Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Assembly Rooms


The assembly rooms were the heart of towns and villages for they provided a place for people to gather. Not every village had an inn with assembly rooms so it was common for several villages to make use of a central location. There was order behind all that was done at the assembly rooms to preserve propriety.

The Master of Ceremonies would oversee events, as a host would do at his own party, ensuring everyone behaved sensibly and those who did not would be briskly escorted to the door. He would introduce people to one another who were not acquainted, for it was simply bad form to introduce oneself to others. Pomp and ceremony were key; manners mattered above all in such polite society. Many assembly rooms such as those at the City of Bath had a list of rules one must follow, including no gossiping and certainly no sour grapes if someone else was asked to dance before you. Rules of this kind as well as those that governed whose footman may attend whom and when so that order may be maintained at all times, especially once the ball ended, assured that things proceeded smoothly throughout an event.

Dress code was enforced by The Master of Ceremonies, which again, ensured that everyone dressed accordingly. Ladies who wore gloves of a colour other than white were not admitted; likewise, gentlemen were not permitted to wear gloves. Rules on dress did vary from venue to venue so one must be well advised before entering the assembly rooms in another village or town to assure no offence was given and admittance was not denied.

The most common use for the assembly rooms was to host balls. These were held each month when the light of the full moon made travel easy for carriages. A ball would make use of several rooms for different purposes. There was, of course, the ball room for dancing, a dining room as supper would be served half way through the evening and there would also be a room where card tables were set up for those who did not dance. Cloak rooms were used so that dancers may change into their dancing slippers as well as leave their coats and cloaks in a safe location while they attended the ball.

Musical evenings would be hosted, either by the inn or by private parties. Things such as light opera, which was becoming very popular, instrumental evenings as well as travelling orchestras who would perform, all entertained the localities. There may also be recitals for local musician.

The assembly rooms may also be used as a venue for lectures and talks, as well as public meetings where a number of people were invited. Private patrons hosted card playing or gambling events and there were Salons which were social gatherings where intellectual discussion was offered.

In a town or village, the assembly rooms played an important roll in allowing the community to gather for special or private events. Rules ensured order and decorum were maintained and all benefited from the diverse events offered.

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