Although the Assembly Rooms built in 1771, and still to be found in all their glory at Bennett Street, are the ones most people think of when they think of Bath’s Assembly Rooms, they weren’t actually Bath’s first Assembly Rooms. Bath’s first assembly rooms were known as Harrison’s Rooms and were built for an entrepreneur in 1708 at the urging of Beau Nash – one of the first Masters of Ceremonies at Bath. Harrison’s Rooms became less popular as the ‘Upper Assembly Rooms’ (as they were then known) at Bennett Street grew in popularity, but Harrison’s Rooms were nevertheless still quite the landmark when Jane Austen came to Bath.
We mention all this because a hand-painted fan showing a long-lost view of Harrison’s Rooms as Jane would have known them has been acquired by Bath’s Holburne Museum, where it will go on display for the first time.
The rare fan, which had been in a private collection, shows elegantly dressed people strolling in Harrison’s Walk, a tree-lined riverside walk kept exclusive by paid subscription. The building in the background is Harrison’s Rooms.
The fan was painted around 1750 by Thomas Loggon, a renowned fan painter with dwarfism who ran a teahouse and china shop under the sign of The Little Fanmaker. As well as the fashionable group chatting with Nash, Loggon included himself in the scene (the slight figure towards the right).
Harrison’s Rooms burned down in 1820, and the view shown on the fan is now completely different to the view as Jane knew it (the area where Harrison’s Rooms once stood is beside the Parade Gardens). So if you’re coming to Bath it might be a nice thing to go and see after visiting the Jane Austen Centre.