A Victorian Description

According to the guide to London published by Charles Dickens's son in 1888,

Albert Hall, Kensington-rd was opened in May, 1871 and is a huge building of elliptical form in the style of the Italian Renaissance, the materials of the façade being entirely red brick and terra-cotta. The larger exterior diameter is 272 ft., interior 219 ft.; the smaller exterior 238 ft., interior 185 ft. The frieze above the balcony was executed by Messrs. Minton, Hollins & Co., and is divided into compartments containing allegorical designs by Messrs. Armitage, Armstead, Horsley, Marks, Pickersgill, Poynter, and Yeames. There are two box entrances -- on the east and west -- with a private doorway from the Horticultural Society's Gardens on the south side, and separate entrances on either side for the balcony, the gallery, and the area, and for the platforms on either side of the great organ. The interior, which is amphitheatrical in construction -- like, for example, the Coliseum at Rome -- is not very appropriate to any purpose for which it is ever likely to be required except musical performances on a large scale. For gladiaorial exhibitions of any kind, the central area, measuring 102 ft. by 68 ft., would, of course, though rather small, be capitally adapted. A bull-fight, even, on a very small scale, might be managed here. As a matter of fact, it is used almost exclusively for concerts, when the area is filled up with seats, and the surrounding tiers, specially constructed with a view to commanding the centre of the building filled with an audience whose entire attention is specially directed to the extremity, where a space has been chipped out for the orchestra, However, it is a "big thing," at all events. At the top of the hall is the picture gallery, capable of accommodating 2,000 persons and used on ordinary occasions as a promenade. There are hydraulic lifts to the upper floors. The hall is 135 ft. in height, and is crowned by a domed skylight of pointed glass, having.a central opening or lantern with a star of gas-burners. Altogether the hall is calculated to hold an audience of about 8,000, The organ was built by Mr. Henry Willis. Them are five rows of keys -- belonging to the choir, great, solo, swell, and pedal organs -- 130 stops, and 10,000 pipes, the range being ten octaves. The orchestra accommodates 1,000 performers. Large tanks are provided in case of fire on the roof of the picture gallery, and supplied with water from the artesian well of the R[oyal]l Horticultural Society, 430 ft. deep. — Dickens's Dictionary of London 1888, pp. 22-23.


Dickens, Charles. Dickens's Dictionary of London 1888. Moretonhampstead, Devon: Old House Books, 2001. [Information on this reprint of the guide to London written by the novelist's son.]

Last modified 5 October 2002