Sunday, 21 May 2017

Vauxhall Ramble a dance from 1788

Vauxhall Ramble is a dance from "For the Year 1788 Sixteen Country Dances With their proper Figures, for the Harp, Harpsichord, and Violin; as performed at the Prince of Wales's & other Grand Balls and Assemblies. Humbly dedicated to the Nobility & Gentry Subscribers to Willis's Rooms, Festino By John Fentum, he intends continuing this work in the same manner as the late F Werner. Price 1s 6d."

Vauxhall Gardens one of the leading venues for public entertainment in London, from the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century. Originally known as 'New Spring Gardens', the Gardens consisted of several acres of trees and shrubs with attractive walks. Initially, entrance was free, with food and drink being sold to support the venture. The site became Vauxhall Gardens in 1785 and admission was charged for its many attractions. The Gardens drew all manner of people and supported enormous crowds, with its paths and walks being noted for romantic assignations.

The Prince of Wales was later to become George IV and was known for his extravagant entertainments. In 1788 he was about to face his first great political challenge with his father's first bout of mental instability precipitating what became know as the Regency Crisis.

Willis's Rooms had previously been known as Almack's and continued to be referred to by both names until well into the nineteenth century.Willis's was primarily a gambling club to which women were admitted, as well as men. Male members proposed and elected the female members, and women proposed and elected the male members. It was also famous for its balls which were attended by the cream of Regency society.

Festino is Italian for a feast or party and it is not clear whether Fetum is referring to particular entertainments at Willis's Rooms or the reference is to The Hanover Square Rooms run by Giovanni Andrea Battista Gallini an Italian dancer, choreographer and impresario which was colloquially known as Festino. 

John Fentum was probably the son of Jonathan Fentum who had set up as an instrument maker and seller in premises located at 78 The Strand in 1762. John took over the premises and the business around 1784. In addition to instruments, John sold music, tickets for musical entertainments and was also an accomplished violinist and violist. In the 1787-1788 season, he received £4 4s for playing violin in concerts of the Academy of Ancient Music. It is also probable that he played in the band at Willis's Rooms.

F Werner was Francis Werner formally harpist, dancing master and Master of the Ceremonies at Willis's and the Hanover Rooms who had for some years published collections of fashionable dance music and figures.


Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Assemblies of the 1760s

Pope's 'The New Bath Guide or, Useful Pocket-Companion; Necessary For all Persons residing at, or resorting to this antient [sic] and opulent  City.' published in 1762tells us:

'There are two public Assembly-Rooms in this Place Mr. Simpson's, and Mr. Wiltshire's: The largest kept by Mr. Simpson; was built in the Year 1750 90 Feet in Length, 36 in Breadth, and 30 in Height; it has a very fine Stocco Ceiling; there is hung up in it a Portrait Picture of the late Richard Nash, Esq. Master of the Ceremonies, besides several very fine Landscapes, and is thought to be as elegant a room for its size as any in England.'

'Mr. Wiltshire's Room is 36 Feet in Length, 30 in Breadth, and 30 in Height; this has a Cove Ceiling, and is a very neat Room; it is likewise ornamented with a Portrait Picture and Bust of the Late Richard Nash, Esq. besides many curious Landscapes. - There are to each Room Antichambers, which are often used for performing Concerts in, and for Card-Rooms.'

By way of comparison, the ballroom of the Upper Rooms built a decade later is 30m x 12m, against Wiltshire's 27m x 9m and Simpson's 11m x 9m.

'The Balls (during the season) are twice a week, viz. Tuesday and Fridays; and the Company assemble at one of the Rooms every night. Mr Simpson's Nights are Tuesdays, and Saturday's; and Mr. Wiltshires are Mondays, Wednesday's, and Fridays; they have Sundays alternately.'

Wiltshire's Rooms were the Assembly Rooms on the Parades, the site is now known as Bog Island. They had been called Wiltshire since they had been taken into the ownership of the Wiltshire family in 1744. The Wiltshire's were a very wealthy and influential Bath family who made their money as carriers, transporting high-value goods between London and Bath and as bankers. In 1762 the Rooms were being run by John Wiltshire.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Cosmetics in the 1780's

The following advert appeared in the Bath Chronicle in 1783


Isabella Stanhope sat for Gainsborough at Bath early in 1769 shortly after her marriage to Viscount Molyneux. The artist had just been elected to the Royal Academy and this work was exhibited in London shortly after it was painted.

Shortly afterwards her husband was made the 1st Earl of Sefton. So as an advertising image, she had everything you might want beauty, glamour, fame and status.

The advert promotes products essential to creating the then Georgian image of feminine beauty.

Liquid bloom was a type of rouge designed to give the much sort after rosy glow to the cheeks.

This would be much enhanced by the blooms contrast to the whiteness of the face neck and decolletage created by them with products like the Italian Paste. Almost all such preparations were based on white lead and gradually poison their users and damaged their skin such damage, of course, requiring a thicker application to hide the damage.


Lead poisoning can also lead to hair loss hence the preparation for fastening hair.

The depilatory treatments performed much the same role as such creams do today but were particularly important to create the fashionable high forehead.

Eighteenth-century hair dyes contributed to hair damage and hair loss.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Miss Goldsmith's Allemande

Goulding’s Select Collection of Twelve Favorite Country Dances for the year 1808 published by Goulding, Phipps and D’Almaine contains music and instructions for Miss Goldsmith's Allemande.



Goulding & Co. This important firm was started by George Goulding, who was probably in business before 1784. He issued sheet-songs from the pantomime of Don Juan, performed in 1787, and other sheet music of about the same period. His address at this time was at " The Haydn's Head, No. 6, James Street, Covent Garden," and shortly afterwards an additional one at  17, Great Turnstile, Holborn. About 1790 this latter was replaced by one at 113,  Bishopgate Street. From  James Street, he issued annual sets of twenty-four dances in oblong octavo. Early in 1799 he moved to 45, Pall Mall, and took partners into the business.

The new firm was styled Goulding & Co., or Goulding, Phipps, & D'Almaine, and they became music sellers to the Prince and Princess of Wales. In 1803 they took additional premises at
76, St. James Street, and in 1804-5 had given both these addresses up and removed to 117, New Bond Street, with an agency at 7, Westmoreland Street, Dublin. In 1808-9 the number in' New Bond Street was changed to 124. About this time Phipps retired from the concern and probably commenced a business oil his own account. The firm was now Goulding, D'Almaine, & Potter.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Hairstyles of the 1780s

Unknown Lady, John Smibert, 1781

Augustus Keppel: 1781-83
This advert appeared in the Bath Chronicle in 1781.

A bag wig gathered the back hair in a black silk bag,

There are no unambiguously labelled eighteenth-century illustrations of a bob wig but it is understood to have been a wig with short tight curls at the bottom.



Of course, all wigs would be worn powered even if they were already grizzled.

Cushions were used to pad out ladies hair to help build the higher and fuller styles which were fashionable throughout the eighteenth century.

Number 3 today



Monday, 13 February 2017

Button & Whitaker

Button & Whitaker were an important firm of music publishers, musical instrument makers, and retailers at the beginning of the nineteenth-century.  They had taken over the famous Thompson family premises at 75, St. Paul's Church Yard, and they carried on their business at the same address. The Thompsons had been Handel's principal publishers and St. Paul's Churchyard was throughout the Georgian era a centre of musical publishing and retailing, alongside bookshops and book publishing.

A violin made and sold by Button and Whitaker in 1822


After the Thompson's had ceased, Messrs Purday & Button took possession of the premises, and sometime about 1805 commenced publishing sheet music. In 1807, the name of the company changed to Button & Purday, and in 1808, the firm became Button & Whitaker. The latter member was the musician, John Whitaker, an organist, and a composer of many popular songs.Whitaker was born in 1776 and died in 1847. Before 1816 other people joined and it became "Button, Whitaker, & Beadnell," or "Button & Company," and in 1820 the business is carried on as Whitaker & Co.

Button & Whitaker had acquired all the Thompson plates and stock-in-trade, and they re-printed a good many of the old books, besides issuing new publications. They continued Thompson's practice of publishing yearly sets of twenty-four country dances.

Thomas Wilson in his 1816 Companion to the Ball Room, is very critical of this type of book,

"The only reason to be assigned why Collections of Country Dances, particularly annual ones, have been so deficient both in Merit and Originality, is, that good Composers have considered that it would not pay them for composing Dances... Although most of the Music Publishers are Composers; yet few of them compose their own Dances. They are generally, either procured from persons writing them for a mere Trifle, or from young Amateurs, who are fond of obtruding their Productions on the Public".

This did not prevent Wilson from producing collections of dance or contributing dance figures to the publications of others including Button and Whitaker from 1812.

The premises in St. Paul's Church Yard ceased to be a music warehouse sometime after 1830.

Their dance collections include:

Button, Whitaker and Beadnell’s twenty-four country dances with figures by Mr Wilson for the year 1815 etc

Button and Whitaker’s Selection of Dances, Reels and Waltzes for the Piano Forte, Harp, Violin or German Flute with figures ( N.9 )

Button and Whitaker’s Twelve Elegant New Dances for the year 1811 Button and Whitaker’s twenty-four Country Dances, with figures by Mr Wilson. For the year 1814, adapted for the violin, German flute or oboe.

Button, Whitaker and Compy’s Twenty Four Country Dances, with figures by Mr. Wilson, for the year 1818. Adapted for the Violin,

Button, Whitaker and Compy’s twenty-four Country Dances, with figures by Mr Wilson. For the year 1819. Adapted for the violin,

Button, Whitaker, and Beadnell’s Twenty Four Country Dances, with figures by Mr. Wilson, for the year 1815. Adapted for the Violin, German Flute or Oboe.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

A private Bath ball in the 1790s


In 1793 the young Elizabeth Canning wrote to her mother.

"Friday [11th January 1793], was a day of days; in the evening Letitia & I, accompanied by Mrs Leigh, went to a Ball at M Moland’s, where we were amazingly happy & danced away from eight, till Eleven with wonderful activity, there were about fourteen, or fifteen couples all young people, and a few standers-by. I got two Young Beaux & one old one for my Partners so I think I did very well. We had a very smart supper, & did not come home till near two o’clock."

Letitia (Tish) Percival was the ward of Elizabeth's Uncle Rev. William Leigh and her Aunt Harriet Canning Leigh with whom Elizabeth was staying while she visited Bath. They had taken a house for the season in Marlborough Buildings.

The Moland's were regular visitors to Bath, probably from Birmingham