The Royale Ballroom

30 May, 2010

1880 Royal Exhibition Building,the grand organ, choir stalls and orchestra stand as they appeared during the Centennial International Exhibition.
1880 Royal Exhibition Building,the grand organ, choir stalls and orchestra stand as they appeared during the Centennial International Exhibition.
Image: Ludovico Hart
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: What became of the Royale Ballroom in the Royal Exhibition Building?

Answer: After the 1880 exhibition, what was known as the machinery annexe of the Building was retained and became the original Eastern Annexe, which ultimately became the Royale Ballroom before it was demolished to build Centennial Hall. The original Eastern Annexe was intended to be a technological museum and workshop. However, during its early years, it housed exhibits of international and local exhibitions.

In 1885, an aquarium was established immediately to the rear of the building's southern wing and remained there until destroyed by fire on January 21, 1953. The wing accommodated the aquarium hall, art gallery and museum. During the 1919 influenza epidemic, this area was converted to nurses quarters. From 1919 to 1926 the art gallery and museum remained in the southern section, after which it became the aquarium dance hall. In 1932 this hall became known as the Palais Royale and in 1952 the name was changed to Royale Ballroom. The Royale Ballroom comprised two ballrooms: one capable of accommodating 1800 dancers and another more intimate space for 200. The Eastern, Western Annexes and the Centennial Hall were demolished in 1996-97 to make way for the new "Museum Building" for Melbourne Museum. There were a few balls held within the Great Court of the building in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Unfortunately, Museum Victoria does not hold plans or drawings of the building in our collections. The 1880 drawings for the building are held at the University of Melbourne archive, while images of the Palais Ballroom are held by the State Library of Victoria.

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