Royal Albert Hall

Initial designs

Design for a Hall of Science and Art

Photograph of original drawing
Architect: Alfred Monday Ridge
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings & Archives Collections

In 1853 the Prince Consort had the idea to invite the Royal Academy of Music to build a music hall on the south side of Cromwell Road. This was never taken up and by 1863 a site in the north of the estate was reserved for a Hall of Arts & Science.

Following the death of Albert in 1861 the idea of a hall was combined with that of a memorial for the prince. A committee was formed and architects were asked for suggestions. Very little is known of the designs put forward, although all were planned to be smaller structures than that eventually built.

Classical and Gothic design proposals

This design was produced by the little-known architect Alfred Monday Ridge. It appears that Ridge's design did not find favour with the committee, however this perspective was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1865 and won a Gold Medal.

Only two other proposals have been illustrated, that by T.L. Donaldson and P.C. Hardwick, and a plan by Pennethorne was recorded. All three were classical and rectangular, very different to Ridge's Gothic building.

The winning design

All the drawings of the winning entry by George Gilbert Scott have disappeared. By his own description, it was a large domed structure modelled on the Haghia Sophia in Istanbul. When Scott’s design was selected in 1863 it was realised that the funds would only stretch to the memorial, and the hall was put on hold.

By February 1865 Scott's name had been dropped from the project. It's not clear exactly how or why he was dropped. However, it is interesting to remember his design, and that of Ridge and Donaldson, to illustrate how very differently people envisaged the music hall, and ultimately how different their designs were to that built.