Palais de Danse/Assembly Hall

Architect Horace Bradley's original drawings for the Palais

The Palais de Danse was opened on Spencer Street in 1926 and called the Bath Assembly Hall. It was designed by Birmingham architect Horace Bradley for a local entrepreneur, Edith Dowding, who was a partner in the Bath Hotel. The 1920s saw the beginning of a dance craze in Britain and many palaises were built all around the country. The first was the Hammersmith Palais which opened in London in 1919. Horace Bradley was a distinguished architect who was based in Acocks Green. He designed many buildings in the Art Deco style in Birmingham and London, including several cinemas. The Spencer Street Palais is a typical Art Deco building.

This postcard shows the inside of the Palais in 1930In the 1920s the most popular dances were the charleston, the waltz, the quickstep and the foxtrot. These allowed couples to dance together whilst interpreting the steps in their own way. Each palais also had its own lively group dance called the Palais Glide, similar to the Lambeth Walk. This was promoted by the management to encourage dancers to mix. Music at the Leamington Palais was played by the Jack Southern band and there was a local Master of Ceremonies, named Robert Creelman who was known as an excellent dancer.

This photo of Spencer Street from 1930 shows the newly built Palais on the rightAs well as open dances the Palais held competitions, demonstrations, theme nights and Old Time dances. Similar events were held at the Blue Cafe in nearby Bath Street. Contemporary editions of The Courier suggest that there was some rivalry between the two establishments. Both places gave dancing lessons and there were also a number of private dancing schools. Many patrons went to the Palais at least two evenings a week and to tea dances at the weekends. The Old Time dances regularly attracted over 200 people.

Terpsichore, one of the nine Muses

Terpsichore, one of the nine Muses

The statue on top of the building originally held a globe which was illuminated; this was lost but replaced about 2013. The inside of the Palais was lit by a large mirror ball and it has a specially designed sprung floor. Tables and chairs around the dance area allowed patrons to take tea and light refreshments. No alcohol was served. Dress was very important to the dancers. Men more suits and women would either buy dresses or have them made by members of the family. Long dresses were worn for special dances. Stiletto heels were discouraged to prevent damage to the floor.

Dancing at the Palais remained very popular during the 1930s and 1940s, especially during the war years. There were special Forces nights at reduced rates and many American servicemen came to the Palais. During the 1930s Jazz and Swing came into the ballroom, and were made more accessible by the rise of the gramophone. Dancing styles became livelier and less inhibited. Dance halls and ballroom dancing became less fashionable with younger people during the 1950s, with the advent of Rock and Roll. In 1952 the Palais became the Embassy Ballroom and has more recently been known as the home of Gala Bingo.

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