Two of the most prominent Victorian landmarks in London, the V&A and the Royal ALbert Hall represent a Victorian focus on beauty, education and culture that goes unrivalled by any other period. These two beautiful institutions might have unique and contrasting histories, but guests of hotels in Central London might very well have heard them mentioned in the same breath.
There are several reasons for this, which we’ll get onto in a moment. But before we explore the many links between the two institutions, it’s worth providing an overview of these beautiful institutions. Whether you’re a first time guest of the Montcalm restaurant hotel or you’ve visited London many times before, the Victoria & Albert Museum of Design and the Royal Albert Hall are two must-visit cultural institutions in London.
What Is The Royal Albert Hall?
Opened in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall was a concert hall conceived by Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria. The hall was built to put on concerts for the general public and has kept its legacy alive into modern day London. Home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and programming a wealth of contemporary ballet, pop music and classical, the Royal Albert Hall’s iconic domed shape adds a dash of majesty to the South Kensington skyline.
Built by the Lucas Brothers, Prince Albert proposed the idea for the Royal Albert Hall after the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a public music hall. Unfortunately, he did not survive to see the grand opening 20 years later. When it was opened in 1871, immediate engineering problems became apparent. The dome of the hall created an echo that was not dispelled until the 1960s, when fibreglass discs were installed to dampen sound.
Alongside the many composers and musicians who played at the Royal Albert Hall, it was also the birthplace of the Central School of Speech and Drama before its move to Swiss Cottage in 1951. Central Drama School is still famous for having birthed some of the best actors and creatives to come out of England, and it was the Royal Albert Hall where Harold Pinter and Laurence Olivier trained.
Past Shows At The Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is well known for hosting some of the biggest musicians in the world. Over the years, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and BBC Proms alongside many other musicians have performed in this stunning space. In the past, the non-auditorium spaces around the hall were used for everything from Suffragette meetings, drama school lessons and even boxing matches – including several with Muhammed Ali.
What Is The V&A?
The Victoria & Albert Museum is the largest design museum of its kind and holds 2.27 million objects. Easily reachable from 5 star hotels in Central London, the V&A covers 12 and a half acres of land and has 145 million galleries, through which visitors can explore more than 5000 years of international artwork.
The V&A was opened in 1852 as the Museum of Manufactures, capitalising on some of the works left in England after the Great Exhibition. The museum was originally in Somerset House and only moved to South Kensington 3 years later. The museum’s current form took decades to build upon, and up until the end of the 19th century, it was known as the South Kensington Museum. Only when it changed its name to the V&A was its collections science and art finally separated, the former going on to be the basis of the Science Museum.
How Are the V&A And the RAH Linked?
The V&A and the Royal Albert Hall are part of what is known as “Albertopolis”, which also includes the NAtural History Museum and the Science Museum. The name comes from Prince Albert, who originally envisaged the museums, music venues, schools and lecture halls of the area as a symbol of British culture.
Italian Renaissance Stylings
The Victorian elements of the V&A were designed by a great many architects and designers including William Morris, Owen Jones, Lord Leighton and Sir Edward Poynter, all esteemed designers and architects during the Victorian era. The reason for this massive range of designers was because of the very nature of the museum. Though it was initially designed to house the works left over from the Great Exhibition, it soon changed its name from the Museum of Manufactures to the Design Museum thanks to its focus on decorative and applied arts.
One wing that links it to the Royal Albert Hall is the North Range, which was all designed in Italian Renaissance style, using terracotta and mosaic tilings. The Royal Albert Hall also made use of similar design aspects, though was designed not by V&A architects but by Captain Henry Fowkes, famous for his inspiration from Italianate architecture.
Both the V&A and the Royal Albert Hall also make use of friezes and Latin mottos, adding to the Roman inspiration of both buildings.
Echoes Of The Great Exhibition Of 1851
The Great Exhibition of 1851 inspired Prince Albert to create a series of cultural institutions in what would become the area of South Kensington. The most prominent of these were the V&A and the Royal Albert Hall, both of which would become the main attractions in “Albertopolis”.
Both Were Completed After The Prince’s Death
Sadly, both the Royal Albert Hall and the and V&A never fully came into focus as the institutions they are today until after the Prince’s death in 1861. It was only after his death that the V&A and Prince Albert adopted his name in their titles.
Both Were Created For The Benefit Of The Public
To this day, guests of hotels near Chiswell Street and further afield can enjoy these two venues, created by a Prince who believed in educating and entertaining the British public in equal measure. As a patron of the Victorian arts, Prince ALbert helped establish one of the most prominent cultural landmarks in the city, even if he never saw it come to fruition.