Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Dancing -  Caldwell's

CALDWELL'S SOIREES DANSANTES, every evening, 8 to 12, Admission 6d.; per quarter, 1 1s. - Splendid Ball Room, with all the arrangements complete, and several additions to the arrangements this season. Mr. Caldwell guarantees to teach any lady or gentleman unacquainted with the route of the ball-room to enter with grace and freedom, and take part in this fashionable amusement, in six private lessons, for 1 1s. The First Long Quadrille Night will take place on Monday, Oct. 17. Admission, 1s 6d. Large rooms may be engaged for Lectures, Committees, Concerts, &c. Piano and pianist on the premises, Dean-street, Soho; tavern department, 32, opposite the Soho Theatre.

The Times, 15 October 1853

see also J. Ewing Ritchie in the Night Side of London - click here

... went in for a short time to Caldwell's: the only representative we have, that I know of, of the German middleclass dancing-rooms. Lots of young men, clerks & apprentices, dancing with young women of the same class - shopgirls & milliners - also respectable, but not very attractive. Things carried on in an easy & unconstrained but virtuous manner: for fast girls & prostitutes think the place 'slow'.

Arthur Munby, Diary, 1859

After coffee Walter said he would like to to go and explore Caldwell's: and it was agreed that we should do so at once.  Now Caldwell's is one of the few public dancing rooms in London, which is frequented by respectable women and not by prostitutes. These think it 'slow': for the 'swells' who pay for their embraces are not to be found there. When we arrived the relache was begun. We took off our hats and coats, as the women do their bonnets and shawls: & it is worth notice that the doing of this forms the differentia between vice and virtue.

Arthur Munby, Diary, 1863

MARLBOROUGH-STREET. Mr. Caldwell, proprietor of the Assembly-rooms, Dean-street, was summoned before Mr. KNOX by the police for allowing prostitutes to meet and remain at his rooms.
    Mr. H. Roberts for the defendant.
    Inspector Draper, of the C division, said he visited the defendant's rooms about 2 o'clock on the morning of the 20th inst., and saw 70 men and about 70 women, 30 of the latter being well-known prostitutes. He knew them to be prostitutes from seeing them walking the Haymarket at night. He told the proprietor there were prostitutes in the rooms, and he remained until half-past 3 o'clock, when the dancing ceased. The defendant had a refreshment licence.
    In reply to Mr. Roberts, the inspector said he had been to the rooms before and found good order. He did not point out any prostitutes to the defendant. The behaviour of the loose women was such as to inform any one what they were. The ball was called a masked ball, but very few masks were worn.
    Police-sergeant Ward and Police-constable Buckingham gave corroborative evidence.
    Mr. Roberts asked the magistrate if he considered that the evidence was sufficient to show that the defendant knew the women to be prostitutes.
    Mr. KNOX said he did.
    Mr. Roberts then stated that Mr. Caldwell had lived 25 years in the neighbourhood, and for some years had a music and dancing licence without any complaint ever having been brought against his rooms. He would call the wives and daughters of respectable persons who attended the dancing-rooms, and they would state that the place was well-conducted. He would ask why the police did not visit the Argyll-rooms and Holborn Casino.
    Several witnesses were then called, all of whom spoke in favour of the place, and of the good conduct maintained by the company.
    Inspector Silverton said he had visited the rooms when 200 persons were present, and had seen no improper characters there.
    Mr. KNOX said there was good reason to believe the defendant had two sets of balls at his rooms, one respectable and the other not. He considered the case made out, and he should therefore impose a fine of 5l. and costs.

The Times, 31 Dec 1864

Many German residents in London, knowing the great anxiety their countrymen who are fighting for their Fatherland must feel for their wives and children, have determined to give a musical entertainment in aid of the funds now being raised for their relief. A CONCERT will be given at the Assembly Rooms, Dean-street, Soho (the use of which has been already given free by Mr. Caldwell) by the celebrated Tyrolese Singers, who have several times had the honour of appearing before Her Majesty and HRH the Prince of Wales, THIS EVENING, August 26.
    Doors open at half-past 7. Concert at 8.
    Tickets, price 1s. and 2s. may be had of Mr. Fischer, 25, Maddox-street; and at the Assembly Rooms.

The Times, 26 August 1870

If you have ever lost yourself in Soho, or been to the Royalty Theatre, you have probably seen this somewhat seedy-looking academy - and what it looked outside, it was in - for it was, without exception, I should think, the seediest, shabbiest, dirtiest, "tumble-downiest" place of amusement you could find in London. The price of admission stamped it in my mind. Fancy, eightpence. What a miserable sum! Sixpence sounds much more respectable. Once inside the turnstile, at which a melancholy man, who always had a glass of rum and water before him, presided, and up the staircase, where a spotted mirror or two, and some dirty, cracked, plaster statues kept up the seedy idea, you came to the dancing-room, a large bare apartment with everything in it in the way of decoration utterly gone to the bad. One end of it was a gallery where the "music" sat. Ye gods! What a band was that. "Seedy" to its very core - with its cornet always cracked and its other instruments either imbecile or drunk. There were two seedy waiters, too, most weak-kneed and flat-footed of their race; who - no liquor licence being attached to the place - were kept running to and fro, between it and the proximate public at the next turning. As to the usual audience, it well matched its surroundings. There was none of the flaunt and glare of the Argyll or the Holborn about it. Caldwell was largely supposed by that class of girl called, I believe, in select circles, "dolly-mops"; a sort of uninteresting and seedy edition of the Parisian grisette. Ballet girls out of an engagement and "slaveys" out for the night also patronised it; and the men who went there were almost, without exception, snobs or cads. Such is my idea of a place the Observer saw fit to gush about in a most sickening way last Sunday. The Holborn is at any rate lively, and you get good music, and something pretty to look at - but Caldwell's, faugh! the place was as dreary as a gospel-hall. I think it a good job is has gone.
    What the young men who used to go there in the day and take private lessons in dancing will do without Caldwell's  I don't know, and don't care; though I believe Mr. Bland and his daughters and Miss Leonora Geary are still ready to take them in hand if they like. At Caldwell's, I understand, the mysteries of the trois temps and the galop were imparted by a superannuated ballet mistress, who was too old and fat to arouse amongst her pupils anything like a wish to intersperse the learning of their steps with amatory amusement, and the ballet girls provided as "lady partners" for the more proficient were, I believe, always very lean and ugly, for obvious reasons. Poor girls! what they must have suffered. I can fancy nothing worse than to be the partner of an awkward clumsy lout who is learning to waltz, unless indeed it is to be the wife of a man like Mr. Ruskin, who is wholly wedded to his art. It is cruelty to allow girls to be roughly and hardly used. Idiots who cannot dance should buy a sixpenny "Guide to the Ball Room" and practice at home with a chair, then they can hurt no one but thermselves.

Sporting Times, September 30, 1871