Groves, ‘Sir Harry and Miss Kitty, in High Life Below Stairs’ (c.1760s), showing a man and a large woman dancing to three musicians, one of whom has a wooden leg © The Trustees of the British Museum.

References to British Dance Instrumentation 1760s


Groves, ‘Sir Harry and Miss Kitty, in High Life Below Stairs’ (London: William Wynne Ryland?, c.1760s), British Museum

Unknown artist, after Hubert-François Gravelot, design for wall paper, c.1760, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Set of 30 plates of decorative motifs for use as patterns for china decoration, amateur japanning, embroidery etc., 1756-1757, republished by John Bowles c.1760, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Tin-glazed earthenware tile with transfer-printed decoration depicting Miss Nancy Dawson dancing the hornpipe (Liverpool: Sadler and Green, c.1760-1765), Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Paul Ogarth (pseud.), ‘The Northern Dancing Master or the Windsor Minuet 1762’, The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

A musical clock dating from 1765 by the organ builder and clockmaker George Pyke (c.1725-1777), located at Temple Newsam, incorporates automata that move in time as the internal barrel organ plays, and

Tin-glazed earthenware tile with transfer-printed decoration depicting children and a flute player (Liverpool: Sadler and Green, c.1765-c.1775), Victoria and Albert Museum, London

After Jefferyes Hamett O’Neale?, ‘THE NEW COUNTRY DANCE, as DANCED at C**** July the 30th 1766’, British Museum

Jabez Goldar after John Collet, ‘Grown Gentlemen taught to Dance’ (London: Thomas Bradford, 27 June 1767), British Museum

P. Crotchet after Daniel Dodd, ‘Grown Ladies Taught To Dance’ (London: Robert Sayer, 1 January 1768), British Museum

Martin Rennoldson after John Collet, ‘Grown Ladies &c. taught to Dance’ (London: Robert Sayer and John Smith, c.1768), British Museum

Documentary Sources

The Yearly Chronicle for M,DCC, LXI or, a Collection of the most Interesting and Striking Essays, Letters, &c. which appeared in the St. James’s Chronicle for that Year (London: T. Becket and R Griffiths; L. Davis and C. Reymers; R. Davis; T. Davies; T. Lownds; and C. Henderson, 1762)

Thursday March 19 – Character of a FIDDLING FOOTMAN [p. 5]

“IN my younger days I was put apprentice to a pewterer, but having unfortunately a most delicate ear for Music, could by no means relish the perpetual din and clatter of my occupation.  When the hours of work were over, I always flung away my hammer with disdain, and flew with rapture to my fiddle…I was no sooner out of my time, than I determined to renounce my trade for ever, and devote myself entirely to Music.  But finding it attended with little profit, not having interest enough to obtain a seat in the orchestra at either theatre, nor choosing to submit to the indignity of fiddling only at occasional country-dancings in the neighbourhood, I was obliged to go to service.”


W.S. Lewis, ed., The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, vol. 9 (New Haven: Yale University Press; London: Oxford University Press, 1941/1961)

Letter to George Montagu, 14 May 1761 [p. 369]

“I came to town yesterday for a party at Bedford House made for Princess Emily; the garden was open with French horns and clarinets…The tables were removed, the young people began to dance to a tabor and pipe; the Princess sat down again, but to unlimited loo, we played till three, and I won enough to help on the gallery.”


London Chronicle 16-18 February 1764

“Among the sundry fashionable routs or clubs, that are held in town, that of the Blacks or Negro servants is not the least. On Wednesday night last, no less than fifty-seven of them, men and women, supped, drank, and entertained themselves with dancing and music, consisting of violins, French horns, and other instruments, at a public-house in Fleet-street, till four in the morning. No Whites were allowed to be present, for all the performers were Blacks”


Christopher Anstey, The New Bath Guide: or, Memoirs of the B—R—D Family. In a Series of Poetical Epistles ([London]: Sold by J. Dodsley [with other sellers in London, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin], 1766)

Salutations of Bath [pp. 32-33]

“And Music’s a Thing I shall truly revere,

Since the City Musicians so tickled my Ear;

For when we arriv’d here at Bath t’other Day,

They came to our Lodgings on Purpose to play:

And I thought it was right, as the Music was come,

To foot it a little in TABITHA’s Room,

For Practice makes perfect, as often I’ve read,

And to Heels is of Service as well as the Head;

But the Lodgers were shock’d such a Noise we should make,

And the Ladies declar’d that we kept them awake

“I cannot conceive what a Plague he’s about,

Are the Fidlers [sic] come hither to make all this Rout

With their d-mn’d squeaking Catgut that’s worse than the Gout?”

So while they were playing their musical Airs,

And I was just dancing the Hay round the Chairs,

He roar’d to his Frenchman to kick them down Stairs.”


A Description of the Ball [pp. 71, 75]

“What Troops of fair Virgins assembled around,

What Squadrons of Heroes for Dancing renown’d,

Were rouz’d by the Fiddle’s harmonious Sound

But hark, now they strike the melodious String,

The vaulted Roof echoes, the Mansions all ring;

At the Sound of the Hautboy, the Bass and the Fiddle;

Sir BOREAS BLUBBER steps forth in the Middle”


A Public Breakfast [p. 95]

“But those who knew better their Time how to spend,

The Fiddling and Dancing all chose to attend.

Miss CLUNCH and Sir TOBY perform’d a Cotillon,

Much the same as our SUSAN and BOB the Postilion”


James Woodforde, The Diary of James Woodforde, vol. 3, ed. R.L. Winstanley, rev. Peter Jameson ([S.I.]: The Parson Woodforde Society, 2008)

1 January 1767 [p. 62]

“I read Prayers this morning at C. Cary Church being New Years Day I dined, supped and spent the Evening till 10 o’clock at Parsonage and after ten I went over to Dr. Clarke’s new Hospital where I spent the whole night & part of the morning till after 4. o’clock a dancing on account of Mr. James Clarke’s Apprenticeship being expired, a great deal of Company was there indeed…We had a very good band of Musick 2. Violins & a Bass Viol. We were excessive merry and gay there indeed”

February 3 1767 [pp. 67-68]

“I spent the Evening & Supped at Ansford Inn, there being a Masquerade Ball there this Evening, and very elegant it was, much beyond my expectation in all respects – We did not break up till five o’clock in the morning…Admiral Hunt was Beau Nash & Master of the Ceremonies – I played at Cards part of the Time & won – 0-1-0 I did not dance the whole Evening – We had good Musick viz, four Violins, a Base [sic] Viol, a Taber & Pipe, a Hautboy and a French Horn played by Mr. Ford”

April 19 1768 [p. 164]

“I dined, supped &c. at Lower House with Company...We had some Country Dancing and Minuets at L. House – I danced Country Dances with Mrs. Farr, & Miss Payne – I danced one Minuet with Mrs. Farr at last – I gave Stephen Bennett the Fidler – 0-2-6 We were very merry & no breaking up till 2. in the morning.”


Pope’s Bath Chronicle 7 May 1767

An INVITATION to SPRING-GARDENS. Humbly dedicated to the Dancers of Cottillions.

“Then back again haste, no time you must waste,

When dancing becomes the gay theme;

The bold hurdy-gurdy; play’d by man stout and sturdy,

Of pleasure presents you the cream.”


Donald Burrows and Rosemary Dunhill, Music and Theatre in Handel's World: The Family Papers of James Harris 1732‐1780 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

Letter from Elizabeth Harris, Salisbury, to James Harris Jr, Berlin, 12 September 1767 [G1254/27] [p. 493]

“All the Hulses[,] in number nine[,] did not stay tea at the Bishops but choose to come to us for they appointed it in the morning. They were very jolly[.] We all went into the chappel [sic] room immediately after tea to hear your sisters sing; after that we all fell to dancing & Mr Harris play’d. The bride & bride-groom danced a minuet[;] they & all the family were very fine.”

The assumption made in the notes is that James Harris (“Mr Harris”) played the harpsichord.


The London Magazine or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, vol. XXXVII (July 1768)

Instructions for the more ready and perfect attainment of the Cotillons or French country Dances. By Mons. Gherardi [p. 380]

“It frequently happens in dancing the cotillons, that ladies and gentlemen finish out of time, at the termination of the first part of the tune, ending sometimes too soon, and sometimes too late: In order to avoid the confusion, which would otherwise be the consequence of such inattention or mistake, the first violin ought to know the air by heart; and when the dancers do not come to their places soon enough, instead of playing it only twice or thrice, he should continue repeating it till they are all properly arrived there, and, on the contrary, when the dancers are so quick as to get at their places too soon, he should keep pace with their movements, and proportionably shorten the repetition.”


James Woodforde, The Ansford Diary of James Woodforde, vol. 4, ed. R.L. Winstanley ([S.I.]: The Parson Woodforde Society, 1986)

3 February 1769 [pp. 13-14]

“I supped & spent the Evening at Lower House with the underwritten Gentlemen & Ladies…We had dancing till 2. o'clock in the morning – I got a Base [sic] Viol & Violin, to whom I gave – 0-10-0 M.r Hooper played the Base & one Wadman of Cheriton the Violin, a Crown apiece besides eating & drinking…The Company were all very well pleased with their Entertainment, which gave me great Pleasure…I danced a Minuet with and Miss Melliar and a few Country Dances with Miss Aggy Clarke & Miss Plummer”