Balls and Assemblies were some of the most socially important events in the lives of the Georgian who was trying to climb the social ladder or, for those who had risen to the middle or upper classes, and wished to maintain their position. In this week’s post, we are going to look at the types of balls, their social significance, the etiquette of the ballroom, and other items that governed the “Ball culture” of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Due to a lack of available documentation on the culture of the “Ball” here in the United States, the information we will discuss primarily focuses on England. While there may have been some small differences, it is doubtful that the “Ball culture” here in the United States changed very radically in the years closely following the American Revolution. One can hardly imagine George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison “rubbing elbows with blacksmiths or shopkeepers at a ball in the early Republic.
TYPES OF BALLS, THEIR VENUES AND THEIR SOCIAL PROTOCOL
There were three main types of Formal Balls in late-Georgian/Regency England and they played a significant role in many people’s lives. These balls included; Assembly or Assembly Room balls, smaller balls held at country inns, and Private Balls; given at a country home by a private citizen. These social events, as we shall see, were ways to network, establish business connections, and give young people an opportunity to meet prospective future spouses.
Assembly Room Balls Assembly rooms were public venues specifically built for public balls. These existed mainly in larger cities where the social life could support the cost of construction and upkeep. These assembly rooms were one of the few places of entertainment, besides theaters, that were open to both sexes in this period. In the larger towns, a set of assembly rooms might consist of a main room and several smaller subsidiary rooms such as card rooms, tearooms and supper rooms. In small towns, it was often just a single, large room.
Among the best-known Assembly Rooms are Almack’s in London, the New Assembly Rooms in Bath, and the Assembly Rooms at Harrogate, Yorkshire. However, a little oasis of wealth and culture was blooming in Truro, Cornwall, in the far west of England. The center of the social life in Truro was the beautiful Assembly Rooms, built in 1780, that held splendid balls once a month. Continue reading