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Description

The 'Aberystwyth Official Guide and Souvenir' published by the Aberystwyth Corporation notes the Assembly Rooms as an 'old Georgian building where Sir Henry Irving played The Bells for the first time'. The Assembly Rooms were built in the Grecian style on ground given by W E Powell of Nanteos to a design by George Repton. The cost was £2000 and they consisted of an assembly and promenade room, a card room, and a billiard room. They were opened in 1820 and were intended as a place for the fashionable to meet and for their entertainment. The building was extended in 1839. A plaque on the outside of the building notes that the Rooms where the first home of the National Library of Wales from 1909-1916, and that the rooms were remodelled in 1923 for the Student's Union and later for the University's Music Department.
'The Bells' was a play in three acts written by Leonard David Lewis. It was set in Alsace, France and Henry Irving played the burgomaster, who kills and robs a wealthy Polish Jewish merchant named Koveski to pay off a mortgage debt. Over time Irving's character Mathias goes insane with guilt, and begins to hallucinate the ghost of the victim. Finally, Mathias dreams that he is on trial for the murder and, confessing his guilt, is condemned to death by hanging. Waking, he tries to pull the imaginary noose from around his neck, and dies of a heart attack. The play ran for 151 nights at the Lyceum Theatre in the Strand and critics established Henry Irving as a star of the British drama. Irving would play the role many times during his career including the night before his death in 1905.

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