Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: I

List Entry Number: 1394144

Date first listed: 12-Jun-1950

Date of most recent amendment: 15-Oct-2010



Ordnance survey map of ASSEMBLY ROOMS
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Bath and North East Somerset (Unitary Authority)

National Grid Reference: ST 74867 65310


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Reasons for Designation

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ALFRED STREET Assembly Rooms 12/06/50


Also known as: Assembly Rooms ALFRED STREET. Public assembly rooms. 1769-1771. By John Wood the Younger; restored by A Mowbray Green (1938), Sir Albert Richardson (1963 after extensive bomb damage in 1942), recent repairs after collapse of ballroom ceiling by David Brain Partnership 1989-91. MATERIALS: Limestone ashlar, hipped slate roofs with stacks rising from the parapets. PLAN: Rectangular plan, with projecting entrance and extension to rear. Central corridor leads to octagonal lobby in centre: to north, along the entire length of Bennett Street, is the Ballroom; to the east is the Octagon, with the added Card Room beyond; to the south, parallel with Alfred Street, is the Tea Room and the former Drawing Room, Billiard Room, etc (now shop). Basement now occupied by the Bath Museum of Costume. North and west elevations originally fronted by open, single storey corridors or colonnades used for access. EXTERIOR: Windows on two and three storeys, concealing lofty double-height rooms within. Entrance front to west comprises a tetrastyle Doric portico in antis, projecting forward from the main block. Single storey side continuations of entrance date from 1963 campaign, and terminate in corner pavilions with arched openings and imposts; the entrance was originally flanked with projecting single-storey canted bays on either side. Behind rises the tall west ends of the north and south blocks, each with three six/six-pane sash windows within aedicular surrounds with pediments at first floor level, with a blind wall at second floor level beneath a continuous modillion cornice running the entire length of the exterior, with parapet over. To the centres of the west fronts are two large chimneystacks over plinths, with central square recessed panels; similar chimneystacks occur at the east end, and two each per north and south elevation The seven-window north elevation to Bennet Street, fronting the Ballroom, is similarly detailed at upper levels to the west elevation; the ground floor is fronted, between the corner pavilions, with a projecting Doric colonnade, with six bays of arched windows placed between engaged Doric columns on either side of the recessed central double doors. The south elevation to Alfred Street is more densely articulated, with nine bays comprising plain six/six-pane sashes to the ground floor, six/six-pane sashes in aedicular surrounds with pediments to the first floor, and square three/three-pane sashes in surrounds to the upper floor; projecting pavilions with arched openings to the corners. The east, or rear, elevation facing Saville Row has a canted, full-height central projection housing the Octagon, with three bay flanks with single storey projecting ground floors fronted with Doric colonnades: in front of the centre is the two-storey 1777 addition of the Card Room, with a pedimental roof over arched ground floor openings and rectangular first floor windows. INTERIOR: The central entrance corridor, lower than the flanking wings, leads to an octagonal and top-lit vestibule, with four marble chimneypieces and a coved ceiling. To the left is the double-height Ballroom with seven clerestory windows on the north front and three at both east and west ends. It measures 105ft 8 by 42ft 8 wide and 42ft 6 high. Lower walls plain apart front door surrounds and chimneypieces, terminating in a frieze with Vitruvian scroll decoration; upper walls articulated with 40 engaged Corinthian columns, with swags suspended from the capitals, carrying a full entablature above; coving rises up to a compartmented ceiling with five rectangular panels, each with a crystal chandelier (of 1771) suspended from an elaborate ceiling rose. Alternate openings on the north, east and west sides contain windows; those on the south side contain niches with statues. In the centre of the south side is a deep semi-circular alcove designed as an orchestra gallery, with lyre-enriched ironwork as a balustrade in front. The Tea room on the south side, 60 ft by 42 ft, has only six windows with three in the east wall. As is the ballroom, a two storey room with a Corinthian order of columns framing the upper storey. The west wall however has a six column Ionic order to the ground storey and the wall is set back behind this to provide an entrance vestibule below and a gallery for the orchestra above. The gallery has a gilded wrought iron railing. Unusually, the Tea Room¿s internal orders are faced in stone, creating a magnificent antique effect. There are three very fine crystal chandeliers. The Octagon, originally the Card Room, is 48 ft across, with chimneypieces on those walls not pierced with connecting doors. The plainer Card Room at the eastern end of the corridor was added in 1777, to the designs of an unknown architect. HISTORY: Opened by subscription on 30 September 1771 to serve the fast-expanding upper town, this 'large and noble block' (Pevsner) became the heart of polite Bath society: see the description in Dickens's 'The Pickwick Papers' (1836). One of the most magnificent of all Georgian civic buildings, it entered use as a lecture and concert hall (in which Liszt performed) in the 19th century before becoming a cinema and market in the 20th. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), through the munificence of Ernest Cook, bought the building in 1931. It was lavishly restored under the eye of Mowbray Green, the Bath architect, and re-opened in October 1938. Severe bomb damage in April 1942 affected the interior, and the ballroom in particular, leaving the building a gutted shell: this was Bath¿s most severe architectural casualty of the war. A second full restoration was undertaken in the early 1960s under the direction of Sir Albert Richardson, assisted by E.A.S. Houfe; Oliver Messel advised on the decorative schemes. The Assembly Rooms were re-opened in May 1963. The complex now includes the Museum of Costume, housed in the basement (work undertaken in 1978-79). A notable Palladian public entertainment building, showing the adaptation of the Woods' domestic architectural vocabulary for public use on a scale of Roman magnificence. It is also a triumph of restoration. SOURCES: W. Ison, 'The Georgian Buildings of Bath' (1980 ed.), 26-34; Dorothy Stroud, `The Assembly Rooms, Bath¿, Country Life 22 October 1938; John Cornforth, `The Bath Assembly Rooms Restored¿, Country Life 9 January 1964; Dudley Dodd, 'Bath Assembly Rooms' (National Trust guidebook 1979); Thom Gorst, 'Bath: an architectural guide (1997), 42-47.

Listing NGR: ST7486765310


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 509534

Legacy System: LBS

End of official listing