Thursday 17 December 2015

The Archery Rooms

A garbled and verbose description of the 'Archery Rooms', which appears to be hosting a masquerade ball of a middling sort, patronised by shop-assistants and the like (and ladies of easy virtue). All I can find on the internet is that this venue was at 26 Bath Place, New Road, and also used for chartist lectures and meetings. If you know any more, please do let me know. 

There is a place of amusement professedly of this description, located in the New-road, not far from Tottenham-court-road. Those who wish to visit it cannot fail to identify it - being blessed with those very necessary articles vulgarly called eyes, but scientifically known by the name of organs of vision - by observing the exterior adorned in various places with bulls' eyes, with straw retinas.
    Now any one in his every-day senses would imagine that he might have his "dozen o'arrows" for his threepence, and shoot all round the target with perfect satisfaction to himself and to the proprietor; but he may be satisfied it is all moonshine. Not that there is not a deal of archery going on too, but the targets being animated, and fixed upon locomotive crutches, why they may naturally be allowed to put in a negative as to being shot at indiscriminately; and there can be little doubt that steel-pointed shafts would be not altogether so congenial as those of softer construction and tipped with gold.
    The visitor having discovered the whereabouts, walks up-stairs to door No.1, and after making the proprietor aware of his presence by ringing an alarm, he is ushered into the passage, and if he be fortunate enough to possess a ticket, he is suffered to progress on payment of a sixpence; but if he has no ticket, there are no hopes of his further advance unless he advance a shilling. He is then asked whether he will leave his hat, which, if he be green, he will do, and will retire with an exchange, of course, not for the better. He then walks to door No.2, which a little imp of vagabondism unlocks, and, immediately on his left, he finds himself at the approach of the "Archery Rooms;" he walks down three steps, and he is in the very vortex of -----— Instead of archery, what does he see? Servant girls, who serve more masters than one, dressed a la Grecque; French girls, rather furrowed by time, however, with short petticoats, barely reaching below the knee, and too much shrunk above to prevent the display of the bust; in fact, fig-leaves in a state of expansion - flesh-coloured stockings, and white Adelaides, unlaced at the top; married ladies, who occasionally make and keep appointments with unmarried gentlemen; and unmarried maidens who are perfectly indifferent to the ceremonies of the church, and who please according to the favors received; lawyers' clerks; linen-drapers' shopmen and handicraftsmen, transformed into poor imitations of something above their own comprehension, and that of every body else; automaton sailors, frightened at the popping of a soda-water bottle! fighting gladiators, who never touched anything more ponderous than a bodkin; Bedouin Arabs, stiffer than a stretched rope; opera-dancers, whose utmost art is to double shuffle; ostrich feathers in extreme lassitude; velvet bonnets; ravens' wings; dirty stockings; straw cigars! hot water and sugar, mystified with gin; strong smells; sweat and filth; - all these he will meet with at the Archery Rooms - and more. 
    The masquerade, it is said, would take it as a great boon if the proprietor would convert one of his little dark rooms into a dressing-room; for who, with common decency, which no doubt encumbers them, can like to disrobe in the aforesaid passage, through which only ingress and egress is maintained. This is strictly true, and many a ragged shirt has fluttered in the breeze of the two doors, to the admiration of the comers-in and goers-out. Very few persons like to make a public exhibition of dirty flesh and raggedness, and the proprietor knowing this, ought to have a little regard to the delicate and complicated nerves of his supporters. It is not pleasant to see a youth with begrimed legs walk into a pair of loosely-woven blue-striped stockings, and know that, by his exertion in the coming dance, the perspiration will ooze out, dirt and all, and be disseminated in a very attenuated, though palpable, form, into the olfactory nerve of the bystanders. Besides, those ladies who have had the pleasure of witnessing his little innocent preliminaries, will not allow the fact to remain with themselves, and the poor fellow, instead of sporting his twelve inches of foot, will have a chance after all his anxiety to sit alone ingloriously in his dirt, with his yard of clay before him.
    Every one is free to visit the Archery Rooms, in masquerade or not, as fancy or necessity may advise; and, doubtless, nudity might be accommodated if impudence would push him on, but things having been, in the long course of ages, tortured from their natural shapes, art steps into the place of native innocence and simplicity, and Monmouth-street finery covers the dirt of the back settlements.
    The well-dressed young gentlemen who may always be seen at the "Archery" are the young would-be Waterfords of the day, had they the means; and had they, no doubt they would be terrible fellows - terrible in the extreme - there would be no withstanding them; the days of the Mohawks would be revived; but, on second thoughts, it may be questionable whether dare-devilism would expend itself on any other than inanimate objects. Fortunately where the money of a marquis can screen him from the more severe penalties of the law, these droll young men about Town, not having that panacea, are subjected to its visits, to their great and excessive inconvenience. This, likely enough, accounts for their sprees taking place in the dead of the night, when they may prowl about in perfect safety from the police. Accident might, perhaps, lead a policeman from his usual watering-house and a short pipe, and he might catch one of these Waterfords with a knocker in his hand, or a drain-spout on his back, and a magistrate might fine him five pounds, in, in default &c.; but what a difficult job he would have to raise the cash. He would have to provide an intimate wit a pair of hob-nailed boots to run all over the town to collect the money from his friends, and he would inevitably lose his situation behind the counter.
    But to return to the Archery Rooms. About two o'clock in the morning, the announcement is made that "Coffee is ready." It is well that the proprietor has given it a name, as it would sorely puzzle any one to classify it, other than something wet and warm. Now coffee, or whatever else it may be, is not to be had for nothing, and money at the Archery Rooms is much more scarce than may be imagined; the inference, therefore, is, there are very few gentlemen who play the amiable by honouring that place of refreshment with their presence, or that of their fair partners. It is ludicrous to observe how many excuses they are compelled to adopt to prevent a shabby appearance with their partners; some collect in groups, and parade the room; others seem to discover that they have sticks, and look with great admiration and affection on them; many appear quite unconscious of any announcement having been made and anxiously enquire when the next set of quod-rilles (with particular emphasis on the first syllable) will be danced; and when the discordant strains issue from the elevated orchestra, and three or four half-starved cripples of musicians, styled by the proprietor, "Weippart's band increased," it is quite gratifying to see their faces lighted up with such sudden satisfaction. To it they go again in an uninterrupted whirl, till the tallow-dips sink into their sockets, their peculiar smell overpowering the odiferous exhalations already dripping down the walls, and the company adjourn to the coffee-room, where a "free and easy" at which a daughter who has been dancing and selling flowers all the evening, presides, terminates the amusements. Such is a sight and general sketch of the "Archery Rooms."

The Town, 8 July 1837


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