The Broader Picture: Albert Faces the Future
Johnson, Rebecca, The Independent (London, England)
TEN YEARS AGO, the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gore still looked jewel-like and stable at least as you drove past it. But the image (below) was an illusion. Since 1984, the scaffolding has been up and down and the public excluded from the immediate vicinity. In 1990, Albert disappeared completely under wraps following a structural engineering survey which revealed the enormous cost of repairs and conservation the current estimate is pounds 13m. Little more than a decade after it opened in 1872, the Memorial needed the first of a long series of repairs. More than a centurys exposure to the weather was enough to produce high levels of corrosion. But the decay has been made worse because the Victorians, untypically, installed a deficient drainage system; pipe outlets soon became clogged, and water fell directly on to key decorations. The results are devastating. The lead casing has split apart, letting in water. The iron core is encrusted with rust. Only fragments remain of the gold leaf which once adorned the upper levels of the 180ft spire. The glass jewels are blackened, the paint faded. The roof is littered with pigeon droppings and feathers; there are ugly cavities where statues have been removed for repair. Charity stands in a nearby shed, her crown stuffed with straw, wisps trailing across her lovely face. Faith and Hope wait virtuously for the day they will return to their pedestals. Albert himself, however, is still in situ on his throne, a brown giant, relatively undamaged, monolithic as any Lenin or Mao but with the gentlemanly distinction the nation mourned when he died in 1861, aged 42. There has been a fierce debate about Alberts future. Some have advocated pulling the monument down and sending the statues to a museum. Other cheap options entailed removing the spire, or encasing the entire monument in a glass pyramid with a viewers gallery. Last year, when the repairs were yet again …
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Publication information: Article title: The Broader Picture: Albert Faces the Future. Contributors: Johnson, Rebecca - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 11, 1994. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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