Assembly Rooms – History

Bath's magnificent 18th century Assembly Rooms were opened in 1771. Known as the New or Upper Rooms, to distinguish them from the older Assembly Rooms in the lower part of the town, they were designed by John Wood the Younger.

 

This fine set of public rooms was purpose-built for an 18th century form of entertainment called an 'assembly'. A large number of guests met together to dance, drink tea, play cards and listen to music - or just walk about, talk and flirt.

 

There are four rooms: the Ball Room, the Tea Room (also known as the Concert Room), the Octagon Room, and a Card Room.

 

The Assembly Rooms were seriously damaged in a bombing raid on Bath in 1942 but were rebuilt and reopened to the public in 1963. In 1987 part of the Ball Room ceiling collapsed due to a failure in the plasterwork, and the Rooms underwent a further scheme of restoration and redecoration 1988-91.

 

Today, the building is owned by the National Trust but it is leased to and managed by Bath & North East Somerset Council.

Image: detail from 19th century colour print showing finely dressed dancers at a ball in the Ball Room, the musicians can be seen on the balcony in the distance

'Fancy Ball at the Upper Rooms' 1825 print by Robert Cruikshank

 

Image: an early 19th century print showing the Tea Room with its pillared gallery in the distance, classical decoration and rib vaulted ceiling

'The Concert Room', 1805 print by John Claude Nattes