S – Dancing reported by Police

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SAULTER subscription balls under the custom house

1830 Sydney

POLICE INCIDENTS.—King v. Saulter. The defendant in this case, the landlord of the Kings’s Head Harrington-street, appeared on summons to answer the charge of the Chief Constable for selling spirits out of his own house to wit, under the New Custom House. The defendant pleaded Guilty. It appeared by the evidence, that the defendant was in the habit of having subscription balls under the Custom House to which he removed the kegs of liquor from his own house, and retailed it in the unlicensed place. He was warned twice previously of the illegality of the proceeding, but Jilks [the constable] finding caution useless sent on the last occasion some of his staff to “trip it on the light fantastic toe,” and who purchased on the occasion sundry half pints of rum. In fact, the ball room was fitted up in every respect as the bar of a public house. The bench sentenced the defendant Saulter to pay a fine of 30l. to the King and 1ls. 3d. expenses within three days, if not, his goods would be sold, which if not sufficient, he would be sent to the Jail for four months.

COOPER’S COLONIAL GIN. (1830, August 18). The Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 – 1838), p. 2 (AFTERNOON). Retrieved January 2, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32074079

A working-class ‘fancy’ ball. Low life in London. George Cruikshank (1821) London


Showing off at a hop on the Rocks, 1837 Sydney

Martha Saunders, with laughter in her eyes, and quotations on her lips, was charged with having attended a hop upon the Rocks, where she had been the star of the evening showing off on the light fantastic toe, to the admiration of a snug party of happy youths, who pressed her so closely with glasses of dog’s nose*, that upon leaving she was thought by the party to be all the worse for her exertions in every sense of the word; twenty admires immediately offered their aid to see the bewitching damsel to her home, but her bashfulness prevented her from accepting the proffered assistance, and she departed in solitary loneliness. Her walk which at first was not so steady as it ought to be, degenerated into a stagger, and finally a fall laid her snugly into a nice hole filled with the sollest[?] deposit. Here she was found, and extricated at the expense of the charley’s upper Benjamin, who conveyed her to a place of security.

Bench. – What have you to say?

Martha -” Man has no charms for me, nor woman either.”

Bench.- Have you five shillings for the use of the poor?

Martha. – He who steals my purse steals trash. –

Bench.- You must go to the stocks for one hour.

Martha.-Adieu kind Sir, adieu!

*A dog’s nose is gin & ale

POLICE INCIDENT. (1837, January 26). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved January 2, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2209043



Begs leave to go to a dance, 1827 Windsor


Ellen Savage was charged with insolence and improper conduct in her service. She gives vent to very unbecoming expressions; drinks a little freely, and begs leave to go to a dance, occasionally at Wilberforce, although not allowed so to do, which points out that Ellen is admired. “Advance Australia!” Ellen is about to be married, and her master would willingly encourage her better prospects in life. Ellen became affected at the sympathy expressed, and shed a tear or two on the occasion; but she had taken a glass of some- thing in water, and thus it operated. She expressed sorrow —was admonished in the kindest manner; and it was ordered that should be discharged early in the morning into the care of a sober constable to convey her home, without tasting one single dram. She would think such a sentence harsh enough.

“Police Reports.” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842) 15 November 1826: 3. Web. 10 Aug 2016 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2186911>.


SCOTT, Ellen

Dancing in a public house after hours

Owen’s friend Ellen Scott, who probably organised her daring escape, had a very different background. She was a ‘lifer’ from Limerick in Ireland. She had only one conviction, for vagrancy, before she was transported for the theft of a watch chain. She was 18-years-old, small in build, and single. Her record in the colony was more impressive: refusal to work, refusal to proceed to service, absconding, dancing in a public house, out after hours – all evidence of a rebellious rather than a criminal disposition.

Daniels, K. (1998). Convict women. St. Leonards, N.S.W: Allen & Unwin. pp. 155-156

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At a midnight dance 1828 Sydney

Patrick Sheridan, a prisoner of the Crown, apprehended by the chief constable, at a dance, about 12 o’clock at night, in Kent Street, was sentenced for 6 month to an iron-gang.

Police Report. (1828, January 14). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2189748



Jigging a Dutch hornpipe, 1832 Sydney

Ann Smith, found on Sunday evening rather queer in the Market-place, dancing a Dutch horn-pipe in the middle of a score of men, who were whistling in concert, as she jigged, was placed at the bar. By way of defence, she said she merely went in there out of the rain, and to keep her blood in circulation, she certainly did trip it on the light fantastic toe. The Bench ordered her to pay five shillings. ” No, no,” said Ann, ” I know a trick worth two of that.” In consequence, she was escorted by one of the politest Charleys to the stocks.

POLICE INCIDENTS. (1832, August 9). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 1 (Supplement to the Sydney Herald.). Retrieved January 2, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12845005

Dancing in the street. H. Dutheil (1867). New York Public Library.


Forced to practise dancing, 1836 Sydney

Ann Smith, a volunteer for the third class, was charged with bolting from home, and giving herself up to the Police, on the ground of a want of novelty. The defence was, that her master kept a fiddler, who was instructing her in the positions, but the fiddlestick and her toes were in constant contact in consequence of their not being duly pointed ; again, he would not advance in the mysteries of terpsichore, although she considered herself fully qualified ; this was annoying, and she could not help it. Two months Bell’s dancing academy.

POLICE INCIDENTS. (1836, December 1). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved December 16, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2208060


SMITH, Sydney

Dancing to Drops of Brandy, 1831 Sydney

“Sydney Smith, for being riotous, drunk, &c., and dancing in the street to the tune of Drops o’ Brandy, which he himself played on a mouth organ, had to cash up five bob, and was warned in future to hide his musical talents under a bushel.”

Police Incidents. (1831, May 30). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12843096

The mouth-organ was developed in Europe in the 1820s and quickly became popular in the colony. This illustration features on the cover of an instruction manual which included ‘a selection of popular melodies, expressly arranged for the instrument’ (1830).  Courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The amusements of the evening being fiddling, dancing, 1830 Sydney

Two prisoners of the Crown, bearing the remarkable cognomical appellations, James Crankey, and John Snacks, were charged with being found at ” the midnight hour” preceding, in a certain disorderly house, situate in Castlereagh-street, where the constables found these Crankey gentlemen going Snacks in the enjoyment of sundry of the good things of this life, viz. rounds of beef, rum, and other such pic-nic matters, the amusements of the evening being accompanied with fiddling, dancing, &c. Twenty-five lashes each.

Police Incidents. (1830, September 2). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved December 16, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2195941


SNIPE, Lavina

Waltzing at a ball, 1832 Sydney

Lavina Snipe was charged with eloping to a ball, where she was discovered waltzing in Turkish trowsers; at the moment the constables made their entre she was languishingly reclining her head on her partner’s shoulder from sheer lassitude, while he was busily employed in bathing her temples with Eau de Cologne. The grasp of the Charley on her delicate shoulder soon brought her to reason, and she was borne off melting like a second Niobe ; 1 month Gordon’s ” at home”.

POLICE INCIDENTS. (1832, May 17). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12844495

Lavina Snipe was fashionably attired in ‘Turkish trowsers’ – a popular item for fancy dress in 1832.


Danced a pas seul before the looking glass

TUESDAY -Mary Stewart was placed at the bar on the following charge , On Saturday last, having been brought to Sydney, in Gordon’s vis-a-vis from the aviary, she managed while the Charley was delivering other women to various applicants, to become confoundedly cut and when arrived at her destination she was fit for any thing, and a bill of the Play having attracted her optics while coming down the street, she vowed in the exhilaration of the moment, that go she would, let come what would, in accordance with this resolution she prigged from her mistress’s drawers a silk gown elegantly trimmed and an Opera cloak, with these she repaired to the kitchen and commenced her toilet, Rowland’s Maccassar, Pomade divine, &c., were rubbed into her ringlets, which were shortly arranged in due order, and the gown having been put on she began to think herself quite the thing, and danced a pas seul before the looking glass, the Opera cloak being thrown gracefully over the left shoulder, while thus amusing herself the mistress stepped in, and wished to know where she had obtained the clothes.

“Phoo ! my good woman”, said Mary,-
” Begone from hence, you see I’m busy now,
Meet me this evening at the Barley Mow,
Begone I say, and don’t kick up a row.” *

Not understanding this tirade, the mistress sent for a Charley who soon stripped her of her borrowed plumes and locked her up. Mary now stuck to it back and edge, that the clothes had been lent to her by her mistress, the Bench however sent her to try and hum a Jury with that story, if she could.

*Quote from the play Bombastes furioso.  This play is known to be  performed at the convict theatre at Emu Plains, and the tune Michael Wiggins which featured in the play, was used for dancing. 

POLICE INCIDENTS. (1833, May 9). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved December 16, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12846779

STOLEN dancing shoes. Dance steps described.

OFFENCES, CHARGES, &c. 1826 Sydney.

Among the many singular applications for its kindly inter position, with which the police bench is being continually assailed, that of a certain “gay ladie” some few days since was not the least remarkable.

A portly slip-shod, gaily-attired female where a wooden barrier separates obtruding guests, from the judgment seat. Traces of some occult grief might be observed lurking in her features, almost threatening to displace those never dying artificial roses, which still in spite of fate, maintained their position on her cheeks in all the pride of vermilion or Dutch pink — it’s immaterial which.

At length the sole “rhyme and reason” of this damsel’s visit was made known, assistance, prompt and effectual assistance in making efforts to recover her [l]ost “under-standing” was the required boon: but to understand this, it may not be unnecessary to premise, that the desponding complainant had been a very little time back the happy possessor of a pair of shoes — nice, neat, satin shoes, the exact fit — indeed a prettier or more becoming pair could not be seen in a day’s walk. Many an envious glance had they received from her own sex, and many an admiring one from the lads, when mincing it down the middle in a country dance, or shuffling heel to point in a solitary hornpipe. They would balances in a quadrille, or twirl in a waltz with equal ease and lightness, if put to the trial — but “Madame” was not ‘”up to them ere tricks”— Be all this as it may, this pair of “soles,” more than once pronounced by a learned member of the “gentle craft,” as ” exquisites” had most unaccountably walked themselves off. They might forsooth even now be wearing out body and ” sole” under the stumps of some laughter-loving dame — degraded (shocking thought) to the rank of slippers.

However, if proper help would be afforded, this cruel spoiler might yet be brought to refund. — It was now inimated that a person under a similar charge had offered an appearance this morning at the office, but was al- lowed again to disappear for want of accusers, and that the pre- sent application came too late. Complainant moved for a new trial, but not being enabled to procure one, was commencing an animated argument, when a repetition of the pertinent old pro- verb, “ne surfor ultra crepidam,” or something like, that, forced her to face about and attempt to regain her lost ”footing” in some other way.

OFFENCES, CHARGES, &c. (1826, February 16). The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), p. 4. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37073134

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Singing, dancing and cutting capers after attending a wake, 1831 Sydney

1 Monday, September 5.-Two break o’ day lads, cognominated Sweeney and Leary, were placed at the bar, with no little difficulty to give an account of sundry tricks played by them in the Barrack-square the previous day. It appeared, that on Saturday they had been at a wake, and being determined to keep it up, they proceeded to the Barracks, were they commenced singing, dancing, and cutting divers capers on the grass; when ordered to walk, they declared they would not, as there was a degree of esprit de corps in their amusements, that would exactly suit the taste of the officers. They were sent to the stocks for six hours each, as penance for their offence.

NB – esprit de corps -a feeling of pride and mutual loyalty shared by the members of a group.

Police Incidents. (1831, September 12). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12843495

Hyde Park Barracks. (1840) Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

SWEENEY, Charles

Dancing after hours, 1834 Hobart

Charles Sweeney, for enjoying himself on the light fantastic toe at the Calcutta Tap after hours, was reprimanded only, his character standing well upon the record.

Hobart Town Police Report. (1834, November 11). Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), p. 7. Retrieved January 2, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8647909

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