Construction of the hall by the contractors, the Lucas Brothers, was relatively quick, opening just four years after work began in 1867. It cost £200,000 to build, and included six million bricks and 80,000 terracotta tiles. The exterior was built in dark red brick, with dark joints, contrasting with the fawn-coloured terracotta mouldings.
The elliptical plan covered a large area, with major and minor axes of 83 metres and 72 metres respectively. The roof, designed by H.Y.D. Scott, was an impressive piece of engineering. Francis Fowke's earlier design was supported by buttresses and with a flat central ceiling, but Scott replaced it with a completely curvilinear roof of iron and glass.
Queen Victoria renames the hall
The foundation stone for the Central Hall of Arts and Science was laid by Queen Victoria on 20 May 1867. This was one of her first public engagements after the death of her husband, six years before. The queen was so moved during the ceremony that, apparently without consulting the commissioners, she renamed the building the Royal Albert Hall.
This view of the site was taken from the top of the Albert Memorial, which was under construction at the same time. The photograph was probably taken in August 1868 and it belonged to Sir Henry Cole, the main organiser of the project.
Immediately behind the hall sits the conservatory of the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens. Beyond that in the distance are Cromwell Road and the Southern Gallery.
This aerial view gives an impression of the vast scale, and distinctive profile of the hall. It was apparently due to this that during the Second World War the German Luftwaffe deliberately left the hall alone as it acted as a good marker for their bombers.