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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
25th May 1905 Born today: Binnie Barnes, London, actress (Adv of Marco Polo, Diamond Jim)
25th May 1878 Gilbert/Sullivans opera HMS Pinafore, premieres in London
Almack's Assembly Rooms
This was the site of Almack's notorious Assembly Rooms.
Location: King Street, London
Description: Almack's Assembly Rooms, were located her, and were named after founder William Almack. They opened on February 13, 1765 in King's Street, St. James, London.
There, for a subscription fee of 10 guineas, the fashionable men and women of London could attend a weekly Wednesday night ball with supper during the 3 months that comprised the London social season (The Season).
The subscription fee was certainly low enough for those aspiring to be considered amongst the ton, but there were hurdles other than financial for admission to the assembly rooms.
Any prospective member would have to face the Patronesses of Almack's, those doughty ladies whose verdict could make or break the social standing of aspiring debutantes with a single word.
For it was as the curtain raiser for society debutantes that Almack's was famous. Young ladies who would choose among the finest eligible bachelors in London for prospective husbands were nervously presented to the committee of Almack's for acceptance or (horrors!) rejection.
The ladies who ruled the roost at Almack's were the de-fact queens of London society. They could, and did, arbitrarily decide the social acceptability of anyone desiring admittance to Almack's (and by extension, into London society's highest circles).
They were not easily swayed by social rank or money, either. The Duke of Wellington was once famously turned away from the doors because he was guilty of the double solecism of arriving 7 minutes late and wearing trousers rather than knee-breeches.
The Assembly Rooms were opened for gambling and supper, and dancing which lasted all night. Supper was served at 11pm, and at that time the doors were closed for good, as the Duke of Wellington discovered to his chagrin.
In 1871, the new owner of the Assembly Rooms renamed them in his own honour as Willis's Rooms.
A high-rise office building now bears a brass plaque commemorating the existence of Almack's on that spot.