Royal College Of Music

Royal College of Organists

Photograph of the Royal College of Organists in 1876

National Training School for Music, later the Royal College of Organists, 1874-75
Photographer: York & Son, c.1876
Architect: Lieutenant H.H. Cole (1843-1916)
Copyright: Reproduced by permission of English Heritage. NMR 

This unusual building was built in 1874-75 to accommodate the new National Training School for Music. The site given to the school by the 1851 Commissioners was to the west of the Albert Hall, as it was believed that here the noise from practise would be less disruptive to the neighbourhood.

The architect was Lieutenant H.H. Cole, the eldest son of Henry Cole, and he gave his services for free. He had just returned from India, having published work on Indian archaeology and architecture. He had also catalogued the casts for the Indian section of the South Kensington Museum. This interest and knowledge can be seen in his design, although his father and members of the Science and Art Department were also consulted.

A contrast to the Royal Albert Hall

The combination of the Old English style of the 15th century, with its large oriel windows timber framing and brackets, with Italianate plaster ornament and polychromatic façade give the building a foreign feel.

The school was intended to contrast with the neighbouring Royal Albert Hall, therefore red brick and terracotta were avoided. Instead, cream, pale blue and maroon sgraffito (incised plaster) decoration was adopted, designed by F.W. Moody, who had also designed for the South Kensington Museum. The frieze features numerous musicians, reflecting the function of the building.

History of occupation

The building and school was opened in May 1876, with Sir Arthur Sullivan as its first principal. In 1883 the school was replaced by the Royal College of Music, who were already preparing to move to a larger site by 1887. The building stood vacant from 1896 until 1903 when the Royal College of Organists (founded 1863) took a lease for the site for 99 years.

The organists left the building in 1990. Once again the building remained unoccupied for a while, but it has now been converted and restored for use as a private house.