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|The Lower Rooms
Written by JulieW
(4/4/2006 9:23 a.m.)
They made their appearance in the Lower Rooms; and here fortune was more favourable to our heroine. The master of the ceremonies introduced to her a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; his name was Tilney.
The reason why is that they no longer exist is that they were destroyed in a fire in 1820.
I thought you might like some information about the rooms.
They were situated ,as their name suggests in the older less fashionable part of Bath, between the Terrace and the River Avon, behind the Abbey.
They were originally known as Harrisson’s rooms being built by a Mr Thomas Harrison, as a financial speculation. This was done with the encouragement of Richard “Beau” Nash who was the first Master of Ceremonies in Bath throughout the early part of the 18th century. The rooms were completed in 1708.
Originally the rooms consisted only of a card room and a tea room ,but were terribly popular never the less.
Above is a picture taken from an 18th century fan, of Harrison’s ball room.
Eventually it was enlarged and came to comprise of two tea rooms, a card room and a ballroom.
Harrison died in 1735, and after a short time when Lady Hawes ran the rooms they were taken over by a Mr Simpson in 1749 and were , thenceforth known as Simpson’s Rooms from that date. He considerably improved the buildings even building a theatre in the basement in 1750.( However, note,he eventually consented to shut it down on accepting annual sum of money from the proprietor of the Orchard Street theatre! One way to deal with the opposition!)
My copy of the New Bath Guide for 1767( a guide for visitors to Bath) has the following to say of the rooms( note the Upper Rooms were not built at this time):
There are two public Assembly-Rooms in this Place, viz. Mr Simpson’s and Mr Wiltshire’s; the largest is kept by Mr Simpson; was built in the year 1750; and is 90 feet in length 36 in breadth and 30 in ehight; it has a very fine Stocco(sic) ceiling; their(sic) is hung up in it a Portrait Picture of the late Richard Nash ,Esq, Master of the Ceremonies, besides several very fine landscapes and is thought to be as elegant a Room for its size as any in England.
By the time JA wrote NA the Lower Rooms were in decline. The more fashionable Upper Rooms had opended(in 1770) and served the richer residents of that newly built area above Queens Square and in the higher part of the city around the Royal Crescent and the Circus.
By the time JA wrote Perusasion( also set partly in Bath) the public entertainments offered by all the towns assembly rooms were declining in popularity.
So when the Lower Rooms were destroyed by fire, they were not rebuilt but replaced instead by the Royal Literary and Scientific Instituation.( Lady Russell would have surely approved;-)…)
Graham Davis in his essay Entertainments in Georgian Bath: Gambling and Vice writes:
When the Lower Assembly Rooms were destroyed by fire in 1820 it was decided not to rebuild them but to erect a Scientific and Literary institution on the site .The Lower Rooms had suffered from the expansion of the city and a corresponding drift to the North of Queens Square where the most fashionable lodgings were concentrated. This decision not to rebuild symbolised the change from the indulgent pleasures of the eighteenth century to the more earnest activities of the nineteenth
I find it interesting that JA’s writings record this shift in social behaviour, don’t you?.
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