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Albert Memorial (London)
Member Name: edie
Albert Memorial (London)
Date: 12/03/01, updated on 12/03/01 (77 review reads)
Advantages: A rare example of true Victoriana
Disadvantages: Not a lot to see
The Albert memorial is not the sort of the place I would normally visit of a weekend. But my Ma who’s studying Victorian culture wanted to see it. So off we went to South Kensington which is a veritable Victorian theme park. There’s the V&A museum containing the remains of the Albert-inspired Great Exhibition as well as stuff looted from all over the 19th century British Empire. The Albert Hall and the directly across the road, the centrepiece of all: The Albert Memorial, sometimes irreverently nicknamed the Albertopolis.
For my mum’s essay we couldn’t have picked a better place to visit as the Albertopolis is a typical piece of Victoriana. The architecture being part gothic, part classical, part rococo and (a large) part eyesore. For some reason the designer thought it was a good idea to combine a hodge-podge of Greek-style pillars with excessive gilding and a cathedral spire. Ironically since the recent restoration it’s even more difficult to look at. The polishing has given it an excessively bright gold sheen which, on the sunny day we visited, made it impossible to look at without sunglasses.
In theme the Albert Memorial is also classically Victorian, being a combination of sentimentality and self-publicity. Despite supposedly being devoted to the dead prince, it’s mainly about extolling the virtues of Britain. The centrepiece is a big statue of Albert surrounded by tableaux symbolising the 4 corners of the British Empire: India, is elephants, North America is buffaloes etc. And at the bottom there’s smaller statues and inscriptions devoted to various notable Victorians.
Location-wise, the Albertopolis is situated in a pleasant area of Kensington Gardens, near the entrance. On Sunday this area is popular with horse riders, roller-bladers and dog walkers and you can sit on the steps people watching. As it’s in a public place it’s free to look at, although its now gated off so you
can’t get really close to Albert. (Maybe too many people put traffic cones on his head.) If you’re visiting the area its probably best to combine it with a visit to the other attractions in Kensington to make it a worthwhile visit. As, just by itself, there’s certainly worse places than the Albert memorial to spend a spring day at. But there’s also a lot better to see in London.
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