It is an unlikely truth that the man behind the magnificent memorial to Queen Victoria’s beloved husband Prince Albert is perhaps best known as a designer of workhouses for the poor and destitute.
Located in Kensington Gardens in London, The Albert Memorial was commissioned by Queen Victoria after the death of her husband Prince Albert, in 1861. It was designed by Gothic revival English architect Sir Gilbert Scott. His earlier career had focused on the design of workhouses but with a portfolio of over 800 British buildings either designed or changed by him he was a prominent and well respected person.
The monument took a staggering 10 years to complete at a cost of £120,000. It was opened in 1872 by Queen Victoria herself who was adamant that she wanted a memorial in the strictest sense. Others had suggested a number of possibilities to commemorate Albert’s life including establishing a university in his name or even the forming of an international scholarship but the Queen would not hear of it. Finally, in 1862, the politician and Lord Mayor of London, William Cubitt, appointed a committee to raise public funds to have a memorial designed that would meet Victoria’s approval.
However, things changed later when it was decided that some trusted advisors closer to Queen Victoria would be appointed to take charge of the project namely, the Queen’s secretary, General Charles Grey and the keeper of the Privy Purse, Sir Charles Phipps. Their influence carried on until their deaths when the roles were taken on by Sir Henry Ponsonby, a royal court official and courtier Sir Thomas Biddulph.
On the monument marble sculptures represent Europe, Asia, Africa and America. There are also sculptures symbolising trade and business in Victorian times.
The Parnassus frieze that goes all around the base of the memorial represents the love and appreciation of art that Prince Albert enjoyed throughout his life time and the figures depict poets, painters, sculptors, musicians and architects.
The memorial is amongst London’s main tourist attractions.
THE SECRET CHAMBER
Sir George Gilbert Scott’s design was finally approved by the Queen in 1863 and the negotiations finalised. Above ground the monument is very impressive and a ‘befitting’ memorial dedicated to a much loved royal husband. But … most visitors will be unaware of the underground structure that supports the memorial.
The monument stands 176 feet high, weighing thousands of tonnes and any building of this magnitude has to have solid foundations that can take the weight. Underground in a chamber, sadly unseen by the public, are more than 800 columns and arches assisting with the support of the structure above the ground. The only evidence that anything exists below ground is a manhole.
What stands above the ground is admired and photographed by crowds of international tourists every year. What lies below is a testament to some of the most skilled design and engineering in the world. If it was permissible for visitors to go into the underground chambers there is little doubt that they would attract as many people as the Albert Memorial itself.
Walton on Thames
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Fieldcommon Lane, Walton on Thames
Surrey, England, KT12 3QG
+44 (0)1932 220 392
- Address: Kensington Gardens, Kensington Road, London, England, United Kingdom, W2 2UH
- GPS: 51.503437,-0.17511600000000271
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: W2 2UH
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: Excellent
- Visibility from Road: Excellent
- Image Credits: Dan Breckwoldt