience', which its still aims to be today.

The list of famous performers, sports people, and world figures who have appeared at the Royal Albert Hall since it opened in 1871 is unrivalled. Wagner, Verdi and Elgar conducted the first UK performance of their own works on its concert platform, Rachmaninov played his own compositions and nearly every major classical solo artist and leading orchestra has performed at the Hall. The list of popular music artists includes Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Oscar Peterson, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Sting and Elton John and from a younger generation Adele, Jay Z, Kaiser Chiefs and the Killers. Sports men and women from a wide array of disciplines including boxing legend Mohammed Ali, tennis player John McEnroe and Sumo grand champions have entertained the Hall's audiences. Among leading world figures who have spoken at the Hall are Her Majesty The Queen, Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, His Holiness The Dalai Lama and former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton. The Hall hosts several annual events including Cirque du Soleil, Teenage Cancer Trust concerts, the Royal Bristish Legion Festival of Remembrance, English National Ballet and the Henry Wood Promenade concerts every summer.


Scope and content/abstract:

Royal Charter, publications, artworks and furniture, press cuttings and ephemera.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:


System of arrangement:

The collection is not catalogued

Conditions governing access:

The collection is available to the public by appointment only

Conditions governing reproduction:

Reproduction is at the discretion of the Archivist and in accordance with Copyright and Data Protection legislation

Finding aids:

Finding aids exist for the collection

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Royal Albert Hall

Allied Materials

Related material:

English Heritage (GB 0074 LMA/4441) hold a file relating to the Royal Albert Hall building. External Institutions, Societies and Bodies associated with Imperial College (GB 0098 ABM-AX) holds papers relating to the Royal Albert Hall, 1866-1967, including charter, 1866 (AED). The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (GB 0000) hold correspondence concerning the South Kensington estate, 1851-2002, including the establishment, building and subsequent development of the Royal Albert Hall. The Royal Institute of British Architects holds journal articles and material related to the Royal Albert Hall building.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2012