Site Name: Willis's Rooms
County: London (city-county)
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location
Address: South side of King Street, St. James. For a current map, Click Here. For an historical map showing the venue (in addition to those excerpted at right), Click Here.
Alternate Names: Almack’s Assembly Rooms.
Performance Space Description: Information about this venue has not yet been compiled; however, some sense of the performance space may be gleaned by following the links at right. In particular:
See the 'Bibliographic Sources' link for a provisional list of venue-relevant resources (both primary and secondary). Wherever possible (i.e. when the pertinent text is relatively short and/or easily condensed) this material has been transcribed, and appears beneath the appropriate bibliographic citation.
See the 'Events at venue' link for a listing of blackface/minstrelsy-related events that took place in this performance space (with attached bibliographic references).
Black’s New Guide to London and its Environs. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1863.
“WILLIS’ ROOMS, King Street, St James’, were built in 1765, from designs by Robert Mylne. For a considerable time they were called ‘Almack's,’ after the original proprietor, a Scotchman. The great ball-room is about 100 feet long by 40 feet wide. It was here that the well-known exclusive balls took place. The rooms are let for concerts, lectures, etc.” (216).
Cunningham, P. Modern London; or, London as it is. London: John Murray, 1851.
”ALMACK'S is a suite of Assembly-rooms in KING STREET, ST JAMES'S, built (1765) by Robert Mylne, architect, and called Almack's after the original proprietor, and occasionally ‘Willis's Rooms’ after the present proprietor. The balls called ‘Almack's,’ for which these rooms are famous, are managed by a Committee of Ladies of high rank, and the only mode of admission is by vouchers or personal introduction. Almack kept the Thatched House Tavern, St. James's-street on the site of which stands the Conservative Club. The rooms are let for concerts, general meetings, and public balls” (180).
London as it is To-day. London: H.G. Clarke & Co., 1851.
“WILLIS'S ROOMS, King Street, St James's, more familiarly known as Almack's, from the distinguished balls which are given here under the direction of a committee of Lady Patronesses; the highly coveted admission to which, can only be obtained by vouchers, or personal introduction. These rooms, which were completed in 1765, under the direction of Mr; Robert Mylne, the architect, had been built with such rapidity, that in order to allay the fears of the public, as to their damp condition, the proprietor in his opening advertisement, stated that they had been built with hot bricks and boiling water. Here take place the concerts of the Musical Union, under the direction of Mr. Ella, which are becoming very popular, and highly remunerative; balls for charitable purposes are also given here; and public meetings of a high character, are occasionally held in these rooms” (224).
Timbs, John. Curiosities of London (1868). London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1868.
“ALMACK'S ASSEMBLY ROOMS, on the south side of King-street St James's, were built by Robert Mylne, architect, for Almack, a Scotchman, and were opened Feb. 12, 1765, with an Assembly, at which the Duke of Cumberland, the hero of Culloden, was present. […] The large-ball room is about one hundred feet in length, by forty feet in width; it is chastely decorated with gilt columns and pilasters, classic medallions, mirrors, &c., and is lit with gas in cut-glass lustres. The largest number of persons ever present in this room at one ball was 1700.
The rooms are let for public meetings, dramatic readings, lectures, concerts, balls and dinners. Here Mrs. Billington, Mr. Braham, and Signor Naldi. gave concerts from 1808 to 1810, in rivalry with Madame Catalani at Hanover-square Rooms; and here Mr. Charles Kemble gave, in 1844, his Readings from Shakespeare. Almack's Rooms are often called ‘Willis's,’ from the name of their present proprietor. Many public dinners now take place here. […] Many years ago was published Almack's, a novel, in which the leaders of fashion were sketched with much freedom: they were identified in A Key to Almack's, by Benjamin Disraeli” (4).