Monday, September 20, 2010

Royal Albert Hall and Seats Leased for 999 Years

North side of Royal Albert Hall across Kensington Gardens.
The immense domed building known as Royal Albert Hall is one of London's major entertainment venues hosting over 350 events a year to a capacity of up to 5,200 seats.

The venue opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria is named in memorial of her husband Prince Albert who died of typhoid ten years earlier. The entire project was funded by selling seats on 999-year leases which still exist today with 856 years remaining. The lease gives the owners the right to see most performances. If they do not want to use their ticket, they can give them to family or friends or sell them back through the Albert Hall. About one-third of performances are deemed 'exclusive' and owners are not allocated seats.

Detail of exterior.
Most seats or boxes are passed from generation to generation but they can be bought or sold at will. About 1,200 of the venue's seats are privately owned. In 2008, a box of ten seats sold for £1.2 million (almost US$2 million), the same as a house in one of London's exclusive neighborhoods.

Upcoming events were concerts by Sting, A-Ha, Cliff Richard, Van Morrison, Jeff Beck, and the Steve Miller Band. Many theatre fans will recognize the venue from the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Celebration and Chess in Concert, the latter starring Josh Groban. Along the halls are photographs of many of the famous events held at the venue.

Visiting the venue is restricted to guided tours outside of events. Although no photography is allowed, the lively presentation of the guide was steeped in interesting stories of the history and events making the one-hour visit feel brisk. The tour also leads you to the box and rooms meant for use by the Royal Family.

Photograph of the event to celebrate the release of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix".
There are up to five tours every day except Wednesday starting from 10:30am. Tours depart from the South Porch door. Since Royal Albert Hall is a working venue, tours are subject to change. Admission is £8. More info at

Visiting South Kensington's major attractions is impossible in a day. Among other attractions near Royal Albert Hall are the V&A Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the Albert Memorial (see next post). All can be reached from a lengthy underground pedestrian tunnel that connects to the South Kensington tube station.

Hallway on the ground level of the venue.
South side of Royal Albert Hall.


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