5. Norwich (12 of 12)

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Elsewhere in the City (5 of 5)

John Browne had a forty-year history as dancing master in Norwich. In 1759 he taught at Chedgrave, Long Stratton, Thetford, Aylsham and with Guerin at Mrs Masterman’s in Norwich. In 1760 when Guerin moved to Sir Benjamin Wrench’s Court, Browne opened a dancing school at Mr Vipond’s, St Stephen’s (parish) on 14 March. Vipond is not in Chase’s 1783 Directory and I cannot establish who and where he was, but he kept rooms serially used as dancing schools and they may have been at 1 St Stephen’s Street, later used by Bailey and clearly previously used as a dancing school.

True to form Browne advertised his teaching ‘in the genteelest manner’ at 15/- per quarter, and private tuition. In 1763 he taught on Thursdays at Vipond’s and in country schools on other days. 1764 saw him at Mr Riley’s in Fleece Yard.

On 2 March 1765 he promoted himself with ‘he has been instructed at Noverre’s in London. He also teaches use of small sword.’ He was taught by Augustin Noverre, whose misjudgement with a sword in the Drury Lane riots of 1755 led him into hiding in Norwich; by 1757 Augustin was respectable again, dancing minuets at Drury Lane and building a private practice as a dancing master.

Browne’s circuit in 1766 included Dereham, Hindolveston, Holt, N. Walsham and Bungay. He moved ‘to a larger room’ not otherwise specified in 1771, added Yarmouth to his circuit in 1773 together with the school at Brooke, and his newly opened girls’ school ‘at his premises in St Michael at Plea’ in 1782 which at last places him precisely: he is in the 1783 Directory at 12 Redwell Street, competing with the Christian practice at No.3. Browne’s denial that ‘he intends to retire’ on 22 March 1794 looks like desperate pupil-seeking in competitive times. His death was announced on 10 August 1799 and debts called in.

Mr Bailey was an apparent newcomer to Norwich when he advertised on 12 January 1805 in the Chronicle that he had taken over the Christians’ practice from Mrs Christian and had moved to 1 St Stephen’s Street, promising his pupils

‘to perfect them in the newest and most fashionable dances with Scotch, Irish and Italian steps as taught by the first masters. Hours at 11 am and 3 pm. Private tuition and schools attended.’

He continued the concert-letting tradition; on 9 November 1805 the oratorio Joshua was performed ‘at Mr Bailey’s Great Room, the gallery fitted up for Ladies.’ His premises were probably a previous master’s rooms and may have been ‘Mr Vipond’s’. By July 1805 he advertised a circuit: N. Walsham, Worstead, Halesworth, Holton, Southwold, Wangford, Loddon, Brooke, Shottisham, Bungay, Southtown (Gt Yarmouth).

Bailey retired in 1812 and his rooms and assistant, Harwood, were taken over by Francis Noverre who may have envisaged continuing at the Assembly House – where he now lived in the west wing –while Harwood enlarged the practice in St Stephen’s Street, but Harwood disobliged and left to set up his own practice in Sir Benjamin Wrench’s Court in 1813.

Noverre was already in partnership with Mr Nicholson in 1805 and, from 1812, with Francis Lambert who published his Treatise on Dancing in Norwich in 1815. I suspect that although the expression of the treatise was Lambert’s the teaching behind it was Noverre’s, derived from his father Augustin’s ‘simple and scientific method’ and from his uncle and tutor Jean-Georges Noverre.

Pigot’s 1830 Directory lists both Francis and his son Frank Noverre as dancing masters at the Assembly house, but they now appeared in ‘Professors and Teachers’, and not in ‘Trade’, which was a reflection on changing times as well as Noverre respectability. Francis retired in 1837, succeeded by Frank, and, for many years, by Frank’s male descendants. Daughters were music teachers; in 1859 Miss Josephine ‘professed’ singing and the concertina, and Miss Sophia ‘professed’ piano and harp. Francis lived in the west wing of the Assembly House until his death in 1840, having become a respected citizen of Norwich and one of the founders of Norwich Union in 1809. As raiding parties go, his was entirely successful.

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