Alright, so I may be a little bit of a Jane Austen fan and I just had to go visit the Bath Assembly Rooms. I don’t know what I expected when I went, but I ended up spending a fair amount of time in there. It is free to go in, though you can pay to visit the Fashion Museum which is there too. After having gone through once, I found out you can get a audio guide for free and did the Whole thing one more time.
I went into the Ball room and just sat down on one of the chairs along the walls and just soaked it in. This is where the dancing took place, and the musicians where sitting up on a balcony. The windows where up high so that no one could look in from outside, giving some sense of privacy. There would be dress balls once a week. I could almost imagine the place filled with people like discribed in ‘Northanger Abbey’, and music and talk filling the air. People lining up to dance in the middle of the room below the five chandeliers. First slow and more serious dancing early in the evening, the young waiting for the clock to strike 8 o’clock and the music and dancing became more lively. The room must have felt very warm, though it was winter outside.
Walking on the very floors where once dancing feet flew over. It lead my onwards to the Great Octagon room with a great chandelier in the middel. The Great octagon chandelier is the largest in the building with 48 arms. It has a funny story connected to it. It was not there when the Assembly Rooms opened in 1771. One of the five chandeliers in the Ball room fell during a dance when the place had just opened. It almost hit someone. For safety reasons all five chandeliers where taken down, and new where made instead. These original five chandeliers where then used to make the great octagon chandelier. In the beginning this room was also the card room, where those less inclined to dancing could play cards. However an additional room, which is also the café today, was made as card room to avoid disturbance. As the Octagon room became the room that linked the three other rooms. On Sundays it wouldn’t be used as a card room, as there was no gambling on Sundays.
The Tea room is slightly smaller than the Ball room. During the season, it would be packed with people at 9 in the eve, as everyone took a break from cards and dancing. As the name indicate, it was there that tea was served, which was of course accompanied by music from the balcony above. Just because you didn’t dance, didn’t mean the music stopped. If you look at the walls you will noticed that the upper part of the stone walls have got a pink-ish tinge. This happened during WW2, when the Assembly Rooms where hit, not a 100% sure by what, and went on fire. Since the walls where stone it didn’t burn down to the ground, but it did leave its mark in the colour of pink.
I spent much more time than most probably would, but if you are interested in history you should make your way there. If you have read some English literature, you may even have heard them mentioned. It makes it fun to actually seem them for yourself. I finished my little trip into the Assembly Rooms by having a cup of coffee in the cafe, which is in the ‘new’ card room.