The Assembly Rooms in Bath, UK, are one of my favorite places to visit.
Signs outside Assembly Rooms Bath, UK
The Assembly Rooms are owned by the National Trust but are managed on their behalf by Bath & North East Somerset Council and are one of England’s Best Places to Visit.
The Rooms are part of a listed building dating back to 1771 and still have original Whitefriars crystal chandeliers.
There are three main rooms – The Ball Room, The Tea Room and The Octagon, plus a Card Room. The Fashion Museum is also situated within the building and is home to one of the world’s finest collection of fashionable dress, creating an inspiring venue for any occasion.
Bath had two assembly rooms in the lower part of the town but they weren’t large enough for the rapidly increasing population so on the 30th September, 1771, New Rooms were opened on the north east of the Circus, between Bennett and Alfred Streets. These Upper Rooms were designed by the architect, John Wood, and were in a better part of town so they became much more fashionable. The Upper Rooms held two balls a week, a dress ball on Monday evenings and a fancy ball on Thursdays during the Bath season which was from October to early June.
John Wood raised the money for the New Rooms by a “tontine” subscription, which was like a lottery. By April 1769, £14,000 was raised among 53 people. When a subscriber died, their shares were added to the holdings of the other subscribers, which meant that the last surviving subscriber inherited everything.
The Assembly Rooms
The exterior of the Upper Assembly Room looks typically Georgian, but the interior is so grand that it’s easy to picture elegantly-dressed dancers from many eras twirling up and down the rooms. Two long rectangular rooms flank the entrance hall and are linked by an octagonal room at the far end to form a U-shape. The ball room is over 100 feet long and nearly 45 feet wide and on the other side, the tea room is 70 feet long and 27 feet wide and all the rooms had huge chandeliers to give light.
Many famous people visited the Assembly Rooms in the 18th and 19th centuries. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens both mention the Assembly Rooms in their novels and the diarist, Francis Kilvert, described a reception there in 1873. Subscription concerts were popular and many well-known musicians also visited, the most distinguished being Joseph Haydn, Johann Strauss the Elder, and Franz Liszt.
The Ball Room is 30m long – the largest Georgian interior in Bath – and has five original crystal chandeliers which reflect light on to the powder-blue walls. Balls for a thousand people or more were once held here.
Chandelier in Assembly Rooms
The tea room was used for refreshments, with tea generally served weak and black or perhaps with arrack and lemon, and on Wednesday nights during the Season concerts were held there. Fashionable visitors to Bath could also hold breakfasts for their friends in the pillared rooms. On a sunny day, the tea room is warm and inviting as it has south-facing windows and three Georgian chandeliers light it up.
Beyond the Great Octagon lies the Card Room, a long thin room added to the Assembly Rooms in 1777 to give card players a more private venue in which to meet. Before the Card Room was added, the Octagon Room was famous for card playing, the favorite leisure activity from the Georgian Era through to the Regency, as the Upper Rooms were open for card games every day except Sunday.
Beautiful original chandeliers in Assembly Rooms
Since 1963, the Upper Assembly Rooms have also housed the amazing Fashion Museum with displays of fabrics, clothing by years, and wonderful movies and voice over describing fashion history.
The Octagon Room, the Tea Room, and the Cloak room Landings all showcase beautiful paintings and prints as the Upper Rooms were given to the National Trust in 1931. You can see paintings by Gainsborough, Ramsey, Hoare, and Simmons as well as an Original ticket to the Thirteenth Dress Ball at the Assembly Rooms, 24 January 1803.
Regency wall in smaller room