Sunday, 21 May 2017

Vauxhall Ramble a dance from 1788

Vauxhall Ramble is a dance from "For the Year 1788 Sixteen Country Dances With their proper Figures, for the Harp, Harpsichord, and Violin; as performed at the Prince of Wales's & other Grand Balls and Assemblies. Humbly dedicated to the Nobility & Gentry Subscribers to Willis's Rooms, Festino By John Fentum, he intends continuing this work in the same manner as the late F Werner. Price 1s 6d."

Vauxhall Gardens one of the leading venues for public entertainment in London, from the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century. Originally known as 'New Spring Gardens', the Gardens consisted of several acres of trees and shrubs with attractive walks. Initially, entrance was free, with food and drink being sold to support the venture. The site became Vauxhall Gardens in 1785 and admission was charged for its many attractions. The Gardens drew all manner of people and supported enormous crowds, with its paths and walks being noted for romantic assignations.

The Prince of Wales was later to become George IV and was known for his extravagant entertainments. In 1788 he was about to face his first great political challenge with his father's first bout of mental instability precipitating what became know as the Regency Crisis.

Willis's Rooms had previously been known as Almack's and continued to be referred to by both names until well into the nineteenth century.Willis's was primarily a gambling club to which women were admitted, as well as men. Male members proposed and elected the female members, and women proposed and elected the male members. It was also famous for its balls which were attended by the cream of Regency society.

Festino is Italian for a feast or party and it is not clear whether Fetum is referring to particular entertainments at Willis's Rooms or the reference is to The Hanover Square Rooms run by Giovanni Andrea Battista Gallini an Italian dancer, choreographer and impresario which was colloquially known as Festino. 

John Fentum was probably the son of Jonathan Fentum who had set up as an instrument maker and seller in premises located at 78 The Strand in 1762. John took over the premises and the business around 1784. In addition to instruments, John sold music, tickets for musical entertainments and was also an accomplished violinist and violist. In the 1787-1788 season, he received £4 4s for playing violin in concerts of the Academy of Ancient Music. It is also probable that he played in the band at Willis's Rooms.

F Werner was Francis Werner formally harpist, dancing master and Master of the Ceremonies at Willis's and the Hanover Rooms who had for some years published collections of fashionable dance music and figures.

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