5. Norwich (9 of 12)

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Elsewhere in the City (2 of 5)

Peter Oliver, once with the Norwich Company of Comedians, became a dancing master in Yarmouth in 1742 and held a ball in N. Walsham on 5 November 1743. In 1749 he added Norwich to his scalps, teaching at Mr Vipond’s on Tuesday and Thursday. This was a location much used by dancing masters in St Stephen’s parish, not otherwise identified. Mr Vipond does not appear in Chase’s 1783 Directory but was evidently well known at an earlier date. In 1750 Oliver moved to a room in Sir Benjamin Wrench’s Court – also serially used by dancing masters. It was in fact a large room in the Lobster Inn, but advertised to advantage. Jarrolds Department store stands on the site today and in 1750 it was within a fiddle-string of Little Cockey Lane. A month later Oliver advertised classes in ‘Burney’s old room’. In 1752 he held a ball in the ‘Great Room’ at Little Cockey Lane – now Little London Street; it appears on an 1810 map as a cul-de-sac. Oliver hired a succession of rooms without ever settling. After his Yarmouth ball on 6 January 1753 nothing is known of him until the Gazette announced his suicide at Deal in Kent on 24 July 1762.

Charles Gosnold may have been born locally. The parish register of St Michael at Plea has a Gosnold birth in 1728 but the child’s Christian name and sex are illegible. Perhaps he was a pupil of Francis Christian who returned several times as encroaching competition.

As a dancing master Gosnold advertised evening classes ‘near Charing Cross’ on 9 April 1756. On 18 December 1756 he published a Collection of Country Dances, price 1/-, printed in Norwich, and gave a ball at his Rooms. In 1757 he danced at the White Swan theatre, apparently as a PR exercise – later repeated by Christian’s child pupils. In February 1757 he advertised that he would teach within a 20-mile radius of ‘his new-built house in St Andrew’s’.

In common with many of his profession he went to London to take lessons from a superior master and returned to advertise: ‘he has received instruction from Miles’ in London’. The refurbishment of his practice and himself was to no avail; he closed his evening class on 13 March 1758 and disappeared from the local competition, or was frozen out, until 1 January 1780 when he advertised in the Mercury:

‘DANCING: Mr Gosnold, late of Hampshire, Dancing Master, having taken a genteel and convenient house in Willow Lane, intends opening a School … for Young Ladies and Gentlemen. His Days for teaching will be Tuesdays and Thursdays. [He] is determined that nothing shall be wanting on his Part to expedite the Improvement of those who shall be entrusted to his Care. He flatters himself that having taught dancing for more than 20 years in Principal Schools and Genteel Families will sufficiently recommend him. … dances comprehended viz: the French Dances, Cotillon, Allemande, Minuet, Louvre, Country Dances, 15/- per quarter, ½ guinea entrance. Schools and families within 14 miles attended. He teaches the Young Gentlemen at Palgrave School.’

Does he mean Mrs Barbauld’s nursery of radicals at Palgrave? He also taught at Wymondham schools by 1782.

Louvre and ‘the French Dances’ suggest an old-fashioned syllabus, and he may have had to revise it, re-advertising on 9 September 1780 ‘the most fashionable dances taught’. In July 1781 a similar notice appeared, in which he advertised a room to let: the genteel address may have been over-ambitious. In 1782 he taught at Sir Benjamin Wrench’s Court; he hired a teaching room and lived or lodged elsewhere, after which he disappeared from the local newspapers and was not listed in Chase’s 1783 Directory.

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