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Paper 25

Assembly Room Rules for Social Dancing

Contributed by Paul Cooper, Research Editor

Assembly Rooms were important venues during the Georgian period in Britain, they were used for social dancing as well as other functions. Rules and bye-laws were developed to govern the dancing at these venues, in this paper we'll consider a selection of these rules, and consider the implications for social dancing in Georgian Britain. In a previous paper we've investigated the dancing conventions at Almack's Assembly Rooms, the most prestigious dancing venue of Regency London; this paper will compare the published rules of a more diverse range of Assembly Rooms, and investigate some of what those rules can tell us about the dancing conventions, and how they changed over time.

I've struggled to find a good introduction to the Assembly Rooms of Georgian Britain. It's probable that a systematic study of them has been published, but such a work has evaded my discovery. If you know of a good source, do let us know. This review doesn't attempt a definitive study, it's just a commentary on the patchwork of surviving regulations that I've stumbled across. If you have further information to share, do please get in touch.

As we'll see, the conventions evolved over time, and families of related rules emerge. Many of these conventions went on to be included in, and expanded upon, in the various ball-room etiquette guides of the early 19th Century. We'll consider these etiquette guides in more detail in a future research paper, this paper restricts its scope to the published Assembly Room rules themselves. Each Assembly Room was expected to display the rules that regulated them, and visitors were expected to familiarise themselves with those rules on arrival. The progressive changes in the rules offer an insight into the evolving social dancing experience for the frequenters of the Assembly-Rooms.

Figure 1. Detail from Almacks Over the Water, 1846, by George Cruickshank (Over the Water probably implied the southern side of the River Thames)

This paper mainly consists of reference information, the following table of contents may assist in navigating it.

Rules, it might be said, are there to be broken. Figure 1 is a detail from an 1846 print showing the prominently positioned rules at an Assembly Room being ignored; those rules indicate that No Gent to dance with his Hat on; No Gent to Smoke except at refreshment time; No two Gents to dance together. One particularly striking couple in the foreground have managed to break all three rules at the same time! A reviewer of the image in the Morning Post (2nd July 1846) commented: The waltz, the polka, and the mazourka are here seen to perfection, and the Gents and Gentesses of the Surrey side are all to nothing the most amusing animals in creation.

The tables below list the rules associated with particular Assemblies. Each rule is listed together with a reference identifier that has no significance beyond this document (they're useful for referencing individual rules). The identifiers are not part of the original texts, many of which were not numbered in the source works.




Enforcement of the Rules

Before we consider the regulations in detail, it's worth considering how seriously the rules were enforced. I suspect that genteel society was self selecting, and rules were rarely transgressed. Disagreements could occur however.

An interesting criminal report exists of two officers who disrupted an assembly in the North of England. The Kentish Weekly Post for 14th February 1806 carried a report from Gateshead of the disturbance, it offers an insight into how the rules could be enforced. The report documents an investigation at the Court of the King's Bench:

Figure 2. The Gig Shop or Kicking up a Breeze at Nell Hammilton's Hop, Rowlandson, 1811
© Trustees of the British Museum
Mr. Hullock moved for leave to file a criminal information against two officers of the North Lincoln Militia.

The motion he grounded on the affidavits of several persons at Gateshead, near Durham, and stated, that there were certain rules for the regulation of the company frequenting them, particularly that non-subscribers should not be admitted, unless introduced by subscribers; that in the month of December last there was a ball at the rooms, and the defendants, who were not subscribers, and had no regular introduction, made their appearence about eleven o'clock, and demanded admittance. They were not in the usual costume of a ball-room, but, on the contrary, were dressed in boots.

The door-keeper informed them, that unless they were properly introduced, they could not be admitted. They appeared satisfied, and went away, but soon afterwards one of the defendants returned, and forced his way in, threatening to strike the man at the door with a whip; he was followed by the other defendant. The managers of the Assembly hearing of what had passed, sent in a polite message to the two intruders, desiring they would wait upon them in an adjoining room, in order that they might explain to them the rules of the Assembly. They returned for answer, that they were very comfortable where they were, and they would not stir. The managers went and expostulated with them, remarking, that they were not dressed, and they hoped they would withdraw; that nothing personally disrespectful to them was meant, but that the regulations of the ball must be preserved. They replied, that they might be forced out, but they would not withdraw.

The two officers went to the card-room, and sent for one of the Gentlemen who had interfered. He attended them, and upon the managers, a few minutes following, they found the defendants menacing him with clenched fists, and shaking their whips. A scuffle ensued, and all parties got into an adjoining apartment, which communicated with the street. The managers and their friends succeeded in locking the door, and then returned to the ball-room. A very little while elapsed before a violent knocking was heard, and it appeared the defendants were breaking the pannels of the door, and forcing through the apertures. A constable was sent for, and they were delivered into his custody, but they doubtless escaped, for in less than half an hour a letter was sent to the managers to this effect:- Gentlemen, you all combined, seemed so valiant, that we have no doubt you will demand satisfaction. We are waiting below to make the necessary arrangements for meeting you tomorrow morning. This was not thought worthy of an answer.

Nothing further occurred at the rooms; but as Mr. Hawkes, one of the company, was going home with his wife and sister, one of the defendants met and accosted him, saying, As I struck you, I suppose you will wish to have satisfaction, and I am ready to fight you with sword and pistol. Mr. Hawkes asked at what time:- Why now, replied the other. Truly, said Hawkes, I am much better engaged, I am going home with my wife.
That was clearly an extreme case of disruptive behaviour; the rules generally existed to ensure a shared understanding of how affairs were conducted at a particular establishment, and to avoid unpleasant misunderstandings. A similar (though less serious) account survives from England's southern coast, 1799 (Saunders's News-Letter, 18th April 1799):

Figure 3. Assault at Ipswich The London Courier, 23rd November 1801. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)
Mr. Stubbs moved the Court for a criminal information against Colonel Bailey, of the West Middlesex militia, for challenging a Mr Bacon to fight. He stated, that in the course of the last season there was a subscription ball at Gosport, at which Mr. Bacon was appointed Master of the Ceremonies; and in the proper discharge of that duty, he had laid down certain rules and regulations to be observed by the company. Colonel Bailey and his daughters attended, and danced: and Mr. Bacon conceiving they had, in some respect, transgressed the rules of the ball-room, mentioned it to them. The Colonel hearing of this, said, they were foolish rules, and his daughters should not observe them. He, however, left the ball-room, taking his daughters with him; but he soon after returned again alone, and observing Mr. Bacon standing near some Gentlemen, he rushed through them, and brushed against him, and would have occasioned his falling, but that a person who stood by him prevented it. He then asked him what he meant by making his daughters leave the room? To which the other replied, nothing had been farther from his intentions - he had only informed them of the regulations. The Colonel turned round to depart, and when he was near the door, he called Mr. Bacon a scoundrel, telling him, at the same time, he knew where to find him.

Lord Kenyon observed, that it was highly proper, and even important, that there should be certain regulations in those assemblies to which the public resorted for their innocent recreation. He recollected a circumstance that had occurred at Bath: a lady of very high rank (the late Dutchess of Queensberry) was walking into the ball room, when she was met by the Master of the Ceremonies, who informed her Ladyship she could not be admitted with an apron. She happened to have an apron on made entirely of the finest lace and valued at 300 guineas; but she immediately pulled it off, delivered it to the Master of the Ceremonies, and with the most condescending politeness thanked him for having by his timely communication prevented her transgressing the rules of the room. His Lordship expressed his regret that Colonel Bailey had not been actuated by a similar disposition, and granted a rule to shew cause.
One of the primary concerns involved individuals failing to pay for their subscription. The following investigation into an assault comes from The London Courier, 23rd November 1801 (see Figure 3):
The affidavit of Mr Prentice stated, that there was a subscription assembly held at Ipswich, in the county of Suffolk, of which he was the Treasurer, and that it was customary for every subscriber to pay up his subscription before the fourth night, without which his admission was against the rules of the assembly; that General Garth was observed to have entered the room without having paid up his subscription; that Mr. Prentice, wishing to conduct himself with as much delicacy as possible, spoke to Major Heron to intimate the reguation to General Garth. In the mean time, one of the door-keepers had informed the General of his subscription not having been paid; and as the General happened at the time to be in conversation with some ladies, he was rather offended; but, upon the door-keepers asking his pardon, he forgave him; that the defendant, who was the General's Aid-de-Camy, came up on Mr. Prentice and challenged him, as the author of the insult offered to his General, and, after using a deal of abusive language, wrung him by the nose. This outrage to decency was taken up by the subscribers in general, and the present prosecution was determined upon.




Rules to be Observed at Bath (first half of the 18th Century)

Many of the conventions that came to be associated with Assembly Rooms saw their early development in Bath in the first half of the 18th Century. The story of how Richard Beau Nash and his contemporaries engineered Bath's rise to prominence, realised through a mixture of luck, necessity and personal charisma, has been amply described elsewhere. The best book I know of on the subject is John Eglin's The Imaginary Autocrat: Beau Nash and the Invention of Bath, I can also recommend Ian Perkins' AsDancedAtBath blog as an excellent source for dance-history information pertaining to Bath. Bath's successes saw the conventions established there mirrored and promoted elsewhere in Britain throughout the 18th Century.

Nash is credited with having introduced a set of rules that governed (or at least documented) the polite behaviour at Bath. Eleven rules were displayed at the Pump Room and other public venues, a copy of which are preserved in Oliver Goldsmith's 1762 The Life of Richard Nash. They were composed in a jocular fashion and hinted that transgressors would be ridiculed; it's reported that they were first adopted in 1742, and were by general consent determin'd and were to be observed by every Person of Fashion then in Bath, or who should come to the City for the future (as recorded in the 1765 A Description of Bath by John Wood). A document from the Bath Central Library Collection associates the rules with 1707 rather than 1742; I'm unable to explain that disparity in dates, but suspect an early date for the spirit of the rules even if the final text may have been later; Eglin reports that seven of the regulations were known in 1723. These rules governed the polite behaviour in Bath, their success was probably the trigger for the many subsequent sets of rules that emerged to regulate Assemblies at Bath and elsewhere over the following century.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules to be observed at Bath
Source: 1758 The Universal Magazine; believed to date to either 1742 or 1707
BATH01That a visit of ceremony at first coming and another at going away are all that are expected or desired by ladies of quality and fashion, except impertinents.
BATH02That ladies coming to the ball appoint a time for their footmen coming to wait on them home to prevent disturbance and inconveniencies to themselves and others.
BATH03That gentlemen of fashion never appearing in a morning before the ladies in gowns and caps, shew breeding and respect.
BATH04That no person take it ill that any one goes to another's play, or breakfast, and not theirs; except captious by nature.
BATH05That no gentleman give his ticket for the balls, to any but gentlewomen, N.B. Unless he has none of his acquaintance.
BATH06That gentlemen crowding before the ladies at the ball, shew ill manners; and that none do so for the future, except such as respect nobody but themselves.
BATH07That no gentleman or lady takes it ill that another dances before them; except such as have no pretence to dance at all.
BATH08That the elder ladies and children be content with a second bench at the ball, as being past or not come to perfection.
BATH09That the younger ladies take notice how many eyes observe them. N.B. This does not extend to the Have-at-alls.
BATH10That all whisperers of lies and scandal, be taken for their authors.
BATH11That all repeaters of such lies and scandal, be shun'd by all company; except such as have been guilty of the same crime.

Several of these rules relate to the organisation of Balls at Bath. BATH02 attempts to reduce the chaos of people leaving a Ball and having to wait for their chairs, carriages and similar to arrive. BATH05 ensures that unsuitable people are kept out of the Balls; there were stories of prostitutes being dressed up as gentlewomen and smuggled into society Balls (see for example, the Memoirs of Charles Macklin, Comedian), this rule bans such activity. BATH06 ensures that the ladies would have sufficient space to enjoy the dancing.

One of the most important and far-reaching of rules is BATH07, variants of which survived through to the 19th Century. The Balls at Bath at this time usually started with Minuet dancing, followed by Country Dancing. In both cases there would be strict rules of precedence which determined who got to dance first, mediated by the Masters of Ceremony. BATH07 demands that even if one does feel slighted, one should have the good grace to accept the situation. The BATH08 rule makes a similar point; the dancing is organised so that an eligible range of ladies have preferential opportunity to demonstrate their dancing prowess, the older and younger ladies are required to accept their supporting roles.




Derby Ladies' Assembly (c.1740s)

The next set of rules are unusual as being representative of a tradition largely unrelated to that of Bath. They consist of just six rules, and governed the Ladies' Assembly at Derby, a county town towards the North of England. I don't have a precise date for the rules, but they're probably from the 1740s. They were researched and documented in the 1899 Letters of Lady Jane Coke to Her Friend, Mrs. Eyre at Derby, 1747-1758 by Mrs. Ambrose Rathbone. They were also included in an 1854 copy of The Works of Oliver Goldsmith, where the editor estimated a 1760s date for them. The oldest dated reference I've found for them is from The Morning Post, 23rd October 1847, where it is reported that:

Derby Balls Two Centuries Ago - The following is a copy of a printed bill in a frame hanging against the wall of the Derby Town and County Museum, Victoria Street, Derby. The name of Anne Barnes is in writing, all the rest in print. Following Mr. Francey's name (rule 2) is a piece of paper pasted over, no doubt the names of some of the favoured shopkeepers.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules to be observed in the Ladies' Assembly in Derby
Source: Morning Post, 23rd October 1847
DERBY01No attorney's clerk shall be admitted.
DERBY02No shopkeeper, or any of his or her family, shall be admitted except Mr. Franceys.
DERBY03No lady shall be allowed to dance in a long white apron.
DERBY04All young Ladies in mantuas shall pay 2s. 6d.
DERBY05No Miss in a coat shall dance without leave of the lady of the assembly.
DERBY06Whoever shall transgress any of these rules shall be turned out of the assembly room.

Mrs. Rathbone reports that Mr. Franceys was the Worshipful Henry Francis, Major of the Borough, an eminent and and noted apothecary. According to Wikipedia he was Mayor of Derby in 1747, though he died at the start of the year. If her identification is correct, then the rules probably do date back to the 1740s.

These rules emphasise that certain social boundaries must not be transgressed. Rathbone also noted that Mrs Barnes (who was the first signatory of the rules) resigned from her position of responsibility for the Assemblies in 1752, and made the following note in her account book: Aug 4th. Delivered up the Assembly-room to the Right Honourable the Countess of Ferrers, who did me the great honour of accepting it. I told her that trade never mixed with us Ladies.




Some Rules of Good Manners to be Observed by Country Dancers (1764)

The next set of rules wasn't from an Assembly, they're rather some general advice for the management of Country Dances. They've been included here as they fit both chronologically and thematically, even if slightly out of context. The anonymous A.D. Dancing Master published a book called Country-Dancing Made Plain and Easy in London in 1764. It's a fascinating and encyclopedic guide to Country Dancing of the 1760s, and includes the author's suggestions for organising Country Dances. Those suggestions were probably influenced by the prevailing customs of the time, but they're the first written form I'm aware of for many of the conventions that were subsequently published elsewhere.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Some Rules of Good Manners to be Observed by Country Dancers
Source: Country-Dancing Made Plain and Easy, 1764
AD01That the top couple having the call, none ought to dance it down in a different way; and the callers have the liberty of dancing down a second time.
AD02That no person, without some accident, or sufficient reason, shall sit down or leave the dance till it be quite finished.
AD03That none shall stand too close in conversation, except where they know they cannot obstruct the dancing.
AD04That any person, for sufficient reasons, being obliged to leave the dance, shall upon their return, be permitted to stand in their former place.
AD05That none should offer to take place of another after the first dance is begun.
AD06That no gentlemen should dance in their boots, or without their gloves, nor pull the ladies rudely about, which is often complained of.

These rules entirely relate to Country Dancing, the conventions for which we've investigated in a previous research paper. They're reasonably self explanatory, and do make sense. They're largely consistent with the conventions promoted during the Regency period by the likes of Thomas Wilson. AD01 is interesting for using the word caller in reference to the lead couple who have danced down the set; it also gives them the option (but not a requirement) to dance down the set for a second time. Several writers of the early 19th Century inform us that the top couple would typically dance down to the bottom of the set, figure back up to the top, and dance back down a second time and then the Country Dance would end; A.D. hints that this convention was not uncommon in the 1760s. AD06 is interesting for introducing stylistic requirements - ladies are not to be pulled about! These six rules were reproduced in various forms through to the Regency period, though AD04 is a little unusual in allowing someone to both leave and return to a dance.




Wade's Dress Code for the Rooms at Bath (1769)

Our next set of rules are the first variant of the single most influential set. They were signed by Captain William Wade, Master of the Ceremonies at Bath, and were published on September 18th 1769 (or September 19th, the accounts vary). They were widely printed at the time, examples including the Oxford Journal (23rd September 1769) and the Leeds Intelligencer (26th September 1769), but they're best known from being included in The New Bath Guide. Variants of these rules remained in use at Bath for several decades, and these rules heavily influenced most other published sets. The 1769 rules may in turn be derived from other earlier sets of rules, but this is the first publication I know of. Some commentators suggest that these rules derive from Nash himself in the 1730s, which is potentially true; it's probable that they existed in some form prior to 1769. Wade is said to have had the rules hung up in the Assembly-rooms and Pump-room ... It being absolutely necessary that a propriety of dress should be observed at so polite an Assembly as that of BATH; it is humbly requested of the Company to comply with the following regulations:.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Assembly at Bath
Source: The New Bath Guide, 1769
WADE6901That Ladies, who dance Minuets, be dressed in a full Suit of clothes, or a full-trimmed Sack, with Lappets and large Hoops, such as are usually worn at St James's.
WADE6902That the Ladies do not wear Hats in the Public Rooms of an Evening, after the 21st instant.
WADE6903It is humbly requested of those Ladies who do not dance Minuets, not to take up the front seat at the Balls, (except Ladies of Precedence).
WADE6904That no Lady dance Country-Dances in a Hoop.
WADE6905No Bench will be called for at the Balls for any Lady under the rank of Peeress.
WADE6906That the Gentlemen who dance Minuets, do wear a full-trimm'd Suit of Clothes, or French Frock, Hair or Wig dressed with a Bag.
WADE6907Officers in the navy or Army, in their Uniforms, are desired to wear their Hair en Queue.
WADE6908Gentlemen are desired not to wear Boots in the Public Rooms in an Evening, or Spurs in the Pump-Room in a Morning.

One point of interest is that the dress code was different for Minuet dancing (WADE6901 requires large hoops) and Country Dancing (WADE6904 requires a lack of hoops). If the same lady wanted to dance both, she would have to get changed. There are also clear advantages for ladies of rank (such as WADE6903 and WADE6905).




Wade's Rules for the Rooms at Bath (1771)

Bath's New or Upper Rooms opened in 1771, and a new version of Wade's rules were published on 1st October 1771. The 1771 variant is very similar to the 1769 prototype, though a few rules related to the dancing were added, and some ambiguities addressed. This new variant is the basic set of rules that went on to be reproduced with minor variations for the rest of the 18th Century.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Assemblies at Bath
Source: The Strangers' Assistant and Guide to Bath, 1773 (the rules are from 1771); the final rule is from The New Bath Guide, 1775
WADE7101That Ladies who dance minuets be dressed in a full suit of clothes or a full-trimm'd sack, with lappets and dress'd hoops, such as are usually worn at St. James's.
WADE7102It is requested of those Ladies, who do not dance minuets, not to take up the front seats at the balls.
WADE7103That no Lady dance country dances in a hoop of any kind; and those who chuse to pull their hoops off, will be assisted by proper servants in an apartment for that purpose.
WADE7104That no Lady of Precedence has a right to take place in country dances after they have begun.
WADE7105The places at the top of the room are reserved for Ladies of Precedence, of the rank of Peeress of Great Britain or Ireland; it being found very inconvenient to have seats called for, and placed before the company after the ball has been begun.
WADE7106That Gentlemen who dance minuets do wear a full-trimmed suit of clothes, or French frock, hair or wig dressed with a bag.
WADE7107Officers in the navy or army in their uniforms, are desired to wear their hair or wig en queue.
WADE7108Ladies are not to appear with hats, nor Gentlemen with boots, in an evening after the balls are begun for the season; nor the Gentlemen with spurs at the Pump-Room in a morning.
WADE7109The Subscription Balls will begin as soon as possible after six o'clock, and finish precisely at eleven, even in the middle of a dance.
WADE7110That no hazard, or unlawful games, will be allowed in these Rooms, on any account whatsoever, and no cards on Sundays.
WADE7111That in case any subscriber to the balls should leave Bath before the season is over, such subscriber may, by leaving an order under their hand, transfer his or her tickets for the remaining part of the season.
WADE7512The major part of the company having expressed their desire that the tea, on public ball-nights, may be paid for by every person that comes into the rooms; the managing committee at the New Rooms, and Mr Gyde at his room, are come to a resolution, that each gentleman or lady on a ball-night are to pay Six-pence on their admission at the outer door, which will entitle them to tea.

Comparing these rules to the 1769 version shows very little change. WADE6902 and WADE6908 were merged into WADE7108 and the exception for ladies of precedence in WADE6903 was removed from WADE7102. The regulation against wearing hoops in a Country Dance in WADE6904 was clarified in WADE7103 (it's tempting to imagine some young lady attempting to change in public so as not to miss a dance!), and rules WADE7104, WADE7109, WADE7110 and WADE7111 were added. Rule WADE6903 evolved into WADE7105, but seems to have served a similar purpose. Rule WADE7109 is especially interesting as Wade retained the right to end a dance mid-flow at 11pm. A Country Dance could take half an hour or more to dance through completely, so this rule may have had practical significance, as well as allowing him to assert some authority over the Assembly. WADE7104 is also of interest, it hints that Ladies of precedence may have caused problems when attempting to assert their privilege after a Country Dance had started, and the rule was brought in to ensure that once started a dance couldn't be interrupted (except by Wade himself!).

The New Bath Guide for 1775 retained this set of rules, but added a further rule pertaining to the purchasing of Tea (WADE7512).




Dawson's Rules for the New Assembly Rooms at Bath (1777)

This set of rules were again from Bath, and heavily based on Wade's rules of 1771, they include some minor modifications related to fashion, together with a general restructuring. By this date William Dawson was the Master of Ceremonies for the New Rooms, and they were signed by his name.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the New Assembly-Rooms, Bath, 1777
Source: The New Bath Guide, 1784
DAWSON01That those Ladies who do not intend to dance minuets do not place themselves on the front feats at the Balls: the seats at the top of the room will be reserved for Ladies of precedence of the rank of a Peeress of Great-Britain or Ireland, (instead of calling for benches as formerly) it having been found very inconvenient to have seats called for and placed before the Company, after the Ball has been begun.
DAWSON02That Ladies who intend to dance minuets be dressed in a suit of cloaths, a full-trimmed sacque, or full-trimmed Italian night-gown and petticoat, with lappets and dressed hoops. N.B. Hoops of the smallest size, commonly called Pocket-Hoops, are by no means proper to be worn with lappets: it is therefore expected, that every Lady who chooses to dance a minuet will wear a hoop suitable to the fashion, and proper for the occasion. It is also expected, that no Lady will appear in an apron of any kind at the Monday's Ball.
DAWSON03That as a reasonable time will be allowed between the minuets and country dances, for Ladies of precedence to take their places; all Ladies, whether of precedence or not, who stand up to dance country-dances after they have been begun, must take their places at the bottom.
DAWSON04That Gentlemen who dance minuets do wear a full-trimmed suit of cloaths, or French frock, hair or wig dressed with a bag. All other dresses of fancy, with a cape or lappel, are not sufficient to attend on Ladies, who are obliged by the rules of the Assembly to appear in full dress.
DAWSON05That officers in the navy and army, in their uniforms, will be pleased to wear their hair or wigs en queue.
DAWSON06That the Subscription Ball will begin as soon as possible after six o'clock, and finish precisely at eleven, even in the middle of a dance.
DAWSON07That after a Lady has called her dance, it being finished, her place in the next dance is at the bottom.
DAWSON08That as the major part of the company have expressed a desire, that the Tea on public nights may be paid for by every person respectively coming into the Rooms, each Lady and Gentleman are to pay six-pence on their admission at the outer door, which will entitle them to Tea.
DAWSON09That from and after the first of May, until the Balls begin for the autumn season, the Ladies are permitted to wear hats in the public Rooms in the evening, except on Ball or Concert nights. The Gentlemen are desired not to wear boots in the public Rooms in an evening, nor spurs in the Pump-Room in the morning.
DAWSON10That no Hazard, or unlawful games, will be allowed in these Rooms on any account whatever, and no cards on Sundays.
DAWSON11That as the late great extension of the city of Bath puts it out of the power of the Master of the Ceremonies to be regularly informed of the several persons who arrive here, he hopes they will be so indulgent to him as not to charge him with want of attention: And as it is his wish that all improper company should be kept from these Rooms, he thus publicly requests, that all strangers, as well Ladies as Gentlemen, will desire some person of known reputation to introduce them to him, before they hold themselves intitled to that respect, which he is ambitious, and ever will be studious, to shew to every individual resorting to this place.

There are many new words involved in these rules, but the content is mostly unchanged from 1771; the most interesting change is with DAWSON07, requiring that after any lady has had her turn to call, she will be expected to start the next dance from the bottom of the set. It's likely that this had always been the convention, it's even hinted at in AD01 from 1764 (where the calling couple may dance down the set a second time, thereby ending at the bottom and ready for the next dance), but it's interesting to see it explicitly stated for the elite dancers at the Bath Assemblies.




Tyson's Rules for the Old Assembly Rooms at Bath (1780)

By 1780 the two Assembly Rooms at Bath began to diverge in their management, having separate Masters of the Ceremonies. The MC at the Old Assembly Rooms at this date was Richard Tyson. The rules at the two Rooms remained very similar, but there are differentiating points. This may have been a catalyst for other Assemblies in other towns to invest in their own local rules.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Old Assembly-Rooms, Bath, 1780
Source: The New Bath Guide, 1784
TYSON01That a certain row of seats be set apart at the upper end of the room, for Peeresses, and Ladies of the first distinction in precedence, or foreigners of fashion.
TYSON02That those Ladies who dance minuets be permitted to sit in the front of the side rows, for the convenience of being taken out and returning to their places, without giving unnecessary trouble to those Ladies who do not dance.
TYSON03That the Ladies who dance minuets be in full dress, with lappets; Gentlemen also in full dress; those of the army or navy are considered as very properly dressed when they appear in uniform, with their en queue.
TYSON04That the Subscription Balls begin as soon as possible after six o'clock.
TYSON05That after a Lady has called her dance, it being finished, her place in the next dance is at the bottom. N.B. It is deemed a point of good breeding for Ladies that have gone down the dance, to continue in their places till the rest have done the same.
TYSON06That each Lady and Gentleman on public nights pay six-pence on entering the room, which will entitle them to tea.
TYSON07That from the first of May, until the Balls begin for the autumn season, the Ladies may, if they please, wear their hats in the public rooms in the evening, except on Ball or Concert Nights. The Gentlemen are not to wear boots ln the public Rooms in an evening, nor spurs in the Pump-Room in the morning.
TYSON08That no Hazard, or unlawful games, will be allowed in these Rooms on any account whatever, and no cards on Sundays.
TYSON09That the Balls end precisely at eleven o'clock.
TYSON10As Bath is now become a central point of meeting for persons of all nations, the Master of the Ceremonies intreats the favour of such Ladies and Gentlemen to whom he has not the honour to be personally known, to offer him some favourable occasion of being presented to them, in order to give him all opportunities of shewing that general attention which is equally his inclination and duty to observe.

These rules are broadly equivalent to Dawson's rules from 1777, and Wade's rules from 1771. The most interesting is TYSON05, which encourages ladies who have already enjoyed leading down a Country-Dance to remain in position for the subsequent dances. It repeats the DAWSON07 rule, but adds the further clarification that it's rude to leave before everyone else has had the chance to lead a dance too. The implication that good breeding requires dancers to remain in the longways set may have shamed some of the more privileged dancers to dance longer than they were otherwise inclined to dance.




Southampton Winter Assembly (1781)

The c.1795 10th Edition of the Southampton Guide recorded that a Winter Assembly was established at the Dolphin inn, in 1781. Assemblies are held every fortnight during the winter, on Tuesdays, commencing the latter end of October, and ending in the beginning of May.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for Southampton Winter Assembly, 1781
Source: The Southampton Guide, c.1795
SOUW01That each Assembly do begin at 7, and end exactly at 12 o'clock, even in the middle of a dance.
SOUW02That no lady or gentleman shall be permitted to sit down in the middle of a dance, unless they mean to dance no more that night.
SOUW03That all surplus of money arising from the subscription be appropriated for the purpose of the Assembly only.
SOUW04That each subscriber do pay 5s. for the season; nonsubscribers 2s. 6d. each night of admission.
SOUW05That each lady and gentleman do pay 6d. for their tea on admission.

The most interesting rule here is SOUW02 which requires dancers to remain active until the dance officially ends. It's similar to the AD02 rule from 1764.




Dunn's Assembly Room, Edinburgh (1783)

The Caledonian Mercury for 18th December 1782 printed the admission rules for James Dunn's Assembly-Room.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Dunn's Assembly-Rooms, Edinburgh, 1783
Source: Caledonian Mercury, 18th December 1782
DUNN01Twelve Subscription Assemblies, the first to be held on Thursday the 2d of January 1783, and to continue weekly on the same day.
DUNN02Each Gentleman to pay two guineas, and to have twelve tickets for his own admission only, and twelve transferable to gentlemen.
DUNN03Each Lady to pay one guinea, and to have twelve tickets for her own admission only, and twelve transferable to ladies.
DUNN04All the tickets will be numbered, and each night those only will be received which correspond to the number of the Assembly.
DUNN05The holders of the transferable tickets to pay three shillings each, and to have their names on the back of their tickets, otherwise they cannot be admitted.

These rules only relate to admission. A similar advert was printed roughly a year later (Caledonian Mercury, 29th November 1783), it added: Mr Dunn humbly hopes, that such Ladies who mean to countenance him will honour the Assembly with their presence the first night, for the purpose of appointing twelve Ladies for directing each Assembly in turn, who may, upon their own night, make choice of what Gentlemen they please to assist them. It appears to be a reference to the concept of Lady Patronesses, an institution of great significance by the Regency period.




Scarborough Assembly Rooms (1783)

The Leeds Intelligencer for the 30th September 1783 reported: It having been found necessary to ascertain for the future the RATES of SUBSCRIPTION to the PUBLIC ASSEMBLY-ROOMS of this Place, and to put a stop to growing Impositions, A GENERAL MEETING has been held of all the present Subscribers, and a Committee appointed at such Meeting, have upon full Consideration agreed upon the following RATES and RULES, as proper to be observed and conformed to by the Keepers of both the Assembly Rooms, and which the Committee have thought fit to Advertise for the Information of the Public.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Scarbro' Assemblies, 1783
Source: Leeds Intelligencer, 30th September 1783
Rules for the Long Room at Scarbro'
SCA01That every Subscriber pay for the Rooms and Lights Ten Shillings and Sixpence.
SCA02That there be one Dress Ball, and two Undress Nights, at each Room, every Week.
Rules for the Ball Nights
SCA03That every Subscriber may either subscribe Half-a-Guinea for the Season, or pay One Shilling and Six-pence Admittance each Ball Night, for which they will be entitled to Tea. This Optional.
SCA04That every Gentleman who dances Country Dances pay Two Shillings for Music.
SCA05That every Person who calls for Cake, Negus, &c. pay for the same.
SCA06Non-Subscribers to pay Five Shillings Admittance.
Rules for Undress Nights
SCA07Every person who drinks Tea pay One Shilling.
SCA08Every Gentleman who dances pay Two Shillings for Music.
SCA09That every Person who calls for Cake, Negus, &c. pay for the same.
SCA10Non-Subscribers to pay Two Shillings Admittance, and subject to the above Rules.

The most interesting rule here is SCA04 which makes explicit reference to the dancing of Country Dances on Ball nights. It hints that no other form of dancing was performed.




King's Rules for the Lower Assembly Rooms at Bath (1787)

By 1787 James King was the Master of Ceremonies for the Old Assembly Rooms, he published his own set of rules, which remained very similar to Tyson's 1780 rules.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Lower Assembly-Rooms, Bath, 1787
Source: The New Bath Guide, 1791
KING01That the seats at the upper end of the room be reserved for Peeresses, and Foreign Ladies of distinction.
KING02That Ladies who dance minuets be permitted to sit in the front of the side-rows, to avoid giving unnecessary trouble to those who do not dance.
KING03That Ladies who dance minuets be in full dress, with lappets: Gentlemen also in full dress: those of the army or navy are considered very properly dressed when in uniform, with their hair en queue.
KING04That after a Lady has called a dance, it being finished, her place in the next dance is at the bottom. N.B. It is deemed a point of good-breeding for Ladies that have gone down the dance, to continue in their places, till the rest have done the same.
KING05That those who stand up after the country dance is called, do take their place at the bottom, unless rank entitles them to precedence: And the Ladies are requested not to permit the intrusion of any couples above them, such compliance conferring a partial obligation, to the material inconvenience of those who stand below them.
KING06That as the Subscription Balls end precisely at eleven, the Company do assemble as soon as possible after six o'clock.
KING07That each Lady and Gentleman on publick nights pay six-pence on entering the room, which will entitle them to tea.
KING08That Ladies may, if they please, wear hats in the publick rooms in the evening, except on Ball or Concert nights. Gentlemen are not to wear boots in the publick rooms of an evening, nor spurs in the Pump-Room of a morning.
KING09That no hazard or unlawful games will be allowed in these rooms on any account whatever, nor cards on Sundays.
KING10That Ladies and Gentlemen coming to town, give orders that their names and places of abode be entered in any of the Pump-Room books; and the Master of the Ceremonies thus publickly requests the favour of such Ladies and Gentlemen, to whom he has not the honour of being personally known, to offer him some favourable occasion of being presented to them, that he may be enabled to shew that attention, which is not more his duty than his inclination to observe.

In this set of rules the interesting addition is rule KING05, which points out that if a couple is allowed to force their way into a Country Dance that has already formed, it causes everybody below them to spend longer stood out. Nobody should permit intruders to force their way into the line in this way, even as a favour to a friend. This same rule contains an intriguing exception for ladies of rank, it implies that a person of rank may request the Master of Ceremonies to let them into the line ahead of others (see also rule KINGSTON05).




Edinburgh New Assembly Rooms (1787)

The rules for the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms were published in the Caledonian Mercury on the 26th March 1787. They are the most sophisticated set of rules I know of prior to those of the 19th Century Etiquette guides; I'd like to think that they're representative of many Assembly Rooms outside of Bath, but lack the evidence to substantiate that theory. They are a rich new tradition of rules, whether of Scottish origin or elsewhere, with only a passing resemblance to the rules from the Bath Assemblies (though they're ultimately derived from the Bath rules).

The rules begin: At a General Meeting of the Proprietors of the Assembly-Rooms, held this day, the following Rules were adopted, and ordered to take place at the Peers Assembly, Tuesday the 27th March, under the direction of William Graham, Esq; Master of Ceremonies.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the New Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, 1787
Source: The Caledonian Mercury, 26th March 1787
EDIN01Precedence in the different sets only to Ladies of quality, by particular tickets, which will be presented to them by the Master of Ceremonies.
EDIN02Dancing Tickets, with running numbers, from 1 to 100, &c. to be offered to each Lady as she enters the Room.
EDIN03Each set to consist of twelve couple, and no more.
EDIN04Two sets to dance together, except on a very crowded night, when four may dance.
EDIN05If a Lady does not stand up when her number entitles her to dance, she shall wait till her number again comes round.
EDIN06No couple shall sit down until the whole set shall have danced to the bottom, except in case of illness; under which circumstance, it is expected, such couple will not dance again that night.
EDIN07The couple who lead down a dance shall stand at the bottom of their set next it dances, whether with or without precedence.
EDIN08The ladies at the head of the sets to dance at one time shall draw lots for the privilege of naming the tune. If the same sets shall dance a second time, the couple who did not call the first time shall call the second; and the first drawing shall determine the privilege for that evening.
EDIN09A short pause between the Country Dances, in case Ladies shall choose to dance Minuets.
EDIN10No Lady or Gentleman to stand or walk on the floor between the company who are seated and the dancers, on any pretence whatsoever.
EDIN11The doors to be opened at seven o'clock, and the Dancing to begin precisely at eight o'clock.
EDIN12No Country Dances to be begun after twelve o'clock, and the music to be dismissed at one o'clock, provided all the tickets have been called over before that hour.
EDIN13No Gentleman will be admitted in boots, or with a stick.
EDIN14It is expected that no person will come to the Assemblies improperly dressed.
EDIN15No young lady out of woman's dress to be allowed to dance.
EDIN16No tea, coffee, or other liquor, or fruit, to be brought into the Ball-Room.
EDIN17Strangers must be introduced to the Master of Ceremonies, in order that proper attention be paid to them.
EDIN18The Master of Ceremonies will be supported by the Directors in procuring compliance with these regulations.
EDIN19If any person shall be dissatisfied with the conduct of the Master of Ceremonies, application may be made to the Directors, who will take the same into immediate consideration.

There are many comment-worthy novelties in this set of rules. For example, they're the first to relegate Minuet dancing to pauses between the Country Dances (EDIN09); they contain complicated numeric rules for determining who dances when; Country Dancing sets are restricted to twelve couples (EDIN03) but may be doubled or even quadrupled up (EDIN04) with chance based precedence across the sets (EDIN08).

Another insight into the application of these rules can be found in the Memorials of His Time by Lord Cockburn. He shared his memories of the George Street Edinburgh Assemblies of his youth (probably the late 1780s and early 1790s):

No couple could dance unless each party was provided with a ticket prescribing the precise place, in the precise dance. If there was no ticket, the gentleman, or the lady, was dealt with as an intruder, and turned out of the dance. If the ticket had marked upon it - say for a country dance, the figures 3.5 - this meant that the holder was to place himself in the 3rd dance, and 5th from the top; and if he was anywhere else, he was set right, or excluded. And the partner's ticket must correspond. Woe on the poor girl who, with ticket 2.7, was found opposite a youth marked 5.9! It was flirting without a license, and looked very ill, and would probably be reported by the ticket director of that dance to the mother. Of course parties, or parents, who wished to secure dancing for themselves or those they had charge of, provided themselves with correct and corresponding vouchers before the ball-day arrived. This could only be accomplished through a director; and the election of a Pope might sometimes require less jobbing. When parties chose to take their chance, they might do so; but still, though only obtained in the room, the written permission was necessary; and such a thing as a compact to dance, by a couple without official authority, would have been an outrage that could scarcely be contemplated. Tea was sipped in side-rooms; and he was a careless bean who did not present his partner with an orange at the end of each dance; and the oranges and the tea, like every thing else, were under exact and positive regulations.




Weymouth Assembly Rooms (1788)

John Love in his 1788 The New Waymouth Guide included the Rules for the Balls at Weymouth. They have some similarities with the rules from Bath, and probably came into effect somewhat earlier than 1788, but there are several innovations. They're credited to the Master of Ceremonies, T. Rodder.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Balls, Weymouth, 1788
Source: The New Waymouth Guide, 1788
WEY01That gentlemen are not to appear in the Rooms on Tuesday or Friday evenings in boots, or ladies in riding habits.
WEY02That the ball shall begin as soon as possible after seven o'clock, and finish precisely at eleven.
WEY03That gentlemen and ladies who dance down a country dance, shall not quit their places till the dance is finished, unless they mean to dance no more that night.
WEY04That no lady or gentleman be permitted to dance in coloured gloves.
WEY05That after a lady has called a dance, and danced it down, her place in the next is at the bottom.
WEY06That no tea table be carried into the card room.
WEY07That gentlemen will be pleased to leave their swords at the door.
WEY08That no dogs be admitted.

This set of regulations has abandoned any references to the Minuet; and also any references to precedence, privilege and rank. These absences may not be significant, or they could imply a subtle change to how Assemblies were being conducted. The rules also include such innovations as a requirement to leave swords at the door (WEY07) and no admittance to dogs (WEY08). They include variants of the DAWSON07 rule from 1777 that required the lead couple to start the subsequent dance from the bottom (WEY05), and the TYSON05 rule from 1780 that required couples that had gone down a dance to remain in their places (WEY03).




Dublin Assembly Rooms (1790)

Most Assemblies had administrative rules in addition to those that governed the dancing. One such set was published by Mr Landrin in 1790 covering his Assemblies in Dublin. Landrin was the son of one of the highest profile dancing masters in Paris.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: The acknowledged Advantages resulting from a Dancing Academy, 1790
Source: Dublin Evening Post, 2nd January 1790
DUB01That the public nights of the DANCING ACADEMY shall be on Monday and Thursday evenings, commencing on Monday, January 4th.
DUB02That the practice of Minuets shall commence at seven o'clock - Country Dances and Cotillons at nine - to end precisely at eleven.
DUB03That each Lady and Gentleman's Subscriptions for twelve Nights, shall be 1l.2s.9d.
DUB04That Non-Subscribers shall be admitted, only, if announced and introduced by a Subscriber, at 2s. 8½d. each Night.
DUB05That as Mr. Landrin's object is, that the Company should be select, none other but those of respectable connection and proper character can be admitted as Subscribers.
DUB06That an elegant and convenient Room with proper Music and Attendants at the Music hall, Fishamble Street, will be solely on those nights appropriated to this purpose.
DUB07That Tea and Coffee will be provided for the Company at 8d. each, for those who chuse to require it - no other refreshments to be admitted.
DUB08Mr. Landrin will officiate as Master of the Ceremonies, and hopes it will not be considered as presumptious to enforce these regulations, nor insulting to offer his assistance in the dance, by exercising his best efforts to perfect those who wish to add grace to action.

The price in rule 3 is unclear, it may have been misread. Landrin prefixed his rules with the following text: The acknowledged Advantages resulting from a DANCING ACADEMY, CONDUCTED with decorum, propriety and taste, as usual in London and Paris, must be obvious to all who wish to perfect themselves in the practice of an accomplishment, not less useful than graceful. Under this impression, Mr LANDRIN, from the Opera House, Paris, submits the following proposals to the candid consideration of a discerning and polite public.

The DUB02 rule is interesting for mentioning Cotillion dancing.




Southampton Summer Assembly (1793)

The c.1795 10th Edition of the Southampton Guide recorded two sets of regulations for the Summer Assemblies at Southampton, both within three weeks of each other. Both sets are associated with the Master of Ceremonies A.G. Haynes. The first set are dated 2nd July 1793, and cover the Summer Balls at Mr. Martin's Rooms.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for Southampton Summer Assembly at Mr. Martin's Rooms, 1793
Source: The Southampton Guide, c.1795
SOUSA01That the Rooms he opened every day in the week, Sundays excepted.
SOUSA02That there be a Ball on Tuesday nights, to which subscribers are to pay l0s. 6d. for the season.
SOUSA03That non-subscribers to the Tuesdays Balls pay 5s. each, tea included.
SOUSA04That on Thursday and Saturday nights the Rooms be opened for card assemblies and promenade.
SOUSA05That the general admission to the rooms be 5s. to subscribers for the season, Tuesday nights exclusive.
SOUSA06That non-subscribers on the general admission nights pay 1s. each. N.B. Children of all ages are subject to the above regulations.
SOUSA07The Master of the Ceremonies respectfully requests that non-subscribers on the general admission nights will afford him an early opportunity, on their entrance to the Rooms, of being presented to them, that he may he enabled to shew them that attention it is so much his wish to observe.

The next set of rules are dated 24th July 1793.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for Southampton Summer Assembly, 1793
Source: The Southampton Guide, c.1795
SOUSB01That no precedence take place at these rooms after the balls are begun.
SOUSB02That the Tuesdays balls shall begin as soon as possible after 8 o'clock, and finish precisely at 12.
SOUSB03That the dancing on Thursdays and Saturdays finish precisely at 11 o'clock.
SOUSB04That ladies and gentlemen who dance down a country dance shall not quit their places till the dance is finished, unless they mean to dance no more that night.
SOUSB05That after a lady has called a dance and danced it down, her place in the next dance is at the bottom. The prevailing custom of ladies allowing their acquaintance to stand above them in the set having been the origin of much dispute, and a material interruption to the dance, the Master of the Ceremonies would think himself highly blameable to suffer it to continue. It is his intention to be extremely attentive to prevent it in future.
SOUSB06That gentlemen are not to appear at the rooms in boots.
SOUSB07That no tea table be carried into the card room on ball nights.
SOUSB08As it is the wish of the Master of the Ceremonies that all improper company should be kept from these rooms, he respectfully requests that all strangers, as well ladies as gentlemen, to whom he has not the honor to be personally known, will offer him some occasion of being presented to them, to enable him to shew that attention and respect to every individual resorting to this place which he will be ever studious to observe.

These rules are broadly consistent with those of Bath, Weymouth and elsewhere. The SOUSB05 rule is interesting as it suggests that ladies had been in the habit of allowing their friends to join a Country Dance ahead of themselves; the injunction against this is similar to the KING05 rule from 1787. The SOUSB04 rule against leaving a dance early is worded very similarly to the WEY03 rule from 1788.




Plymouth Assembly Rooms (1796)

The 1796 Plymouth-Dock Guide contains a copy of the rules governing the public assemblies at Plymouth's Fountain Tavern.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Plymouth Assembly, 1796
Source: Plymouth-Dock Guide, 1796
PLYA01Subscribers to pay Ten shillings and Six-pence each for the Season.
PLYA02Non-Subscribers Two Shillings and Six-pence each for Admission.
PLYA03Gentlemen to pay One Shilling each for Tea.
PLYA04A Queen to be drawn for, among the married Ladies, Subscribers, who is to preside for one Night only, and to appoint a Successor.
PLYA05The Queen's Determination, in any Dispute, to be final.
PLYA06The Queen to be assisted by two Stewards, who are to be chosen by her.
PLYA07The Queen and Stewards to chuse their own Partners.
PLYA08Ladies (who are strangers) are neither to draw for Partners or Places.
PLYA09Ladies to be considered as Strangers only the first Time of their Appearance for the Season.
PLYA10No Lady to Dance before Tea, who does not draw.
PLYA11Gentlemen (who mean to Dance before Tea) to give their Names to one of the Stewards.
PLYA12Minuets to begin at Seven o'Clock precisely.
PLYA13Two Country-Dances only before Tea.
PLYA14After Tea the Ladies to draw for Places only.
PLYA15No Dance to be called for after 12 o'Clock.

This set of rules introduce some new ideas. PLYA04 introduces the concept of a Queen of the assembly, to whom responsibility for decision making is delegated. She is assisted by stewards, much as the 1783 lady directresses at Dunn's Assembly Rooms appointed Gentlemen to assist them. The Queen appoints her own successor. The formal dancing appears to be a mixture of Minuets and Country Dances.




Plymouth Long Room (1796)

The same 1796 Plymouth-Dock Guide also contains a copy of the rules governing the assemblies at the Stonehouse Long Room.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Plymouth Long Room, 1796
Source: Plymouth-Dock Guide, 1796
PLYB01All Ladies and Gentlemen, that frequent this Room are desired to Subscribe.
PLYB02Every Thursday during the Summer Season there is a Concert and Assembly.
PLYB03The Concert to begin at Six o'Clock in the Afternoon, and end at Eight o'Clock.
PLYB04Dancing to begin at Eight and leave off precisely at Eleven o'Clock.
PLYB05The Subscribers to pay One Shilling each on entering the Room, and the Non-Subscribers to pay Three Shillings and Six-pence for which they are to have Coffee or Tea.
PLYB06No Tea or Coffee to be allowed for Entrance Money in the Room after Nine o'Clock.
PLYB07If any Lady, or Gentleman, should omit paying their Entrance, it is humbly hoped they will not take it amis when called on for it.
PLYB08Gentlemen on Public Days are desired not to wear Swords in the Room.
PLYB09The Proprietor begs that no Dogs may be suffered in the Room.

The restrictions on wearing of swords and on the presence of dogs mark these regulations as being similar to the 1788 rules at Weymouth.




Margate Assembly Rooms (1802)

The 1802 New Margate, Ramsgate, and Broadstairs Guide contains a copy of the rules governing the public assemblies at Margate, under their Master of Ceremonies Charles Le Bas.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Margate Assembly, 1802
Source: New Margate, Ramsgate, and Broadstairs Guide, 1802
MAR01That on ball-nights no ladies be admitted into the great room in habits, nor gentlemen in swords, boots, or pantaloons; military gentlemen excepted.
MAR02That the balls do begin at eight o'clock, and finish at twelve precisely, even in the middle of a dance.
MAR03That after a lady has called a dance, when it is finished, her place in the next dance is at the bottom.
MAR04That all ladies, who go down a dance, do continue in their places, till the rest have done the same. N.B. As a deviation from this rule gives universal offence, the Master of the Ceremonies will pay the utmost attention possible, to see it strictly observed.
MAR05That ladies, whether of precedence or not, do take their places at the bottom after a country dance is begun.
MAR06That the balls be on Mondays and Thursdays, and that they both be considered as undress balls. Cotillons and reels will be danced on Monday nights.
MAR07That the rooms be opened on Sunday evenings for a promenade.
MAR08That two sets for country-dances be not formed till upwards of twenty couple stand up, to be then equally divided, and no person to change from one set to another.
MAR09That no lady do permit another to stand above her, after she has taken her place in a set.
MAR10The Master of the Ceremonies entreats those ladies and gentlemen whom he has not the honour of knowing personally, to afford him an early opportunity of being introduced to them, as it will not only, in a certain degree, be the means of preventing improper company from coming to the rooms, but will enable him to pay every individual that attention, which it is not less his inclination than his duty to observe.

This set of rules are similar to earlier sets, the most interesting addition being MAR06 which introduces rules for the dancing of Cotillions and Reels, and MAR08 which indicates that Country Dancing sets only split once more than 20 couples stand up (contrary to the rules at Edinburgh in EDIN03).




Cheltenham Assembly Rooms (1803)

The 1803 History of Cheltenham contains a copy of the rules governing the public assemblies there under their Master of Ceremonies James King (also of Bath).

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules of the Rooms, Cheltenham Assembly, 1803
Source: History of Cheltenham, 1803
CHE01That the books to receive subscriptions at each room shall be put down on the 1st of May: the room to continue open on that subscription until the 1st of November.
CHE02That the winter amusements shall commence on the 1st of November, and end the 1st of May.
CHE03That the public amusements for the summer season be as follow:- Monday, ball. Tuesday, cards (and theatre.) Wednesday, dress card assembly. Thursday, cards (and theatre.) Friday, ball, Saturday, cards (and theatre.) The amusements to be alternate at each room.
CHE04That a subscription of one guinea to each room shall admit three of a family to the balls: single subscribers, half a guinea.
CHE05That a subscription of 5s for gentlemen, and 2s 6d for ladies, shall entitle them to free admission on the card nights, and for walking in the rooms at other times.
CHE06That non-subscribers do pay 2s 6d on ball nights, and 1s on card nights.
CHE07That the balls do begin as soon after eight as possible, and conclude precisely at eleven:- and ladies are particularly requested to give attention to this regulation, that the Master of the Ceremonies may be enabled, by their early attendance, to commence the ball at the appointed time
CHE08That a reasonable interval shall be allowed, between the dances, for ladies of rank to take their places. Those who stand up after the dance is called, must go to the bottom for that dance; after which, should they wish to take precedence, on application to the Master of the Ceremonies, he will give them their place.
CHE09That ladies be allowed to change their partners every two dances: and, to prevent any mistakes that might originate with respect to place, those ladies who first stand up shall be entitled to such places as they may then procure for the remainder of the evening, should it not interfere with ladies who claim precedence.
CHE10That ladies do not admit other couples to stand above them, after the set is formed: and they are requested to continue in their places, after they have gone down the dance, until the other couples have done the same.
CHE11That gentlemen cannot be admitted to the balls, or Wednesday card assembly, in boots or half boots; officers in their uniforms excepted.
CHE12That no hazard, or games of chance, be on any account permitted in those rooms.

Perhaps the most interesting of these rules is CHE09, which explicitly grants permission to change partners after every two dances.




Glasgow Assemblies (1804)

The 1804 History of the City of Glasgow by James Denholm included a copy of the regulations of the Glasgow Assemblies. The Assembly Rooms were opened in 1798 and the rules may date to then. They are broadly equivalent to the earlier rules from Bath and elsewhere, but are lacking some of the innovations from the Edinburgh rules.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Glasgow Assemblies, 1804
Source: The History of the City of Glasgow, 1804
GLAS01The company to meet at eight o'clock, and the Tickets to be drawn precisely at half past eight.
GLAS02Each Set to consist of twelve Couple, and the Ladies to draw Tickets for their places.
GLAS03No Ladies to stand up in the Country Dances, except in the place to which their Ticket entitles them, and are requested to keep their Ticket for the evening.
GLAS04Only two Set to be allowed to dance Country Dances at a time.
GLAS05No Ladies to leave their place till the Dance is finished.
GLAS06No Reels to be allowed but with permission of the Directress or Director.
GLAS07No Gentleman to stand before the Ladies, so as to intercept their view.
GLAS08When a Lady has called one Dance, her place in the next is at the bottom of it.
GLAS09No Gentleman to be admitted in Boots or Half Boots, (Officers on duty excepted) and those who have sticks are desired to leave them at the Bar.
GLAS10No servant to be admitted up stairs.
GLAS11The same Regulations to be observed at the Card Assemblies, only that the Company are to meet at eight o'clock, and the Tickets to be drawn at half past eight; and no Country Dance or Rubber at Cards to be begun after twelve o'clock.

The references to tickets are similar to the rules from Edinburgh, except that they are allocated by a draw rather than in sequence. The restriction to 12 couple sets (GLAS02) also matches the Edinburgh rules. The most interesting new rule is GLAS06 that denies the dancing of Reels without the permission of the director (see also MAR06); it can be possible to dance a Reel to the same music as a Country Dance, and some dancers may have been inclined to do so while a Country Dance was being danced, this rule forbids that distraction. Other interesting points include the reference to a Directress (GLAS06) and the non-admittance of servants (GLAS10).




Manchester Assembly (1804)

The 1804 Manchester Guide by Joseph Aston contains a copy of the rules governing the Mosley-street rooms in Manchester. The rooms were originally opened in 1792, the rules may date to then.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Rules for the Manchester Assembly, 1804
Source: The Manchester Guide, 1804
MAN01The tickets for dancing to be distributed, a quarter before eight. The dancing to begin at eight. No ticket transferrable.
MAN02The ladies to take their places according to the number of their tickets, and to keep them during the evening.
MAN03Gentlemen to change partners every two dances.
MAN04If the manager think the set too crouded, it shall be divided; the odd numbers to remain; the even numbers to form another set, and each to call a dance alternately.
MAN05No couple to leave the set before the dance is concluded, without an apology from the lady to the Queen of the assembly, or one of the managers for the evening.
MAN06No refreshments allowed in the ball-room; and negus, only, in the card room.
MAN07When the assembly is closed, no refreshments of any kind to be permitted.
MAN08One cotillion, only to be danced each assembly, with permission of the manager, and that immediately after tea.
MAN09In order that proper attention may be paid to strangers, it is requested that they may be introduced to the Queen of the assembly, or one of the managers for the evening.
MAN10If any disputes arise, they shall be left to the determination of the managers present.
MAN11To prevent inconvenience at the carriage door, ladies and gentlemen are desired to give positive orders to their servants, to set down with their horses heads towards St Peter's church, and to take up, towards Market-street-lane. No carriage to range before the front of the assembly-rooms; but to wait lower down in Mosley-street till called for. The chairs to set down and take up at the back door of the assembly-rooms, where there is a convenient anti-room for that purpose. The chairs coming to take up, remain at the outside of the door till called for.

There are several interesting new features of this set of rules. The MAN03 rule requires a change of partners after every two dances, it's a gender reversed version of CHE09; MAN04 defines how a longways set will be split in two; the phrase Queen of the Assembly is introduced, as in PLYA04, perhaps a similar concept to the Directress in GLAS06. One particularly interesting reference is to Cotillion dancing in MAN08, something not many of the previous regulations have referred to, and which also brings to mind the GLAS06 rule concerning the dancing of Reels. The final MAN11 clause ensures the smooth emptying of the building, and is similar in purpose to Nash's original BATH02 rule.




Belfast Assembly (1808)

The Belfast Commercial Chronicle for the 23rd January 1808 printed a brief advert for the Fourth of the Belfast Assemblies, which was to be on the 26th January 1808 under the direction of Mr Hull. It included a new rule that was to be added to the existing rules of the Assembly.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Belfast Assembly, 1808
Source: Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 23rd January 1808
BEL01Ladies who Dance, to draw for places at Nine o'Clock - to keep their numbers during the Night, and not transfer or exchange them on any account.
BEL02Those who come in after Nine o'Clock to take their places at the foot as they come.

The implication is that something had gone wrong at preceding assemblies, and Mr Hull felt it necessary to impose this new rule in order to avoid similar complications thereafter. He expressed the two clauses as one long rule, which was to be inserted as the Fourth Rule of the Assemblies.




Norwich First Subscription Assembly (1808)

The Norfolk Chronicle for the 22nd October 1808 printed a brief advert for the Norwich First Subscription Assembly, which was to be on the 1st November 1808. It included a couple of rules, potentially implying that they were newly introduced (and perhaps implying that other rules weren't required).

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Norwich First Subscription Assembly, 1808
Source: Norfolk Chronicle, 22nd October 1808
NOR01The ladies are requested to wear their Dancing Tickets.
NOR02The company is requested to assemble at 8 o'clock.

Rule NOR01 is comment-worthy as it's the first rule to explicitly require a dancing ticket or number to be worn. It's not clear how they were worn, weather pinned to clothing, dangling from a ribbon, or tucked into a hat.




Glocester Dancing and Card Assemblies (1809)

The Gloucester Journal for the 20th November 1809 carried an advert reporting that next Subscription Assembly will be held at the Bell Inn, on Thursday, the 23rd of November, 1809, under the stewards for the night MR. T. TURNER and MR. GORDON. It included one new rule in the advert.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Glocester Dancing and Card Assemblies, 1809
Source: Glocester Journal, 20th November 1809
GLO01Dancing Tickets to be drawn for by the Gentlemen in the Room, at a quarter after Eight o'clock.

This rule is interesting as it's the first to explicitly indicate that the Gentlemen will draw the tickets that influence who gets to lead the Country Dancing; it's similar to the GLAS02 rule from 1804, except that required the Ladies to draw tickets for their places.




Bury New Rooms (1810)

The Bury and Norwich Post for the 28th November 1810 carried an advert for the second Subscription Ball, at these Rooms, will be on Thursday, December 6th, 1810. It included several rules, and the stewards would be Capt. Tinling, R.N. and Lieut Col. Gould.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Bury New Rooms, 1810
Source: Bury and Norwich Post, 28th November 1810
BURY01Dancing to commence precisely at Nine o'clock, and Married Ladies will have no precedence after the Ball is began.
BURY02No Lady to call more than one dance, and each set to call alternately.
BURY03Ladies are expected, when they have gone down the dance, to remain in their places till it is finished.
BURY04No Lady or Gentleman residing in Bury, or within 5 miles of it, can be admitted as a Non-subscriber.

The BURY01 rule is of interest as indicating that married women enjoyed some degree of precedence prior to the start of the Ball.




Lower Assembly Rooms, Bath (1810)

The 1812 Historic and Local New Bath Guide included the 1810 rules for Bath's Lower Assembly Rooms under master of ceremonies F.J. Guyenette. They're not materially different from the earlier regulations at Bath.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Lower Assembly Rooms, Bath, 1810
Source: Historic and Local New Bath Guide, 1812
GUY01That the ball shall begin as soon as possible after eight o'clock, and conclude precisely at twelve.
GUY02That two rows of seats at the upper end of the room be reserved for Peeresses.
GUY03That ladies who intend dancing minuets do wear lappets, and it is requested that the rest of their dress may correspond with this distinction.
GUY04That a reasonable time will be allowed, between the minuets and country dances, for ladies of rank to take their places; those who stand up after the dance is called, must go to the bottom for that dance, after which, should they wish to take their precedence, on application to the Master of the Ceremonies he will put them in their places.
GUY05That ladies do not permit other couples to stand above them after the set is formed; and they are particularly requested to continue in their places after they have gone down a dance, until the rest of the couples have done the same.
GUY06That gentlemen cannot be admitted to the rooms on ball or concert nights in boots or half-boots; nor are pantaloons considered as a proper dress for a ball.
GUY07That no hazard, or unlawful games, will on any account be allowed in these rooms.
GUY08That each lady and gentleman on public nights pay 6d. on entering the room, which will entitle them to tea.
GUY09That ladies and gentlemen coming to town, give orders that their names and places of abode be entered in any of the Pump-Room books; and the Master of the Ceremonies thus publicly requests the favour of such ladies and gentlemen to whom he has not the honour of being personally known, to offer him some favourable occasion of being presented to them, that he might be enabled to shew that attention which is not more his duty than his inclination to observe.

The most interesting of these rules is GUY04 as it offers the most comprehensive description of how ladies of precedence are treated after a dance has begun. If they're late, they must start at the end, but can be promoted back to a position of privilege for the subsequent dances on application to the Master of Ceremonies.




Buxton Assembly Room (1811)

The 1811 History of Buxton included the regulations for the Assembly Room there. It reports that The Harmony of the Society, consisting in regularity and good order, the following proposals are submitted to the consideration of the Visitors of Buxton, and which if subscribed to, it is presumed will be invariably attended to.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Buxton Assembly Room (1811)
Source: History of Buxton, 1811
BUX01It is proposed, that the Ball-Room at the Great-Hotel be opened for the reception of company on the 4th of June, (provided there be twenty subscribers, or as soon as that number shall subscribe, and continue so during the season,) precisely at eight o'clock, and to close without reserve at eleven.
BUX02That no company be admitted to drink tea on the Sunday in the Great-Room, nor candles lighted that evening. The Card-Room to be locked on the Sabbath-Day.
BUX03In order to avoid any disputes that might attend the choice of a Master of the Ceremonies, as well as to prevent the expense which such an appointment would necessarily subject the company to, it is proposed that the balls be conducted, as they usually have been at Buxton, when one of the company has always been ready to take the trouble of acting in that capacity.
BUX04That each subscriber shall pay One Guinea for the Season, and Non-Subscribers Four Shillings each Night. The Subscription-Books to be kept with the Waiter at the Ball-room, where tickets will be delivered. N.B. Tickets not Transferable. One Shilling each will be collected at the door on Wednesday night for tea.

The small spa town of Buxton had distinctive rules. It had rules to prevent gambling on Sundays (BUX02), concerning operation out of season (BUX01) and to keep operating costs to a minimum (BUX03).




Bristol Assemblies (1813)

The 1813 A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places included the regulations for the Assemblies at Bristol under the Master of Ceremonies William Pennington.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Bristol Assemblies, 1813
Source: A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places, 1813
BRI01That a certain row of seats be set apart at the upper end of the room, for ladies of precedence, and foreigners of fashion.
BRI02That every lady who has a right to precedence, deliver her card to the master of the ceremonies on entering the room.
BRI03That no gentlemen appear with a sword, or with spurs, in these rooms; or, on a ball-night, in boots.
BRI04That after a lady has called her dance, her place in the next is at the bootom; and, for the future, it is to be understood, that no lady of rank can avail herself of it, after the country dances are begun.
BRI05That on all ball-nights, when the minuets are danced, ladies who intend dancing them, will sit in a front row; for the convenience of being taken out, and returning to their places.
BRI06That, on all occasions, ladies are admitted into these rooms in hats, not excepting the balls given to the Master of the Ceremonies.
BRI07That the subscription-balls will begin as soon as possible after seven o'clock, and conclude at eleven on account of the health of the company.
BRI08It is earnestly requested, that when a lady has gone down the dance, she will be so polite as not to retire till it be concluded.

There are several points of interest in these rules. Bristol had retained the formal dancing of minuets in BRI05, acknowledged that special balls for the benefit of the master of ceremonies could have different rules in BRI06 (though not with regards to hats), and BRI07 required the dancing to end at 11pm on account of the health of the company.




Edward Payne's Rooms, London (1814)

Edward Payne published his A New Companion to the Ball Room in 1814, and included in it the rules he used at the Assemblies that he hosted. They're especially interesting as being solidly Regency era, from London, and associated with a high profile Dancing Master. These rules do post-date several of the great Etiquette guides of the early 19th Century, and may have been influenced by them - Payne himself being the author of one of the most comprehensive of such guides.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Payne's Assemblies, London, 1814
Source: A New Companion to the Ball Room, 1814
PAYNE01That no improper Language be made use of.
PAYNE02No Person to be Admitted in Dishabille, or Gentlemen in coloured Handkerchiefs.
PAYNE03Those Ladies and Gentlemen who come first, will receive their numbers as they enter, the first couple will receive number one, and so on regularly.
PAYNE04As soon as Six Couple are Arrived, the Country Dancing will commence.
PAYNE05The Dances to be called in rotation, according to the number of the Ticket.
PAYNE06Any Lady or Gentleman found altering their number, or losing their ticket, to be placed at the bottom of the set.
PAYNE07It is requested that no Lady or Gentleman will sit down until the second dance is finished, and on every second dance a change of partners (except those who bring their partners and wish to continue dancing with them.)
PAYNE08As soon as the second Dance is ended, the Waltzing will commence.
PAYNE09No Two Ladies to dance together whilst two Gentlemen are in the room disengaged; the same rule must be observed with Gentlemen.
PAYNE10No Gentleman is allowed to dance in Boots or Gaiters.
PAYNE11Any Subscriber may be at liberty to introduce a Friend or Friends, previous to their becoming Subscribers for their first Night, gratis.
PAYNE12No Person to be admitted in this Assembly without being Introduced by a Subscriber.
PAYNE13Any Subscriber introducing their Friend or Friends, must be answerable for their Respectability and good behaviour.
PAYNE14No Person is allowed to Issue or expose any Ticket or Tickets in these Rooms, for any other, when the Admission is gratis.
PAYNE15The Assemblies are held on every other Wednesday Evening. Dancing to commence at 8, and conclude precisely at half past 11 o'Clock.
PAYNE16Each Subscriber to have his Name Entered, and the Subscription to be paid at the commencement.

There is much of interest here. The PAYNE02 rule specifically banned coloured handkerchiefs (cravattes), which is similar to the WEY04 rule that banned coloured gloves in 1788. The numbers are allocated on arrival with no hint of rank based precedence, and Country Dancing can begin once six couples are ready (PAYNE04). The PAYNE07 rule encouraged a change of partners every two dances (a footnote indicated that it has previously been every three dances), and harks back to the MAN03 rule from 1804, with the novel proviso that if a couple arrived together they could continue dancing together. Rule PAYNE08 is especially interesting, it allows a Waltz between each two Country Dances (recalling references to Minuets, Reels and Cotillions in previous rules), and for the first time we see PAYNE09 discouraging same-sex partners.

The rules in italics (PAYNE08, PAYNE11, PAYNE14 and PAYNE15) were identified by Payne as being unique to his establishment. He considered his other regulations to be generally applicable.




Leamington Spa (1814)

The 1816 New Guide, An Historical and Descriptive Account of Warwick and Leamington included the regulations for the public assemblies at Leamington in 1814 under Master of Ceremonies James Heaviside.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Leamington Assembly Rooms, 1814
Source: New Guide, An Historical and Descriptive Account of Warwick and Leamington, 1816
LEA01That the power of direction over the Public Assemblies held at these Rooms, on the Ball and Card Assembly Nights, is in the Ladies and Gentlemen, Subscribers to the Balls, and them only.
LEA02That this power is deputed to the Master of the Ceremonies, duly elected by us, whose conduct under this authority, is at all times subject to the cognizance and control of the Subscribers.
LEA03That the Master of the Ceremonies be elected and removed at our pleasure; but only by a majority of votes, at a general meeting specially called for the purpose of investigating his conduct.
LEA04That every person whose name appears on the book as a Ball Subscriber, is entitled to attend and vote at all general meetings, Ladies as well as Gentlemen.
LEA05That the Ball Subscribers of the preceding year, continue in full power and authority, till the day following the first ball of the succeeding year; after which, their authority ceases, and the names appearing on the ball book of the current year, becomes the body of Subscribers, on whom the power of direction devolves.
LEA06That the Balls shall commenece at eight o'clock, and terminate precisely at twelve, even in the middle of a dance.
LEA07That seats at the top of the Ball Room be reserved for Ladies of precedence, of the rank of Peeresses.
LEA08That Ladies take precedence in the dance, according to their rank, the right of places resting entirely with the Ladies; all precedence to be regulated before the commencement of the dance, those who stand up after the dance begun, must take their places for the dance at the bottom of the set.
LEA09No Lady that has not precedence, can come above another after she has taken her place in the dance.
LEA10No Gentlemen in boots, of any description, to be admitted on ball nights, except Officers dressed in uniform.
LEA11That these, and all future Orders and Regulations, agreed to in General Meetings, be inserted in the Subscribers' Book, and signed by the Chairman of the Meeting; such Orders and Rules not to be altered but at a General Meeting of the Subscribers.
LEA12That a general meeting of the Subscribers may be called by any five of the Ball Subscribers, they affixing their signatures to their summons, and inserting the purpose for which it is called, and which must be published one week at least, before such Meeting takes place.

These rules fuse together elements from many previous sets. The subscribers at Leamington were keen to emphasise their authority over the Master of Ceremonies, and the right of precedence in the dancing for ladies of rank.




Kingston Assembly Rooms, Bath (1816)

The 1819 Walks Through Bath by Pierce Egan included the regulations for the Kingston Assembly Rooms in Bath, dated November 19th 1816, and conducted under the Master of Ceremonies, Captain Marshall. They're a modernised (Regency era) version of the rules traditionally associated with the Bath Assemblies.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Kingston Assembly Rooms, Bath, 1816
Source: Walks Through Bath, 1819
KINGSTON01That every ticket transferred to a lady shall bear the name both of the lady and the subscriber transferring the same, otherwise it can on no account be received.
KINGSTON02That non-subscribers may be admitted to the balls on being introduced by a subscriber, or by leaving their names at the rooms for the master of the ceremonies.
KINGSTON03That these rooms shall be opened for the reception of the company at eight o'clock in the evening, a quarter of an hour before which time they shall be regularly and properly lighted up; and, the master of the ceremonies shall attend to receive the company, and an overture be played by the band at half-past eight o'clock; after which the dancing shall commence, and cease at twelve o'clock precisely, although in the middle of a dance.
KINGSTON04That the upper benches shall be reserved for ladies of the rank of peeresses.
KINGSTON05That ladies, according to their precedence, shall be entitled at all times to their appropriate places at the top in the set; but other ladies standing up after the dance is commenced, shall take their places at the bottom of the set; and every lady who shall have danced down the set, is expected not to sit down till that dance shall be finished.
KINGSTON06That ladies may change partners every two dances.
KINGSTON07That it be left at the option of the ladies to dance with whom they please; and their declining any particular partner shall not prevent their dancing with another.
KINGSTON08That no gentleman be admitted in boots, half-boots, coloured pantaloons, or trowsers, unless an officer in uniform and on duty, and then without their swords.
KINGSTON09That every person pay sixpence for their tea on ball nights.
KINGSTON10Ladies proposing to dance minuets, shall announce their intentions to the master of the ceremonies on the day preceding the ball, and shall be in the rooms appropriately dressed punctually at half-past eight o'clock.
KINGSTON11That no person shall be allowed to insert their names as subscribers, or be admitted as visitors to these balls, who carry on any occupation in the retail line of business, the master of the ceremonies' ball-nights excepted.
KINGSTON12The master of the ceremonies shall use his utmost endeavours to enforce the several foregoing resolutions, and he will be supported by the subscribers in the performance of his duty.

Interesting rules include KINGSTON06 which permits, but doesn't require, ladies to change partners every two dances - it's similar to PAYNE07. The KINGSTON07 rule is especially interesting in permitting ladies to dance with whom they please, with no forfeit for refusing a partner. KINGSTON10 indicates that Minuet dancing was still practised at Bath, despite it having fallen out of fashion at many other venues.




Guernsey Private Assemblies (1822)

The 1833 Strangers' Guide to the Islands of Guernsey and Jersey included regulations for the private assemblies at Guersey, in the Channel Islands. It reports that visitors often made invidious remarks over the mode of admission, but as the assemblies were private it was the islanders right to enforce them. It is implied that the rules were adopted in 1822.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Guernsey Private Assemblies, 1822
Source: Strangers' Guide to the Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, 1833
GUE01The assemblies to take place every other Tuesday during the season; to open at seven, and to close at half-past eleven. The drawing of Tickets to commence at half-past seven; the first numbers to be drawn by the ladies present, the remaining numbers to be drawn indiscriminately, as the ladies come in.
GUE02No exchange of numbers permitted. Ladies loosing tickets stand at the bottom: if more than one they draw for places.
GUE03As soon as drawing has taken place, dancing to commence with a quadrille not exceeding five figures, which, with an English country dance, compose one set.
GUE04Ladies sitting down during a dance, to stand at the bottom during the remainder of the evening.
GUE05Officers in uniform are admitted in boots, but must not dance in spurs.
GUE06No children to be admitted.
GUE07No native inhabitant, whose parents have not previously subscribed, to be admitted, unless proposed by the master of the ceremonies, and approved of by two thirds of the ladies and gentlemen subscribers present. None but native inhabitants entitled to vote.
GUE08It is to be observed by every native inhabitant, proposed to become a subscriber to these rooms, that his name shall be publicly mentioned to the master of ceremonies, and by him to the native subscribers, a fortnight, at least, before the meeting.
GUE09Every native inhabitant subscriber is liable to serve the office of master of ceremonies, or find a deputy, under the penalty of 10s 6d.
GUE10No stranger to be admitted, unless with a ticket from a native subscriber, who must, the first time of entrance, introduce the individual to the master of the ceremonies, and insert the name with his own, in the book kept for that purpose. -Officers of the garrison alone excepted.
GUE11N.B. The subscription for the season is twenty-five shillings; and for one night three shillings.

Several distinctive rules are found here. GUE09 indicates that any inhabitant subscriber could be drafted into the office of MC, whether they wished to serve or not. GUE03 explicitly refers to the dancing of Quadrilles, and indicates that a Quadrille set would be paired with a Country Dance. Several of the rules emphasise the priority of locals over visitors.




Aberystwyth Assembly Rooms (1824)

The 1824 New Aberystwyth Guide by T.J. Llewelyn Prichard included the regulations for the public assemblies at Aberystwyth.

Reference NumberRule Text
Title: Aberystwyth Assembly Rooms, 1824
Source: New Aberystwyth Guide, 1824
ABER01That no Servants be admitted.
ABER02That no Gentlemen (Military excepted,) be admitted in boots.
ABER03That all Ladies who go down a dance, do continue in their places till the rest have done the same.
ABER04That Ladies will draw Tickets for places, as they come into the Room, which will be entered in a book, and by no means allowed to change them.
ABER05That Ladies take their places at the bottom, after a dance is begun.
ABER06That the Master of the Ceremonies shall be supported in the execution of his office, by the Subscribers at large; and any misbehaviour towards him, shall be considered as an offence to the company.

These rules are reasonably standard, ABER04 implies that there are no precedence rules, and explicitly requires the ladies to draw the tickets for leading the dances.






Figure 4. Interior of the 1784 Cheltenham Assembly Rooms, courtesy of Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum.
It should be clear from these various rules and regulations that the governance of assemblies could vary by location, and over time. Many of the rules involve dress codes, ensuring that the participants in the assemblies invest effort into their appearance. Others involve the dancing conventions, especially for Country Dancing, and the financial administration of the assemblies. Some of the rules involve issues of relevance to the local community, others are repeated for most of the venues; some involve privileges for rank based precedence, others are silent on the subject. Rules concerning the payment for Tea and Coffee are particularly prominent, as are those governing the obligations of the Master of the Ceremonies.

The existence of a rule could hint that transgressions had necessitated its being written. The absence of a rule doesn't imply the lack of a convention - many of the regulations will have been in common practice before the rule was officially enacted. The rules hint that Country Dancing was the primary activity of the public balls at the Assembly Rooms, along with Minuet dancing at Bath; most other dance forms either weren't practised, were restricted to special nights, or weren't commented upon in the rules.

Towards the start of the 19th Century a series of etiquette guides were published containing further detailed rules for conducting the dancing at public assemblies; those guides were heavily influenced by the prevailing assembly room conventions, but we'll consider them in a future paper.

We'll leave this investigation here. If you have further information to share pertaining to the regulations at Britain's Assembly Rooms, do please Contact Us.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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