When I was writing Bound By Their Secret Passion, the final book in the Scandalous Summerfields series, I needed to invent a masquerade that would attract the most scandalous of London’s aristocracy and the Cyprian world. I decided to place the ball in the Argyll Rooms. The year is 1818.
The Argyll Rooms were originally at the corner of King Street and Little Argyll Street in what was once the north wing of the mansion of the Duke of Argyll, partially demolished to build Little Argyll Street. It opened as the Argyll Rooms in 1806, hosting various entertainments such as music, dancing, burlettas, and dramatic performances, including readings by the famous Sarah Siddons. And, of course, the infamous Cyprian’s Ball.
In 1818, though, the old Argyll Rooms were to be demolished to make way for New Street, which would eventually be called Regent Street. Here’s the map showing the eventual path of Regent Street.
So I invented a last Masquerade Ball in the old Argyll Rooms. Luckily I found a detailed description of the rooms in British History Online.
The Rooms were ‘fitted up in a style of great magnificence. Corinthian pillars, illuminated by gilt lamps, grace the entrance and the lobbies. The ground-floor consists of three very extensive rooms, the first of which is hung with scarlet drapery. The drapery of the second is a rich salmon colour, lined with pea-green. The third, though inferior to the others, is nevertheless, finished in a capital style; and the whole is most brilliantly lighted up.
‘The grand saloon is of an oblong form, with elliptical terminations, and is used for the purpose of theatrical representations; and also for masquerades and balls. Above the entrance, on each side, are three tiers of boxes, amounting in the whole to twenty-four. The first range above the ground tier is ornamented with elegant antique bas-reliefs in bronze; the upper tier is of ethereal blue, decorated with scrolls in stone colour, and both are enclosed with scrolls in rich gold mouldings. Over each box is a beautiful circular bronze chandelier, with cut-glass pendants. The draperies are of scarlet; and the supporters between the boxes represent the Roman ox, and Fasces, in bronze and gold.
‘At the opposite end are the orchestra and stage, over which is the following appropriate motto: “Sollicitæ jucunda oblivia vitæ”. The walls of the middle space, of an ample size, are superbly ornamented with ranges of Corinthian pillars, representing porphyry with gold capitals. On the intermediate pannels, which are surrounded with borders of blue and gold, are basreliefs, in stone colour, as large as life, the subjects of which are admirably adapted to the purposes for which they are placed there….’
I was able to sprinkle in this description as my characters moved from room to room at the masquerade ball, eventually winding up in one of those very private boxes.
Here’s how my imagined masquerade ball might have appeared, although this print is from 1825 when the new Argyll Rooms would have been opened: