Grand Tour of the Royal Albert Hall
In February, 20 GTO readers and guests were invited to take part in a Grand Tour of the Royal Albert Hall in London. Fiona Horan reports back.
We arrived at Door 12 to be greeted by Bridget Nolan, Tours Manager at the Royal Albert Hall.
We were then split into two groups for the Grand Tour. The guide for our group was Marjan Pantjes, who first took us to one of the boxes for a view of the Hall’s impressive auditorium. We learnt that the stalls and arena floor can be changed to accommodate different formats. It’s even possible to remove the stalls altogether and raise the arena floor to create an enormous flat space for balls and exhibitions. This was done in the 1930s for the Ford Motor Shows.
After this, we had a peek at the Royal Box and then into the Royal Retiring Room opposite the box, which includes the private staircase (and gorgeous chandelier) enjoyed by the royal family when they visit. The Royal Box is actually owned by the Queen, as it was purchased by Queen Victoria when the Royal Albert Hall was built. Many boxes and seats were sold on leases of 999 years to help fund the building of the Hall.
We then visited the Rausing Circle, followed by the Verdi Restaurant, where we were treated to a delicious lunch with wine and coffee provided by the Hall’s award-winning caterers rhubarb.
Afterwards, it was off to see some of the recent additions to the building. The Royal Albert Hall underwent an extensive redevelopment from 1998 to 2004, with several more storeys added under the basement level. In particular, this allowed the creation of a new loading bay – which has enabled the Hall to host larger shows such as Cirque du Soleil. We also saw the current excavation work that will create more room for offices, heating systems and dressing rooms.
The Royal Albert Hall offers a great day out for groups, with both general and specialist tours available, plus lunch or afternoon tea packages. Many thanks to Bridget and her team for looking after us so well – and seeing the trapeze artists from Cirque du Soleil rehearse was an extra bonus!
“What a wonderful day we had at The Royal Albert Hall. It was faultless! Every moment was special and I came home with many happy memories.”
John, Croydon Crusaders
“We both thoroughly enjoyed our tour with Marjan, and went into places that you normally do not see. I found the loading bay and the new underground extensions going on a real ‘mind-blower’.”
Wendy, Ware U3A