5. Norwich (10 of 12)

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Elsewhere in the City (3 of 5)

Gosnold seems to do all the right things yet still fails. Either he was not as good as his advertising or the local competition took against him.

On 13 September 1760 Mr Guerin made another appearance in the Theatre Royal, which, finding itself without a licence to present plays, was pretending to be a concert hall. Guerin appeared with two dancers from the theatre company.

At the Grand Concert Hall … a Concert; between the acts the Opera La Serva Padrona; between the Acts of the Opera Dancing by Miss Burn, Master Taryot and Mr Guerin.’

Mr Guerin was trying to attract more pupils to his new room – a familiar location for dancing classes (later used for art exhibitions by the Norwich School). His status, or his expectations rose briefly; he took on John Browne as an assistant and added French to his syllabus in 1761 after which we hear no more of him, but we will encounter John Browne again.

Little is known of Mr Wood of Ipswich who opened a dancing school in Norwich on 25 May 1757, or of his son Charles who had taught in London and opened a dancing school in Lynn at Mr Taylor’s in the high Street in 1770.

Like the young Charles Gosnold, Mr Guerin publicised himself by dancing at the theatre, in this case Ivory’s new Theatre Royal, a month before advertising in the Mercury, 4 August 1759:

‘Mr Guerin, Dancing and Fencing Master … finding great encouragement in this city and county … Dancing and Fencing [taught] in the genteelest and most expeditious manner at the usual Price either at his School at Mrs Masterman’s, St. Peter Street, or in their own houses. Schools attended.’

As anyone who has learned to fence knows, it may be the sport of gentlemen but it is formalised warfare. ‘Genteel’ signifies fashionable decorums; it was a necessity for a gentleman to use a sword. The alleged ‘encouragement’ is ‘puffing’, now known as ‘spin’ – Mr Guerin was encouraging his clients. On 1 March 1760 Guerin announced his change of address:

‘Mr Guerin is to open a DANCING SCHOOL … in Sir Benjamin Wrench’s Court … Ladies and Gentlemen will be taught in the genteelest manner. Use of the small sword also taught.’

Mr M. White of Bury St Edmund advertised that he would start dancing classes at Mr Strutt’s in St Giles (parish) on 14 June 1766. He had been Aylmer’s pupil at Colchester, then instructed in London by Davenport and Tomlinson. This must be Kellom Tomlinson, an apprentice 1704–14 and choreographer at Lincolns Inn Field Theatre 1716–21. I suspect that White’s instruction was at some time in the past and he himself no longer a young man. White had also subsumed the remains of Harris’s Lynn practice and circuit: Lynn, Wisbech, Kennet, Bury, Walsham-le- Willows, Wickham Market. By 1767 his Norwich rooms were at Mr Riley’s, Fleece Yard, St Simon’s. St Simon and Jude, now the Scout HQ, is at the foot of Elm Hill. Fleece Yard is one of the many Norwich Yards whose location is now unknown. I suspect this was a move down-market and we hear no more of him. Mr Strutt and Mr Riley have left no trace.

Mr Oswald left little trace of his Norwich ‘sometime’ practice. He taught music and dancing at a school in Walsingham and dancing at Lynn and died 28 August 1784.

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