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Historic England Research Records

Royal Festival Hall

Hob Uid: 1260223
Location :
Greater London Authority
Lambeth
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : TQ3079680225
Summary : The Royal Festival Hall was built in 1949-51 and was the only permanent building to be constructed on the Festival of Britain's South Bank site. It was designed by the London County Council Architect's Department and was a replacement for the bombed Queen's Hall in Langham Place. Leslie Martin was responsible for the plan. The hall, known as the 'egg in the box', was built with foyers beneath and to either side. All were connected by stairwells, another of which led to a restaurant overlooking the river. All load-bearing walls were built from reinforced concrete, while the auditorium was clad in Derbyshire fossil stone, inside and out. In 1963-65 the exterior was rebuilt and faced predominantly in Portland stone with passages in blue-grey mosaic and some small areas of cream-brown tiling. At the same time as these alterations, foyers and terraces were added to the riverside façade and dressing rooms were added to the rear. The hall is ceiled in fibrous plaster with openings for lighting and for acoustic systems, and there is a suspended curved canopy of elm over the orchestra. The auditorium is stepped to a depth of 100 feet from the slate floor in front of the orchestral platform and main cantilevered balcony. The sides of the auditorium are gently canted on plan and mainly panelled with strips of elm. Boxes with fronts of curved profile are cantilevered off auditorium walls and connected by internal passages and backed with red wool hangings designed by Sadie Speight. The rear wall of the auditorium is canted with an organ in the centre built in 1950-53 by Harrison and Harrison of Durham to a specification by Ralph Downes and installed behind a screen of pipes designed by Leslie Martin. In the 1990s Allies and Morrison restored much of the open character of Peter Moro's foyers while in 2005-7 the hall underwent further substantial refurbishment. In 2010, a fundraising campaign was underway to raise £1.3 million to complete the restoration of the organ.
More information : The Royal Festival Hall was built in 1949-51 and was the only permanent building to be constructed on the Festival of Britain's South Bank site. It was designed by the London County Council Architect's Department and was a replacement for the bombed Queen's Hall in Langham Place. Leslie Martin was responsible for the plan.

The hall, known as the 'egg in the box', was built with foyers beneath and to either side. All were connected by stairwells, another of which led to a restaurant overlooking the river. For all load-bearing walls the main structural material was reinforced concrete, while the auditorium was clad in Derbyshire fossil stone, inside and out. In 1963-65 the exterior was rebuilt and faced predominantly in Portland stone with passages in blue-grey mosaic and some small areas of cream-brown tiling.

The auditorium is stepped to a depth of 100 feet from the slate floor in front of the orchestral platform and main cantilevered balcony. The hall is ceiled in fibrous plaster with openings for lighting and for acoustic systems, and has a suspended curved canopy of elm over the orchestra. Sides of the auditorium are gently canted on plan and mainly panelled with strips of elm. Boxes with fronts of curved profile are cantilevered off auditorium walls and connected by internal passages and backed with red wool hangings designed by Sadie Speight. The rear wall of the auditorium is canted with an organ in the centre built in 1950-53 by Harrison and Harrison of Durham to a specification by Ralph Downes and installed behind a screen of pipes designed by Leslie Martin.

In the 1990s Allies and Morrison restored much of the open character of Peter Moro's foyers. (1-5)

The Royal Festival Hall is noted as a venue for live popular misic performances since 1951. (6)

In 1964, substantial alterations were carried out which involved adding foyers and terraces to the riverside façade as well as further dressing rooms to the rear.

An 'open foyers' policy has operated at Royal Festival Hall since the late 1980s, which has allowed public access to the main foyers throughout the day. (7)

Between 2005 and 2007 the Royal Festival Hall underwent refurbishment. As part of this project, one third of the organ was reinstalled. In order to restore the rest of the organ, a campaign called 'Pull out all the stops' has been launch to raise the necessary funds. Some funding has been received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, however it is hoped that this campaign will raise the further £1.3 million needed. Restoration work is due to begin in February 2011 and should be completed by 2014. (8)

This source contains more detailed information on the design and construction of the Royal Festival Hall. It specifically elaborates on the 'egg in the box' concept and how it overcame the accoustic challenges resulting from its location adjacent to Hungerford Bridge. The source also reflects upon contemporary responses to the opening of the Royal Festival Hall. (9)

The Royal Festival Hall is a listed building and information used to create this record has been taken from the National Heritage List for England - for a full description of the site please go to this source. (10)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Lambeth, 27-MAR-1981
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Source Number : 2
Source : England: a guide to post-war listed buildings
Source details :
Page(s) : 9.6-9.8
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Source Number : 3
Source : Architects' Journal
Source details : 17-Jan-52
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Source Number : 4
Source : Architects' Journal
Source details : 24-Feb-65
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Source Number : 5
Source : Architectural review
Source details :
Page(s) : 336-405
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Vol(s) : 109, 1951
Source Number : 6
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Bacon T, 1999: "London Live", Balafon Books.
Page(s) : 45, 145
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Source Number : 7
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : 2010. Festival Hall London [accessed 21-OCT-2010]
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Source Number : 8
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Southbank Centre. 2010. Pull Out All the Stops [accessed 21-OCT-2010]
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Source Number : 9
Source : Building the post-war world: Modern architecture and reconstruction in Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 61-69
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Source Number : 10
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : English Heritage 2011. 'List entry on the National Heritage List for England' <> [accessed 15-JUL-2011]
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : 20th Century
Display Date : Additions 1963-5
Monument End Date : 1965
Monument Start Date : 1963
Monument Type : Concert Hall
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Mid 20th Century
Display Date : Built 1949-51
Monument End Date : 1951
Monument Start Date : 1949
Monument Type : Concert Hall, Restaurant, Office
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Late 20th Century
Display Date : 1990s
Monument End Date : 1999
Monument Start Date : 1990
Monument Type : Concert Hall
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : 21st Century
Display Date : Refurbished 2005-7
Monument End Date : 2007
Monument Start Date : 2005
Monument Type : Concert Hall
Evidence : Extant Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 103207
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 431968
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : FF98/00212
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : AA98/05906
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : AA98/06923
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1249756
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TQ 38 SW 1814
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1541497
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1542271
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1542297
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1542421
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1542557
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, INVESTIGATION BY RCHME/EH ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1995-11-14
End Date : 1995-11-14