Now, my knowledge of London is sufficient to tell me that this whopper was never built, and Kensington Gardens was the eventual recipient of a much smaller, but equally grandiose, memorial to Victoria’s late husband.
Does anyone know the story behind this proposed monument? How tall would it have been? (Pretty damn tall, that much is clear, judging by the way it dwarfs the Victoria tower at the far end of the Houses of Parliament- the Victoria tower is no tiddler itself). Why was it not built? (Cost? Or did the Archbishop of Westminster not wish to be cast into shadow every afternoon?)
Read Mark Twain’s essay on the existing Albert Memorial in Kensington (It’s in the collectionLetters from the Earth, edited by Bernard de Voto). Twain thought the existing memorial absurdly grandiose. Noticing that they also had Albert Hall across the street, Twain remarked: “It’s good to have a collection of memorials, to guard against accidents. I mean to have a set of tombstones when I go.”
IIRC, it was never intended to be the Albert Memorial, but rather it was to be called the Albert Tower because the tower across the road from it is the Victoria Tower. The idea was that it would be part of a proposed Pantheon for British national heroes. The main bit of the building would have been the structure to the left of the tower in the illustration. The argument was that Westminster Abbey was becoming overcrowded (which it was), so this extension would have provided overflow space for new monuments. I don’t think it ever had any sort of official backing, which no doubt explains why it was never built. The place to find out more is the excellent book by Felix Barker and Ralph Hyde called London: as it might have been (1982, reprinted 1995). This illustration was used as the front cover.
As someone who does have a copy of London: As It Might Have Been to hand, I can confirm that APB’s recollections are correct. As Barker and Hyde go through, there was quite a long history of proposals for doing something similar on the site, in the face of government footdragging. The design in question is the 1904 proposal by John Pollard Seddon, Diocesan Architect for London, and Edward B. Lamb, who’d both made earlier proposals.
They also include a reproduction of the proposed groundplan. There’s no mention of Albert, though if his name was ever attached to the building, APB’s suggestion is plausible.
Barker and Hyde are the experts, but I’m not sure about the last comment. For a start, the similarly-scaled unbuilt tower atop Selfridge’s has always struck me as insane.
Slight hijack: Westminster is a Catholic diocese (i.e. the Archbishop of Westminster is Catholic not Anglican, so he didn’t have any political influence in 1904). He doesn’t have any connection to the Abbey either; he’s based at Westminster Catherdral about a mile west of there. The head guy at Westminster Abbey is the Dean of Westminster.