note | Balls and fêtes

[This note will be developed more fully later.]

  • Powderham castle | guidebook, 2006, p.18. William’s delayed coming-of-age ball in August 1790:

The ball was held in three marquees made of green and pink silk, as there was no room large enough in the Castle for the lavish celebrations. William gave all the 600 guests a peach, an extremely expensive and exotic present, and a very generous gesture.

  • 1790   Ann Robinson in a letter to her brother Frederick Robinson, Saltram 17 July:

Lord Courtenay’s Fête begins with a Masquerade on the 2d of next month, a Concert on the 3d and a Ball the 4th the only thing wanting will be company, many people have returned his ticket and note of invitation, he has offended a great many by the part he took in the contest for the county [election of two MPs]

  • London chronicle #5613 | vol. 72, p. 144 | Thursday 9 August to Saturday 11 August 1792:

Lord Courtenay gave his postponed Fete, at Powderham Castle, Devonshire, on Monday evening last.

The entertainments were, a masquerade ball, and supper, to which all the persons of distinction in the neighbourhood were invited, as well as many from distant parts of the kingdom, the particular friends of the family.
The company began to assemble about ten, and at eleven became numerous; his Lordship and his charming sisters receiving the visitors as they arrived. The proportion of dominos was much less than at public entertainments of the same sort, and of the masks many were excellently supported. There were, a Sailor’s Lass, much distinguished for repartee and good personification; two Gentoo Lads, as the sons of Tippoo, given up for hostages; four Inhabitants of Otaheite; a Representative of Folly, curiously decorated with baubles; a Devonshire Market Woman; a Giant; a Hawker, and a Town Cryer.

At one the supper rooms were opened, and the eye as well as the palate was gratified, for the elegance of the arrangement equalled the plenty of the board. The choicest wines, and every delicacy that could be procured, were liberally afforded.
After supper the ball commenced, and the rooms were not entirely deserted by their festive guests, at six o’clock on Tuesday morning.

  • 1796  Gabriel Christoph Benjamin Busch, Versuch eines Handbuchs der Erfindungen | Tanzkunst:

Im Jahr 1791 bezahlte Lord Courtenay, auf zeinem Landsitz Powderham, einem Künstler 100 Guineen oder 600 Rthlr. dafür

In the year 1791 at Powderham, his country seat, lord Courtenay paid an artist 100 guineas or 600 Reichstahler for such [decorating a dance-floor with flowers, festoons and other designs in chalk – the artist may have been Robert Fulton]

  • 1836  Richard Polwhele, Reminiscences, in Prose and Verse, 1836 | vol. 1, pp. 42-43. From June 1784 to 1793/1794 Polwhele was curate at Kenton, a neighbouring parish of Powderham.

I was very sensible of Mr. Champernowne’s kindness to me at a masquerade, where I was paying my respects to the present [Earl] Courtenay.  It was a splendid masquerade indeed ; and the whole scenery, from Powderham to Exeter, beyond description magnificent—illuminated as was the river Exe through its whole extent, from yachts and barges, and all the variety of fireworks. But to return to Champernowne. My neighbours, Messrs. (Prebendary) and (Archdeacon) Andrew, had agreed with me to go unmasked, as being more decorous in clergymen. With me, the unpleasant consequence was, that several of my subscribers to my “History of Devonshire,” taking advantage of my ” open countenance,” attacked me most unmercifully about my book; —which Champernowne perceiving, interposed in my favour, and stood by me till released by a Turkish Ambassador (Lord Courtenay), whose protection from such impertinence was not less powerful. Mr. Templar took me from Powderham to my own house at Kenton, in his carriage. I shall never forget the dawn of that day, the park, the plantations gradually opening upon us, the morning star fading in the east, the horizon one fine flush of crimson and of gold, the dewdrops on the trees and shrubs fresh and sparkling, and every breeze wafting ” life and fragrance,” and the lark mounting high. Such were more than enough to call forth strains, responsive to ” his trembling thrilling ecstacy.”

  • 1793  Lady Stafford (lady Margaret Beckford’s aunt) to her son lord Granville Leveson Gower, Whitehall (Westminster) 31 May:

[…] I think you will like to have an Acct. of a Ball at Mr. Byng’s last night. There were two or three and twenty Couple; […] But I will return to the Ball, which lasted till five in the Morning. The Dancing went on with great Spirit, the Ladies had plenty of Partners, and there was a famous good Supper. […] Lady J. Paget look’d vastly well; she goes this Night to a Ball at Lord Courtenay’s, to which our Excuse is to go, but as the Uxbridge family are to leave Town on Monday, Lady Uxbridge consents to Lady J. going to two Balls de suite.

  • 1801 Exeter Flying Post, 1801 August 27:

A grand masquerade given on the 19th by Lord Courtenay at Powderham to 500 visitors.


Page history

  • 2023 March 12: first published online.