THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS.
This elegant structure was built by subscription, which commenced August 19,
1773. It stands at the west side of the Vicarage-house; and the ground was leased
under the authority of an act of parliament, 14 George III. which enabled Dr. Fawcett, vicar of Newcastle, to grant a lease of part of his garden for nine hundred and
ninety-nine years; at an annual ground-rent of £20. The foundation stone was laid
by the late William Lowes, Esq. in the presence of a great company of ladies and
gentlemen. A plate with the following inscription was put under the stone:—
In an age
When the polite arts
By general encouragement and emulation,
Have advanced to a state of perfection
Unknown in any former period;
The first stone of this edifice,
Dedicated to the most elegant recreation,
Was laid by William Lowes, Esq.
On the 16th of May, 1774.
It was built under the direction of Mr. Newton, architect, and cost, including furniture and other expenses, about £6701, to which the corporation subscribed £200.
These rooms were first opened by a very numerous and brilliant company, in the
race-week, June 24, 1776.
This monument of the taste and liberality of the gentry of this town and its vicinity, is remarkable for elegance of design and execution of workmanship. It presents a front adorned with a colonnade of six beautiful pillars, and two handsome
wings corresponding. In the front is a grass plot, with a semicircular gravel road for
carriages, inclosed with iron palisadoes. The interior is said to be more commodious
than any other building of the kind in the kingdom, except the House of Assembly
at Bath. The great ball-room is 94 feet long, 36 feet broad, and 32 feet high. The
high end is circular; and above the entrance is a very light and elegant musicgallery. There are seven very large and brilliant glass chandeliers. The centre one,
it is said, cost 600 guineas. When lighted up, and filled with the beauty and fashion
of this district, the coup d'æil is most enchanting. Adjoining are card-rooms. In
the saloon are two superb mirrors, and the much admired picture of Sir John Falstaff, Mrs. Ford, &c. by Downman. The room for private assemblies is used as the
tea-room at the guild and assize balls. This room is very spacious, and often used at
public dinners. In the lower story is the supper-room, which is equal in length and
breadth to the great room above; but it is only 14 feet in height. Upwards of 460
persons have supped in this room. (fn. 1) Adjoining are two halls, subscription newsroom, kitchens, &c. To the news-room is attached a small, but well chosen collection
of books, chiefly on the popular topics of the day. The principal defects in this
building are, the want of an entrance-hall of corresponding elegance with the other
apartments, and a portico in front, under which carriages might drive.