In 1792 work began on an elegant building intended to become the premier hotel of Leicester. It was designed by John Johnson, a Leicester Architect. In a report of the day, it was described as ‘a building of stone blocks’. The front porch was to be a feature of the hotel, with paired Roman Doric columns supporting the porchway entrance. This was flanked by four flat windows. On the second floor, there were to be three windows, equally spaced, each of the three lights with semi-circular heads, divided by Ionic columns. Either side of the centre window it was intended to build two niches containing terracotta figures of the Comic and Lyric Muses designed by J.C.F Rossi R.A. Above each niche was to be a carved freize of dancing girls. Inside there were to be 36 rooms.
But what caught the imagination was the magnificent ballroom running the whole length of the building on the first floor. Decorated in figures in niches on the north and south walls, again by Rossi, and with paintings in circular panels on the walls and ceiling, by R.R. Reinagle, it was truly a gem in the style of the brothers Adam, and bore a likeness and style of the regency period.
But it was never a hotel.
Work on the building started in 1792 and in August 1800, when it was nearing completion, the ‘owner’ had great difficulty in raising the £3500.00 required to complete. Work was, however, eventually completed and the ‘hotel’ opened as Public Assembly Rooms in time for the annual Race Ball.
For the ensuing 20 decades, from its initial completion in 1800, the ‘hotel’ has progressed from Assembly Rooms to Judges Lodgings, and from County Rooms to The City Rooms.
In its time, it has seen everything from the elegance of Race Balls, to the pounding beat of ‘Rock’. It has gone from chamber concerts to civil weddings; from Art Exhibitions to military dinners and now in to a beautiful venue for the whole county to enjoy.
Now The City Rooms has been taken over by Naresh and Sharon Parmar and has undergone a careful two year restoration to bring the building back to life. Comprising three lavishly decorated meeting rooms, a bar, a grand ballroom and four luxurious bedrooms, The City Rooms is open as first intended more than 200 years after work began.
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