Feb 172019

Ahead of giving a talk on 1st March in London to the English Dance Circle, I looked out a post I did in November 2014, when I discussed the role of the Master of Ceremonies at Bath. It still seems relevant, so here it is again:

Rowlandson print, published in March 1782, entitled “A Master of the Ceremonies Introducing a Partner”

Coming across this Thomas Rowlandson sketch on the fascinating Lewis Walpole site  at Yale University reminded me of the important role played by the Master of Ceremonies at venues such as Bath. If you went to a ball you couldn’t just go and chat up a bird you fancied – you had to be introduced. And that was one of the functions of the Master of Ceremonies – to vet the attendees, decide who they were appropriate to be introduced to, and later, to effect those introductions so that the evening would be a success. I imagine it was sometimes a case of “mix and match” – a title needed money, and vice versa, while on other occasions it was mixing “like with like”.

I am indebted to the Austenonly site here for the explanation of the MoC role, given by Joseph Moser in 1807. It was their function to:
“… introduce regularity into large assemblies, to keep order, to repress the ebullitions of passion, to banish, if possible, that contraction or thrusting out of the lips which Shakespear calls pouting; to prevent violent suffusions or flushings in the female countenance; to keep the ladies from tossing, and their noses from turning up, when precedence, partners, and people that nobody knows, with a hundred other serious circumstances, excite those emotions. He has also annexed to his office something clerical, it being his business to join hands: but he goes still farther, he frequently procures partners, who sometimes under his banners enlist for life.” (See The Sports of Ancient London. The Sporting Magazine. )
The print dates from 1795 and shows Richard Tyson, Master of Ceremonies, effecting an introduction of a gentleman who is clearly no longer in the first flush of youth, to a pair of ladies who definitely should only be seen by dim candlelight!
Richard Tyson had been MoC of the Upper Rooms at Bath for a number of years. Since 1771 there were two separate rooms – in time, the new (Upper) Rooms had a separate MoC from the (original) Lower Rooms – a far cry from when there was but one “King” of Bath, in the form of Beau Nash, who was in sole charge of proceedings from 1704 until around 1760.
According to Wikipedia “He (Nash) would meet new arrivals to Bath and judge whether they were suitable to join the select “Company’ of 500 to 600 people who had pre-booked tables, match ladies with appropriate dancing partners at each ball, pay the musicians at such events, broker marriages, escort unaccompanied wives and regulate gambling (by restraining compulsive gamblers).” Not bad for a days work!

Beau Nash, painted by Nathaniel Hone

It does seem a bit hard therefore, that when he died, the long-serving, long suffering Beau Nash ended up in an unmarked paupers grave. He had been a prodigious gambler, with enormous debts. Because of those debts he was forced to move in to the home of his mistress Juliana Popjoy. The poor girl was so distraught when he died in 1761 that she apparently went to live in a large hollowed-out tree. Which is entirely proper for the 18th Century, because of course that is what one did when feeling bereft and lonely!
Meanwhile, my thanks to Master Rowlandson for a rather lovely piece of observation of the manners, etiquette and style of Bath in its Georgian grandeur. Nice one!


For anyone interested, I will be giving a talk in London to the Early Dance Centre at 7.15 on 1st March. You can find details on the EDC website here. For tickets, contact the EDC secretary on:-  secretary@earlydancecircle.co.uk

or by telephone on:- 020 8699 8519

Feb 132019

Richard Hall’s diaries for 1780-85

I last kept a diary when I was at school, rather a lot of years ago, but I remember one thing about the diaries – Letts made them – and that was that they always showed the phases of the moon. Which struck me as slightly odd, because nowadays it matters very little whether it is a new moon, a full moon, or something in between. Unless you are a vampire. Or believe that you should only sow seeds in your vegetable garden if the moon is full.

But I suspect that our Georgian ancestors would have taken a very keen interest in the moon, not least because it could make a huge difference to travel times and to the cost of travel.

Take the trip from London to Bath – normally a two-day journey. The person arranging the coach would need to factor in an overnight stop, including dinner and breakfast the next day, when calculating the ticket price. But if it was a full moon, as long as the roads were in decent repair (i.e. no potholes, like there are in today’s roads, because a broken axle was best avoided!) the coach could simply keep going through the night. OK the carriage lamps were not exactly headlights and perhaps were more used to make sure people could see you rather than so that you could see them, but every little bit helps. Especially if you wanted to be able to see if there were people lurking in the undergrowth at the side of the road, ready to hold you up at gun point….

The highwayman – Stand and Deliver!

I have previously used these two paper cuts by Richard to show the difference which the Turnpike Trusts made to road transport in the middle of the 18th Century:

Before: note the front wheel about to crash down over a large rock…

After: – a smoother road surface

The attempted Jacobite uprising in 1745 drew attention to the appalling state of the roads – troop movements were hampered because equipment got bogged down as the army tried to move north. It led to a great push to improve the roads throughout England, funded by each locality via tolls raised at turnpikes across the land. Roads became safer, rides became more comfortable…

 So I was interested to see that Richard Hall recorded a novelty (for him) in his diary: a night-time trip from London on the Gloucester coach. “Thursday 23 March 1780, set out in the Gloucester Coach after Dinner, to travel all night – was thru the goodness of God very kindly preserv’d”. There was a frost and Richard remarked that it was cold in the morning. In the early hours of Friday 24 March they reached Oxford at a quarter past two, took an early breakfast, got to Burford between 7 and 8, and had a second breakfast. I imagine that he then changed coaches, because he got to Bourton on the Water at midday. (“Oh what occasion for thankfulness. A frost, cold day, rain at night”).

On checking the records, I see that there had been a full moon at around the time of his journey. I suspect that he must have been pretty knackered after travelling all night – unless the rattling monotony of the coach sent him to sleep. He certainly didn’t have a busy schedule the next day – the only appointment was to “take teas with Mr Palmer”.

I am sure that the overnight journey would not have been attempted if there had been no moon to guide the way – a reminder of just how much the Georgians were dependent upon planetary movements. In the summer Richard got up 15 minutes earlier every week from the beginning of April, meaning that he would be rising at 4 a.m. by the end of August – but in the winter he hibernated, unless, of course, the moon was full so that he could prowl the Gloucester countryside…

Feb 102019

One of the interesting characters I came across doing the research for my forthcoming talk to the Early Dance Centre was one particular Master of Ceremonies at the Upper Rooms in Bath. Captain William Wade had stepped into the breach after a contested election between the Master of the Lower Rooms (William Brereton) and the Master of the assembly rooms in nearby Bristol by the name of Mr Plomer. The original election descended into fisticuffs and the reading of the Riot Act – and at the end of the unseemly squabble Captain Wade was chosen as a consensus candidate acceptable to both sides. He took up his office in 1769.


And what a pretty boy he was! Here he is, looking magnificent in all his finery, in a painting by Thomas Gainsborough dating from 1771. I mean, THAT is what I call a waistcoat! Captain Wade quickly earned the nick-name of “the Bath Adonis” – but he was eventually forced to retire from his position after rather publicly misbehaving. It must have been all rather humiliating for Mrs Katherine Wade, who had given birth to five of his children and who was very much still alive when her husband’s eyes started to wander….

John Hooke Campbell (1733-1795); by Francis Cotes, courtesy of the National Galleries of Scotland.

He was named in the divorce proceedings of Elizabeth Eustacia, wife of John Hooke Campbell.  Mr Campbell  was a dour Scotsman and when he had married Devon girl Elizabeth in 1762 I don’t think he knew what he was taking on. They had three daughters – Eustacia, Charlotte and Louisa. I suspect that his wife’s world fell apart when both her parents died in the same year – 1764, and although there is an early reference to a boy called Matthew I suspect that he died in infancy and there is nothing to suggest that John Hooke Campbell was ever going to get a male heir. He seemed preoccupied with changing his name – from  John Hooke Campbell to John Campbell-Hooke, no doubt conscious of his  dynastic importance. A double-barrelled name always looks good!

To give him his full title he was The Right Honourable the Lord Lyon King of Arms. As such he was the head of Lyon Court,  the most junior of the Great Officers of State in Scotland. He was the official with responsibility for regulating heraldry in Scotland – issuing new grants of arms, and serving as the judge of the Court of the Lord Lyon, the oldest heraldic court in the world. Dare one assume that perhaps he was too busy with his heraldic work to spend much time  and attention on his wife, who was four years younger than him and who clearly liked to party, party?

The Tea Room at the Assembly Rooms, Bath: per Wikimedia

The couple were leading separate existences – and in time Elizabeth fell for the charms of Captain Wade. She would rent premises in Bath – or near Brighton where the good Captain  also held the position of MC – and this gave the Captain plenty of opportunity to pop round for a quick bit of nookie whenever he got the chance. And all of this was to come out into the public arena when  husband John finally woke up and smelled the roses. He sued the Captain for damages in criminal conversation – a sort of precursor to divorce, and this entailed a full trial. This involved just about every servant  in the household being called upon to give evidence. What is clear is that the below-stairs staff were preoccupied with  looking through keyholes and pressing ears against the walls, listening in to amorous conversations and ‘noises off’. Each servant was called in turn, and made depositions about  hearing inter-connecting doors opening and closing, of the young children being moved up to the garret out of the way, of shadowy figures holding candles being observed in corridors and of midnight moaning and squeaking bed-frames. The evidence ran to an impressive seventy pages, starting off with the assertion that Elizabeth ‘was and is a very loose woman of a lustful and wicked disposition’, who had committed ‘the foul crime of adultery’.

And all of this was reported in trial accounts which became best sellers, as prurient readers could  learn about every aspect  of the affair.

The reports of this and numerous other adultery trails were then consolidated and published in seven volumes. A quick look on the web suggests that a set of six of the seven are available for the discerning reader, at a not unreasonable price of $2500.

John won his case in 1777 and subsequently petitioned Parliament for a divorce, leaving his ex-wife free to marry Captain Wade once the original Mrs Wade had died in 1787. Before the year was out,  the ‘Bath Adonis’ had married Elizabeth, on 30 June 1787 at St Marylebone in London. Sure, he was sacked as MC in Bath for bringing his office into disrepute; however he  continued as MC in Brighton, thereby proving that somewhat different standards of propriety existed in the South coast resort compared with what was acceptable in the ever-so-respectable city of Bath. I make no comment about whether there has been much change there then !

For the next twenty years Captain Wade was responsible for arranging  entertainments  at assemblies in Brighton at both the Castle Inn and the Old Ship. He died in Brighton on 16 March 1809

All this scurrilous talk of scandalous behaviour is far too detailed to get more than a passing mention in my forthcoming talk to the Early Dance Circle on 1st March 2019  – but it was great fun doing the research, since I may well be able to use it in my next-book-but-one, on Sex and Sexuality in the Georgian Era. Meanwhile if you are free and in London on the evening of 1st March – do come along. The talk is at Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH and starts at 7.15 Details can be obtained from the  EDC Secretary: secretary@earlydancecircle.co.uk or by ‘phoning on 020 8699 8519

Feb 062019

I am really looking forward to  the next couple of weeks, because it includes a lecture tour to the United States. Starting off with a visit to New York I will be giving a talk to the American Friends of the Georgian Group in Manhattan on February 19 at 7.00 p.m.    I will be talking about my ancestor Richard Hall, and taking some of the diaries with me as I talk about his life and times.

After that I then head to Colonial Williamsburg in  Virginia to take part in a fascinating five-day symposium entitled  ‘Hidden Treasures’. It is actually the 71st Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum and it has a great programme, with various visits to  colonial buildings (historic homes etc) in Maryland and  in Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, and then continuing with  the conference itself. I am down to give the keynote speech on the opening day (February 23) but once I have got that out of the way there are all sorts of interesting talks – about furniture and furnishings, about ceramics and the decorative arts, about flint glass and, on February  26, there is a talk by Prof. Amanda Vickery on ‘The Rise of the West End: London, the Season and Shopping’. There are also various workshops and demonstrations and I suspect the main problem will be deciding what to choose and what to leave out. And yes, I feel extremely honoured, and not a little out of place, in such an august gathering. More about the conference can be found here.

It should be great fun and I am hugely grateful to the organizers for making all this possible – my wife is coming with me and naturally her main concern is about what clothes to take as we gather it may be cold and wet!

I cannot help but think that dear old Richard Hall, my great great great great grandfather, would have had a considerable problem coming to terms with the idea that his private diaries would end up opening up so many doors for his future descendant, throughout the world. Actually I think he might have been tickled pink – as am I !