5. Norwich (3 of 12)

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Mr Boseley’s Dancing Room (3 of 3)

He left a startling £1,125 in bequests aside from the dispersal of his property and possessions. His properties included Strangers’ Hall, ‘Mr Boseley’s Yard’, property in St Peter Parmentergate parish and unspecified property in London. It is not clear whether he inherited the properties or bought them himself. The manner in which he divided his estate between his executor/nephew – John Boseley of Terrington – and his three grandchildren hints at expectation that trouble would arise, in which case bequests to his disputatious grandchildren were revoked and his nephew was to be sole heir. Trouble duly arose, but not as it had been foreseen. Boseley ’s nephew died in 1748 and further complicated the business.

It is all so Galsworthy that one is not surprised to find Very Young Abigail: ‘my granddaughter Abigail’ – Abigail Jenney who married William Wicks shortly before they became the occupants of Strangers’ Hall in 1735. Extremely Young Abigail, the fourth of their eight children, was born there in 1740. Her eldest brother was blessed with the name Boseley Rice Wicks.

Under the terms of her grandfather’s will, Abigail Wicks inherited £400, £10 more for mourning, a share of household goods and Strangers’ Hall, held in trust during her lifetime by the executor while she received interest and profits – whilst living rent-free – ‘for her sole use … that she may not be charged with the debts and engagements of her husband, William Wicks’. In 1748 the executor died and William Wicks raised a mortgage in order to convert Strangers’ Hall to the Judge’s Lodging whilst living on the property. Chase’s 1783 Directory lists him at 8 Judge’s Lodging where he remained until 1788. (Burial records for Abigail and William Wicks are not to be found; where they died is not known.)

The Redwell Street property including the Dancing Room was left, in trust, to Mary Jenney, not yet eighteen, who lived in London with her brother Thomas and their twice-widower father, Thomas senior. The latter received a bequest of £50, 15 but he already received the profits of Boseley’s London estate, probably as Abigail Boseley’s marriage portion. Thomas junior was left the accoutrements of a gentleman: an agate dram bottle case, a Paris gun and a silver watch. He would probably inherit the London property through his father.

The details of the will show that although he wished for a plain coffin Boseley had lived in comfort and style, looked after by two servants who must have spent much of their lives polishing the crested plate. He owned 15 pictures including his daughter’s portrait by Morland. whom I guess to be George Morland the elder, a genre painter in London. Boseley was not bookish; aside from dance and music books ‘a small parcel of books’ was valued together with household goods. Mrs Boseley’s refinement is indicated by a ‘red earthenware teapot with a gold chain’ and a dressing case left to Mary Jenney.

Boseley the dancing master makes a characteristically brief appearance. He left his violins and flute to Thomas Jenney junior, except for one violin to be chosen for himself by the executor. Thomas and the executor were bidden to share the dance and music books. The instruments and books were valued together at probate for £3. There is no mention of a sword which Boseley might have worn in his everyday life, nor of a dancing master’s fencing foil, but he may have disposed of them at an earlier date.

I cannot find the least hint that the recipients of the instruments and music/dance books were themselves dancing masters. They may simply have been amateur musicians. John Boseley left a surfeit of Abigails but was denied the opportunity of leaving his own dynasty of dancing masters. He may, however, have fostered the dynasty of his professional successor.

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