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Pronounced /ˌælbətˈɒpəlɪs/Help with pronunciation

Albertopolis is a group of cultural sites in South Kensington, London, that includes the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal College of Art, the Royal College of Music, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, Imperial College and the Royal Albert Hall.

Following the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851, which made a substantial profit, Prince Albert proposed that land should be bought to continue the aims of the Exhibition and to extend “the influence of Science and Art upon Productive Industry” by building museums, colleges, schools, concert halls, and premises for learned societies. In 1852 the Commissioners for the Great Exhibition (who still exist) acquired eighty acres of farmland, but most of the scheme was completed only after Prince Albert’s untimely death in 1861.

The term Albertopolis seems to have been invented in the 1860s as a slang term for this emerging cultural area, but quickly vanished again and reappeared only as the result of an unsuccessful proposal in the 1990s to extend Albert’s vision. It is now fairly common as a semi-affectionate term for the area:

Christopher Cook, who's got one of those lovely, cultured radio voices, tells the strange tale of Henry Young Darracott Scott — The Albertopolis Wine King. Scott helped to build the Albert Hall, then filled its cellars with fine wines that he bequeathed to the nation.

Daily Mail, 28 Jul. 2010.

It returned to the news in 2011 through a major exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum with the title Albertopolis: The Development of South Kensington and the Exhibition Road Cultural Quarter.

The area is also sometimes known as Coleville, after Sir Henry Cole, the art expert and administrator who implemented much of Albert’s plan and who became the first director of the V&A.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 12 Sep 1998; Last updated 19 Nov 2011