The Halls

Summary of the Halls

The Victoria and Albert Halls were gifted to the Ballater community by Alexander Gordon who grew up in Girnoc just outside Ballater.  He worked at Lochnagar Distillery before moving to London where he made his fortune as a brewer.  The Albert Hall opened in 1874, the Victoria Hall following in 1895.  Alexander Gordon was very particular about the management he wanted for his gift.  He set up a Deed of Direction which nominated a Board of Trustees from specific members of the community - minister, headmaster, doctor etc.  He altered the Deed from time to reflect what he saw as the best management base – adding some elected members from “the ratepayers of the Parish”.  In essence the Trustees themselves nominated new additions when necessary. 

The Trustees continued to manage the Halls until 1984.  By this time, the Victoria and Albert Halls Development Association had been set up to manage the property and to carry out much needed refurbishment.  At this time, the Trust assumed the role of landlord, with the Association being tenants.  Extensive refurbishment was carried out, and the building was re-opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1987.

The building continued to be used for a wide range of community purposes with some income deriving from rentals, Cairngorms National Park Authority currently occupies the lower floor of the Albert Hall which used to be the old Post Office . 

New legislation and the expectations of modern users made it imperative that further and much more extensive refurbishment be carried out.  A sub-group of the Association was formed under the leadership of Ian Hay to explore all the options.  After some initial community consultation, it was clear that a full options appraisal was required, and this needed to be carried out by experts in the conservation of listed buildings.  Chartered Architects Hurd Rolland were employed after some fundraising.  There followed in depth consultations to establish the needs of the community, studies of the building and its structure, re-configuration of the space to provide better kitchen and toilet facilities, insulation and heating requirements and much more.  (The full reports are available).  It turned out to be a wish list, rather than what was manageable, and the final cost was reckoned to be in the region of £4 million!

Once we picked ourselves up, we realized that we had to look at what was realistic, bearing in mind the size of our community, the current financial climate and how we could progress in stages.  At the same time, we have to work to bring the Trust and the Association together under one body since neither have all requirements to access major funding pots – the Trust owns the building, and the Association has a modern Constitution, elected committee etc.  We are on the verge of setting up a new management body – a Scottish Incorporated Charitable Organisation – which will combine ownership and accountable management, and allow us to access funding.

Our intention is to work our way through each stage of the refurbishment as funds become available, whilst ensuring that the building continues to provide a sustainable community base for all ages and needs.

The 'baronial' building of the Victoria and Albert Halls with its imposing tower, is an excellent example of the work of William Duguid and Sons, Builders and Contractors. They built many of the fine edifices remaining today, like the Auld Kirk. Darroch Learg is of the same period but has later additions. The tree-lined Braemar Road was the home of the 'better off', most of the houses facing the road. (Several of these houses are now hotels.) Balgonie, formerly called Beauvais, was built in 1898 by James Jamieson, a lawyer. Craigendarroch was the home of the Dundee family of Keiller. The Towers (St. Andrew's Nursing Home) and Craigendarroch House reflect the confidence and prosperity of some residents. Many folk, of course, were not in such comfortable circumstances. A great many houses had little 'sleep-outs' (cottages) at the back to which the family retired to allow summer visitors the use of the main house.

Victoria & Albert Halls funded by: