Almack’s Assembly Rooms opened on 12 February 1765 in King Street, St. James, London, U.K. They were situated immediately to the east of Pall Mall Place and, according to Horace Walpole, when they were opened, there were three very elegant rooms, one of which was planned to be 90 feet long.
Almack’s Assembly Rooms were at the heart of the London season. Possessing a voucher to enter the sacred portals of the Rooms could make or break a young lady’s entrance into the ton and her chances of finding a suitable husband.
The Rooms were named after their founder, who is thought to have been a Scotsman. No one seems quite sure whether his name was Almack or whether this was a pseudonym to disguise his Scottish origins, as anything Scottish was out of favour at this time. He also founded a coffee house in 1763 which was later to become Brook’s club for gentlemen.
During the first phase of the life of Almack’s, the Rooms were home to a ladies’ club, where both sexes met to gamble, whilst dancing went on in the great room. It rivalled Carlisle House, whose entertainments, run by the redoubtable Madame Cornely, were becoming increasingly scandalous. Almack’s combated the mixed nature of the Carlisle assemblies by developing an exclusiveness that set it apart. Almack’s suffered a loss of popularity when the Pantheon opened in 1772; however, it was burnt down twenty years later and although rebuilt, never rivalled Almack’s again.
From the 1790s onwards, Almack’s entered a new phase. The ladies’ club dwindled and the excessive gambling disappeared and the Rooms became entirely given over to dances and assemblies. Almack’s became the place for a young lady to be seen to demonstrate her position in the ton and for a gentleman to go in search of a wife of good social standing. Hence, it became known as “The Marriage Mart.”
Almack’s Assembly Rooms were an important part of the London season and the place to see and be seen for young ladies and gentlemen looking to marry. Acquiring a voucher to these extremely traditional Assembly Rooms was the best way for parents to introduce their offspring to the higher echelons of society and acceptance there improved their chances of finding suitable matches for their children.
Captain Gronow declares in his reminiscences of 1814 that: “At the present time one can hardly conceive the importance which was attached to getting admission to Almack’s, the seventh heaven of the fashionable world.”
According to Lord Lamington: “Almack’s was the portal to that select circle of intellect and grace which constituted the charm of Society.”
As the English poet and wit, Henry Luttrell wrote:
“All on that magic List depends;
Fame, fortune, fashion, lovers, friends;
‘Tis that which gratifies or vexes
All ranks, all ages, and both sexes.
If once to Almack’s you belong,
Like monarchs you can do no wrong;
But banished thence on Wednesday night,By Jove, you can do nothing right.”
Almack’s exclusivity stemmed from the way that it restricted its membership. To attend the weekly balls, held on Wednesday evenings in the season, it was necessary to procure an annual voucher. According to Jesse, the subscription was ten guineas “for which you have a ball and supper once a week for twelve weeks.”
To obtain a voucher, the committee of six or seven high ranking ladies who governed Almack’s had to approve the application. Subscribers were allowed to bring a guest on a “Stranger’s Ticket”, but this guest still had to be approved by the patronesses before admittance.1765-1840 ca. Almack's Assembly Rooms, London, U.K. #Regency #London #History Click To Tweet