The fundraising campaign that eventually paid for this massive building began on August 19, 1773. As permitted by an act of parliament passed in the 14th year of George III’s reign, it was placed on the western side of the Vicarage-house. This legislation gave the vicar of Newcastle, Dr. Fawcett, the right to let out a piece of his garden for 999 years at a ground rent of 20 pounds per year. This act established the lease’s effective date. The cornerstone was laid in front of a huge crowd of dignitaries by William Lowes, Esq., who died before the structure was finished.
One of the lesser known architects Newcastle has birthed, William Newton was born in London in 1735 and died in 1790. He was in charge of designing the Old Assembly Rooms. Newton, a late-eighteenth-century architect, was well-known for his neoclassical-style municipal and residential constructions, as well as religious structures.
Newton moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1776 after learning his trade from renowned London architect Sir William Chambers. One of his most noteworthy buildings in Newcastle was the Old Assembly Rooms on Fenkle Street.
The Old Assembly Rooms, built between 1776 and 1778 as a public gathering place for the town’s aristocracy, also hosted social events such as dances, concerts, and plays. The building has a neoclassical facade with a central pediment supported by six Ionic columns and was made using local sandstone. Newton designed not just the Old Assembly Rooms, but also the Theatre Royal, the Custom House, and the Mansion House in Newcastle upon Tyne. He also created several Northumberland manor homes, notably Wallington Hall and Seaton Delaval Hall.
The Old Assembly Rooms have been graded II* and are presently used as a multi-purpose event and exhibition facility. The building was extensively renovated in the 1980s to bring it up to date in terms of amenities while keeping its historic charm and beauty.
Newcastle’s Generous Attitude in 1776
The overall cost, including furnishings and other charges, was roughly £6701, with the company contributing £200. A vast and intelligent group of people originally exposed this edifice to the public on June 24, 1776, during race week.
Because of the gentry’s longstanding reputation for refinement and generosity in this town and the surrounding area, this homage to the gentry is acknowledged for the sophistication of its design and the excellence of its craftsmanship. This is where construction started. The front is embellished with a colonnade of six lovely pillars, and the two magnificent wings are designed in the same style to complement the front. A semicircular iron barrier surrounds a small patch of grass in front that is next to a gravel road. This route was constructed to accommodate carriages. The House of Assembly in Bath, which is likewise located in the city of Bath, is the only comparable structure in the kingdom, and its inside is said to be more vast. The following are the dimensions of the grand ballroom: 94 feet long, 36 feet wide, and 32 feet tall. The summit is spherical, and directly above the main entrance is a music gallery filled with high-quality instruments and illuminated by natural light.
There are seven stunning glass chandeliers, all of which are rather large in comparison to the size of the auditorium. The one in the middle apparently cost 600 guineas. The coup d’aeil is at its most enticing and bewitching when night falls and the suburb is lighted in all its grandeur. There are multiple poker rooms right next to this tavern.
The saloon is outfitted with two high-quality mirrors and a highly valued artwork by Downman representing a variety of figures, including Sir John Falstaff, Mrs. Ford, and others. The portion of the building normally reserved for private gatherings is converted into a tea parlor for the guild and assize balls. Because of the plethora of available space, public meals are routinely conducted here.
The dining room is on the main floor, and its length and width are virtually comparable to those of the great room on the upper level, despite the dining room’s 14-foot ceiling. The dining room is located beneath the main living space. There have been around 460 dinners served here, with a total of approximately 460 diners.
There are two meeting rooms, a subscription newsroom, catering facilities, and other services nearby. Each of the few books in the newsroom’s library was carefully chosen to match the aesthetic and ambiance of the place. The vast majority of the works in this section are concerned with current events and popular interests.
The most notable defects are the lack of a front portico under which carriages can be parked and an entrance hall that matches the magnificence of the other rooms. The building’s main problems are these two omissions.
Forty-seven Gentlemen Bachelors of Newcastle threw a ball and supper for the ladies of Newcastle and the surrounding area on March 20, 1823. 467 guests attended, dressed to the hilt in all the splendor, brilliancy, and variety that taste could conjure up or money could buy. The forty-seven Gentlemen Bachelors of Newcastle staged a ball and banquet for the benefit of the women and gentlemen of Newcastle and the surrounding area.
The gala and supper were open to all residents of the town and their guests from the surrounding districts. In addition to the many historical and modern European clothes on display, the collection offered a peek of apparel from all across the world.
Nobody in Newcastle had ever seen anything like it.