Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The rooms and the racing crowd

The horse racing which took place on Claverton Down attracted sizable crowds and enormously wealthy owners and gamblers.

Many businesses in Bath sought to profit from this and the Assembly Rooms were no different. So when in 1772 there was as three day meeting in September the Upper Rooms put on a pre-season ball as described in this advert in the Bath Chronicle.


The were also Balls at Gyde's Lower Rooms on the Tuesday and Thursday Nights at the same price.

The racing took place on September the 21st through to Thursday the 24th on Claverton Down.

Those owners of horse raced included:

The enormously wealthy gambler, horse breeder and pimp Denis O'Kelly.

Sir Richard Bamfylde MP for Exeter.

Lady Bampfylde
by Sir Joshua Reynolds,
c.1776
Mr Wildman a very wealth meat wholesaler.

Edmund Boyle, 8th Earl of Cork

John Parker of Saltram house in Devon. A close friend of the Prince of Wales





Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Beauchamp notation

Lady's Track
A Step with the Right Foot
Sometime in the 1760s Louis XIV (who had founded the Académie Royale de Danse in 1661), ordered the dancing master and choreographer  Pierre Beauchamp to invent a way of making dance understood on paper. 

The king's command provoked a race among dancing masters to devise such a system but Beauchamp prevailed and after years of work presented the King with five volumes of symbols with explanatory notes and complete notated dances. Beauchamp failed to obtain the required permissions to publish his work.

Gentleman's track
His system was taken up and finally published in 1700 by the Parisian ballet master Raoul-Auger Feuillet, who began a programme of publishing notated dances.

A Slide
It was used to record dances for the stage and domestic use throughout the eighteenth century, being modified by Pierre Rameau in 1725 and surviving into at least the 1780s in various modified forms.

Because of Beauchamp and Feuillet's work we now have more than 300 fully notated dances from the 17th and 18th century available to dance today.




Monday, 9 March 2015

Masked balls much more than masks



In the 15th June 1769 edition of the Bath Chronicle the following description of the previous week's masked ball thrown by the Duke of Bolton on his estate at Hackwood near Basingstoke.



'The company began to assemble between seven and eight, and by ten o'clock the rooms were very full of masks. About twelve, five different apartments were opened, in which the most elegant and beautiful sideboards were prepared, the illuminations at which were prettily conceived and finely executed; as were also a lighted temple and some other buildings in the gardens.

Lady Gideon
Mrs Garrick with her husband
The dresses in general were extremely magnificent. The Duchess of Bolton was in the habit of a Tartarian Princess, embroidered with diamonds. Lady Waldegrave, and Lady Mary Hay, as Eastern Sultanas, very richly dressed. Lady Harriet Williams and Lady Gideon were covered with a profusion of jewels. Two young ladies, habited like girls of Patmos, were remarked for their great beauty and dress. Lady Archer in the character of Ovisa. Mr. Askew, of the Guards, in the character of the Devil, and admirably kept up. Mrs. Ligonier was an elegant Savoyard, and a young Lady who accompanied her a beautiful Chanoincie. Garrick made a very fine figure in the Venetian carnival habit. A gentleman in the character of Tiddy Doll [a famous London character who made and sold gingerbread men], displayed great humour. The Duke of Manchester appeared in old English habit. Capt. Deburgh in the character of Osmyn [a character from a popular peice of musical theartre]. Capt. Pye as Tancred [a leader of the first crusade], his Lady as Ruben's wife. Two young ladies in the habit of vestals. Mr. James clothed as Pope, very well supported. Lady Mary Lowther, in the character of an old woman, afforded infinite humour. Lady Stanhope in the character of a French nosegay girl, which she supported with great humour.  The Duke of Bolton wore a domino.
Lady Waldegrave

Mrs Ruben and family
The whole company kept on their masks till about one o'clock, when they removed them down to supper, to which they were conveyed through a corridor beautifully illuminated with waxed lights. They did not begin to depart till past six in the morning, when the ladies seem to think, that the Faro bank had engrossed the attention of the gentlemen after supper. The illuminations inthe woods, and the building erected there, were in admirable taste; and the whole exceedingly well conducted. It is said that there were 270000l. worth of jewels [approximately £37million at today's prices]  between three ladies.'

The following is taken from a letter of 1772 describing a masked ball in Southampton.

"The masked ball, on Thursday last, was not so numerous as a former one about two years ago; however, the characters were in general well supported, particularly that of a Devil, who, on entering the room, welcomed the company to his infernal regions, and expressed his joy at seeing so many of his true and faithful servants in all places; a very good Mother Shipton [ a medieval soothsayer and prophetess]; a Dutch Pedlar; a Tancred [Norman leader of the First Crusade], tolerably well supported; a Running Footman; some Jews, Turks, and Persians, richly dressed; a magnificent Nabob; two very witty Haymakers, who exited the attention of all the beaux; several Shepherds and Shepherdesses; a Milk-maid and her companion, who did not unmask the whole evening."

It is instructive to compare this with Fanny Burney's fictional description of a masquerade in her novel Cecilia which she started writing in 1780 a year in which she came stay in Bath with Hester Thrale. The story is told from the point of view of the heroine who is attending a masquerade for the first time.

"Soon after nine o'clock every room was occupied, and the common crowd of regular masqueraders were dispersed through the various apartments. Dominos [sic] of  no character, and fancy dresses of no meaning, made, as is usual at such meetings, the general herd of the company, for the rest , the men were Spaniards, chimney sweepers, Turks, watchmen, conjurers, and old women; and the ladies, shepherdesses, orange girls, Circassians, gipseys [sic], haymakers, and sultanas.

Cecilia had, as yet, escaped any address beyond the customary enquiry of Do you know me? and a few passing compliments; but when the rooms filled and the general crowd gave general courage, she was attacked in a manner more pointed and singular.

The very first mask who approached her seemed to have nothing less in view than preventing the approach of every other; yet had little reason to hope favour for himself, as the person he represented, of all others least alluring to the view, was the devil! He was black from head to foot, save that two red horns seemed to issue from his forehead; his face was completely covered that the sight only of his eyes was visible, his feet were cloven, and in his right hand." he held a wand of colour of fire."

In the Bath Chronicle January 8th 1801 we hear of Mrs Champneys’ [sic] Masquerade


"Wednesday an elegant suite of apartments were thrown open at Orchardleigh-house [the Champney's ancestral home between Bath and Frome] for the reception of masks, who, to the number of 200, assembled at an early hour. In order to heighten the hilarity of the entertainment, all dominoes were excluded; the characters were numerous, and these, by their frequent change of dress , added  apparently to the catalogue of merry mortals. Among the most popular, a jessery wild goose in search of his daughter, an owl, a lame fiddler, Punch, a most beautiful figure in the dress of a Christ’s Hospital Boy, a Fury clothed in the terrors of infernal paraphernalia pursuing an Orestes, two chattering Barbers, a dancing bear, a pretty milk maid, an elegant representative of a fille de patmos, and a French taylor bien habille galloping on a very
A Fille de Patmos 1700
magnificent goose. This last mask, was exquisite, and by the drollery of its appearance, and the novelty of its accoutrements, preserved its fascination throughout the whole of the diversion. There were a few elegant figures of both sexes, very splendidly dressed, and although the parade and insipidity of finery is inconsistent with the true genius of a masquerade, yet even this is less offensive than noisy nonsense and impertinent clamour. The supper was served in the richest profusion; but from a laudable attention to the severity of “existing circumstances” the use of bread was entirely prohibited."

A masquerade, circa 1808.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

According to the Stranger's Assistant and Guide to Bath of 1773

The Public Balls are two in each week during the season, one on Monday, at the New Rooms on the East Side of the Circus, the other on Friday, at Mr. Gyde's Rooms on the Walks, lately kept by Mr. Simpson. The subscription to each is one guinea for the season, for which the subscriber is entitled to three tickets. Each Lady and Gentleman on a ball night to pay six-pence on their admission, which entitles them to tea.

The modern income equivalent of a season's subscription would be about £2000 and ball night admission about £60.

The following Rules were published by the Master of the Ceremonies for the regulation of the balls of Bath:

It being absolutely necessary that a propriety of dress should be observed at so polite an assembly as that of Bath, it is humbly requested of the company to comply with the following regulations:
That Ladies who dance minuets be dressed in a suit of clothes or a full-trimm'd sack, with lappets and dress'd hoops, such are usually worn at St. James's.

It is requested of those Ladies, who do not dance minuets, not to take up the front seats at the balls.
That no Lady dance country dances in a hoop of any kind; and those who chuse [sic] to pull their hoops off, will be assisted by proper servants in an apartment for that purpose.

That no Lady of Precedence has a right to take place in country dances after they have begun.
The places at the top of the room are reserved for Ladies of Precedence, of the rank of Peeress of Great-Britain or Ireland; it being found very-inconvenient to have seats called for, and placed before the company after the ball has been begun.

That Gentlemen who dance minuets do wear a full-trimmed suit of clothes, or French frock, hair or wig dressed with a bag.

Officers in the navy or army in their uniforms, are desired to wear their hair or wig en queue.

Ladies are not to appear with hats, nor Gentlemen with boots, in an evening after the balls are begun for the season; nor the Gentlemen with spurs at the Pump-Room in a morning.

The Subscription Balls will begin as soon as possible after six o'clock, and finish precisely at eleven, even in the middle of a dance.

That no hazard, or unlawful games, will be allowed in these Rooms, on any account whatsoever, and no cards on Sundays.

This relates only to the New Rooms.

That in case any subscriber to the balls should leave Bath before the season is over, such subscriber may, by leaving an order under their hand, transfer his or her tickets for the remaining part of the season.

W. Wade, M. C.
Mr Wade

Besides the public balls, before mentioned, there are others of a more private nature, (whose tickets admit only the Subscribers) called Cotillon [sic] balls, which are held twice a week, viz. at Mr. Gyde's on Tuesday, and at the New Rooms on Thursday. The Subscription is half a guinea for the season, or as long as the subscription will hold out, for which tea is allowed.

The New Assembly-Rooms and Mr- Gyde's Room are both open for walking in, and playing at cards, each night in the week, except Sundays, when cards are not allowed, and Fridays, when the New Rooms are shut up. There are likewise two public card nights in the week, viz. on Tuesday at the New Rooms, and on Friday at Mr. Gyde's Room. On Sundays there is a public Tea-drinking at each of the Rooms, to which every person is admitted, on paying six-pence. The subscription for walking in the Rooms for the season is ten shillings to each set of Rooms for the Gentlemen and five shillings for the Ladies. The subscription to Mr. Gyde's Room gives the subscriber admission to the walk by the river side, formerly well known by the name of Simpson's Walk. There are two Concerts each week during the season; one at the New Rooms, and one at Mr. Gyde's. The subscription to which is one guinea for the Gentlemen, and half a guinea for the Ladies. The concert at the New Rooms is on Wednesday evening, and that at Mr. Gyde's on Tuesday; but these sometimes vary. The Theatre is situated in Orchard-Street, and is the property of Mr. John Palmer, the Patentee. The days of performance are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. During the spring and summer seasons a public garden, called Spring-Gardens, belonging to Mr. Purdie, and situated nearly opposite the Grove, across the River Avon, is open for walking in: The subscription is half-a-crown for the season.