4. King's Lynn (2 of 2)

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Vernon taught dancing, fencing and French on a varying circuit: in 1780 Lynn, Downham, Wells, Walsingham, Fakenham, Swaffham. In 1791 he engaged an assistant (unidentified) and advertised on 12 March that he would teach in Yarmouth and Norwich. Yarmouth remained on his circuit; he held a pupil ball there on 5 October 1793, but he may have been defeated in Norwich where there is no trace of his activities. He lost Downham from his circuit but gained Dereham. Circuit wars clearly kept the fellows on their toes. His terms were 15/- per quarter, 10/6 entrance for beginners; fencing 10/6 per quarter and 10/6 entrance. ‘Entrance’ was always waived for those previously instructed. Vernon continued to teach French, which remained the language of fashionable society whether it took a Francophile or Francophobic attitude to the French Revolution. On 22 March 1794 Vernon advertised the teaching of Scottish dances privately, to adults, a fashionable demand in the Romantic period. His death was reported on 25 June 1796.

Of the two remaining practices, I think that of C. Brady picked up Vernon’s circuit and teaching. He gave notice of his first annual ball at Lynn on 5 October 1796 and by 25 March 1797 advertised a circuit of Snettisham, Burnham, Wells, Swaffham, Fakenham and Wisbech, and taught:

‘… Fashionable Scottish, Irish and Welch steps, the Devonshire and Prince of Wales Minuets, Minuet de la Cour, Gavotte, Allemande, etc. Pedal harp and violin also taught.’

The Devonshire Minuet was created by Vestris Senior and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire during a private lesson in 1781. Vestris inserted it into the ballet Ninette à la Cour at the King’s Theatre in London. Fifteen years later it is all the rage at King’s Lynn. The harp had become fashionable in the drawing room and the dance band. What ‘Welch’ steps were – sneaking off, backwards, perhaps – I should like to know. Brady advertised pupil balls regularly, ‘introducing a dance of his own composition’ at Wisbech on 9 December 1797. He probably composed the dance ‘The Vanguard; or the breaking of the line’ which began an assembly in Swaffham in honour of the victory at Aboukir Bay in 1798. The Vanguard was Nelson’s flagship, Captain Edward Berry. Nelson’s niece, Kitty Bolton, wrote to Fanny Nelson describing her mother (Nelson’s sister Susannah) leading the dance with Dixon Hoste, father of Nelson’s protégé William Hoste, newly made Captain. Alas, Kitty’s description is devoted to clothing and ornaments and not about the dance, which gives us some insight into how young ladies viewed an assembly ball.

By 1805 Brady was in practice with Mr Barron, and together they outlasted their main competitor, Mr Baker, music and dancing master at Lynn, Fakenham, Walsingham, Wisbech and Downhan (this study is not intended to sound like a railway timetable for competitive private lines). Baker also had musical instruments for hire. He advertised a dancing school at Swaffham, 7 June 1792; his annual ball at Lynn, 5 October1792; ‘Fashionable Scottish Dances’ taught at Lynn and Wisbech, 2 August 1794. On 18 March 1797 he advertised his partnership with Mr Hart, teaching music and dancing on a circuit which now included Wells, but after an annual ball at Lynn, 14 October 1797, no more is heard of him. I suspect that Brady and Barron collected their practice, having previously duplicated their circuit, and reigned supreme at Lynn into the next century.

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