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of Regency romances will all be familiar with that most famous London location,
Almack’s Assembly Rooms where ladies could see and be seen, and where mothers launched
their marriageable daughters into society.
built in the Palladian style, the Rooms were opened by William Macall in King Street,
London in February 1765. It is reputed that being Scottish, Macall thought the
English might consider his name too foreign sounding, so reversed it to become
was one of the first establishments where both sexes could meet openly and became
the place to be for upper class society during the season, that period in London from
April to August each year. The most exclusive events were held at the town
mansions of the leading members of the aristocracy, especially of those engaged
in politics. The season closed at the end of July, when families returned to
their country seats not only to escape the city smells and possible health
issues, but also in readiness for the grouse shooting which began on August 12th.
alone could not get you a voucher to Almack’s, but good breeding and manners
did. Vouchers were ten guineas and were non-transferable. To not have an
Almack’s voucher meant either that you had not applied for one, or you had
applied and been found wanting in one way or another, a social disaster to those
dedicated to the ton - pronounced tone from the French word
for taste, or more accurately le bon ton.
of the most influential ladies of upper society presided over Almack’s and
included Lady Sarah (Sally) Jersey, Lady Emily Cowper, Countess Esterhazy, the
Honorary Mrs. Drummond Burrell, Viscountess Castlereagh and Countess Maria
Sefton. They were known as the Lady Patronesses and met every Monday evening to
review new applications and the actions of the current membership. Membership
could be cancelled, as in the case of Lady Caroline Lamb after her scandalous
affair with the poet Lord Byron. Inappropriate dress could also have you turned
away from Almack’s doors, as the Duke of Wellington found to his cost when he
arrived wearing trousers and not the formal knee breeches required.
were rooms for gambling and card games and a very plain supper was served in
the upper rooms by the Macall’s at 11.00 pm. So they could not be accused of
trying to compete with expensive private balls, the supper consisted of thinly
sliced, probably day old bread and fresh butter followed by dry cake which
would be similar to today’s pound cake. Presumably to avoid drunkenness only
tea and lemonade were served.
popularity began to decline after 1824, when manners became less strict. The
last ball was held in 1863 and it closed its doors in 1871 when it was sold.
The new owner renamed it Willis’s Rooms after himself. The building was damaged
during bombing in 1940 and completely destroyed in 1944. Today an office
building known as Almack House occupies the site and bears a brass plaque
commemorating the original Rooms.
Sources: Wikipedia, Regency Manor, Candice Hearn
Romance Author and Jane Austen’s World.
Born in Clifton, Bristol, England, an area rife with the elegance of Regency architecture, Victoria has always enjoyed everything to do with the Regency era. Her favorite Georgette Heyer title is Frederica, but she also enjoys titles by Jo Beverley, Julia Quinn and Mary Balogh.
Being an army brat meant being constantly on the move so books became her best friends. Now resident in Canada, she frequently returns to the UK to visit family and friends.