Ref NoRC/75
TitleRoyal Albert Hall
DescriptionIn 1862, following the death of the Prince Consort, a Committee was appointed by Queen Victoria to give advice on the subject of a Memorial to him. In response to an enquiry from the Committee, the Commissioners offered to reserve a site on their Estate for a proposed Central Hall of Arts and Sciences which, together with the erection of a personal monument in Hyde Park, would form part of a national memorial to Prince Albert.

The Committee reporting to the Queen in 1862 were of the opinion 'that a Hall forming a central point of union where men of science and art could meet…..might be fitly recommended as marking, with the Monument, the general object of the institutions in their vicinity'.

Plans for the erection of a Hall were abandoned in 1863, public subscriptions (aided by a Government grant) proving insufficient for more than a personal memorial to the Prince, but revived in 1865 when, in addition to granting the site, the Commissioners guaranteed £50,000 towards the cost of construction, estimated at £200,000, the remainder to be raised through subscriptions. In accordance with the same rights extended to private subscribers, the Commissioners were allotted 500 seats in the completed Hall, soon afterwards acquiring a further 300 from the contractors, Messrs. Lucas, to which they had been entitled under their building contract in order to make up the shortfall in subscriptions.

The foundation stone was laid in 1867, the Charter of the Hall approved by the Commissioners and the Hall, designed by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Y.D. Scott and based on the amphitheatre at Nîmes, was opened by the Queen on 29 May 1871. In March 1872 the Commissioners granted a 999 year lease of the site at a rent of one shilling a year. Their 800 seats were placed at the disposal of the Corporation and they were to receive in return two-sevenths of the net profits from letting of the Hall.

During the Annual International Exhibitions held by the Commissioners in the years 1871 to 1874, the Corporation of the Hall permitted its use during the day by visitors and for some exhibition purposes, the money paid by the Commissioners to be used for maintenance of the Hall. When the exhibitions ended it became clear that a permanent endowment fund would be required, and by the Albert Hall Act of 1876 an annual general meeting of a majority of seat holders was empowered to rate seat holders at £1 a seat.

In 1888 the Corporation obtained a Supplemental Charter which enabled it to use the Hall for purposes not contained in the original charter and which included public or private meetings, operettas, concerts or balls. This prompted the Commissioners to state in their Seventh Report of 1889 that 'the possession of our 800 seats has …become a heavy tax on our income…and unless some means can be devised for rendering the Hall of more value to the public…it will become our duty to relieve ourselves from a portion of this charge'.

Negotiations continued until 1908 when the Commissioners assigned their 800 seats to the Corporation for the remainder of the lease period and in return relieved the Corporation of the debt of two loans totalling £8,540 and agreed to meet the cost of the completion of the south entrance to the Hall as well as the construction of vaults under the roadway.

Restrictions on use of the Hall, due to financial considerations, were further amended by the Act of Parliament of 1927. A Select Committee of the House of Lords pointed out, at the same time, the importance of keeping alive the original purpose of the Hall built as a Memorial to the Prince Consort and his vision of a great educational centre at South Kensington. The Corporation thus obtained in 1928 a Supplemental Charter by which five additional members were appointed, representing the educational institutions on the Commissioners' Estate.

Since 1908, the Commission's interest in the affairs of the Royal Albert Hall has been confined to its role as landlord, with a representative on the Council.

See also Correspondence and Papers, B/1890, 4 March, and B/1908, 11 February.
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