The social scene at Highbury

Did you know…

During the Chamberlain period Highbury (also know as Highbury Hall) was the setting for much entertaining of family, friends and political associates. The house’s design lent itself to large events such as receptions known as ‘At Homes’ which might be attended by five hundred guests, and for small dinners for ten, or larger ones for up to thirty people.

When Joseph Chamberlain built Highbury he was a widower and Beatrice, his eldest daughter, acted as his hostess. After his marriage to Mary Endicott in 1888 she took over the main responsibility for organising social events at Highbury, and increased the range of activities. Much took place at the weekend as Joseph and Mary were in London when Parliament was in session, returning to Highbury once a month and for a longer time at Easter and in the summer.

The dinner parties given at Highbury were ‘gentlemen’s dinners’ and ‘mixed diners’. At the gentlemen’s dinners Mary would act as the hostess but left the men to their discussions in the dining room or Chamberlain’s study.  At the ‘mixed dinners’ the wives would accompany Mary to the drawing room when the dinner ended, leaving the men to their cigars and port. They later joined the ladies for coffee.

An annual event was the dinner given on New Year’s Day for members of the extended Chamberlain family. Generally Mary Chamberlain preferred a larger number of guests as ‘it was more of an occasion’ and the ladies might be less shy.

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