VOLUNTEERS set the ball rolling yesterday in a project to re-create 18th-Century life in a historic Northumberland hall.
The National Trust is to stage a Georgian masquerade ball next month at Seaton Delaval Hall. Research has shown that the fun-loving Delavals held such events at the hall. People who sign up for the ball are being asked to come, if possible, in Georgian costume or alternatively in formal wear.
“We don’t want people to turn up for a Georgian ball in jeans and trainers,” said Alison Forbes, events co-ordinator at the hall.
The event will begin with an hour of instruction from dance historian Elizabeth Lawson to give people a grounding in the dances for the evening.
Yesterday volunteers began rehearsing at the hall so that they can display the dance steps to guests on the night.
A Georgian buffet will be served, with the main feature being salamangundy, in which 18th-Century caterers showed off their flair in combining fresh salad, pickled food, meats and fresh flowers in an impressive display.
There will also be a bar and card tables where people can enjoy traditional games.
Alison said: “Our event offers a unique opportunity to experience what it would have been like at a masked ball in the 1700s.
“From arriving at the hall, guests will feel like they have stepped into a day in history – the people, costumes, food, music and dancing will be very authentic.”
The masked ball supports the National Trust’s aim of bringing its places to life by offering experiences which help to tell the story of each individual property.
Alison said: “We want to host events this year which enable people to experience living history. We found a reference to a masquerade house ball in the diary of Sara Delaval in 1755 and thought the main hall lent itself perfectly to this type of event.”
In September, the trust plans a banquet with authentic 18th-Century food and Georgian-inspired entertainment.
“For the ball, people can make their own Georgian costumes and masks or hire them.” said Alison.
Elizabeth Lawson, who lives near Bedlington, specialises in historic, traditional dances and will be calling the steps at the ball.
Dances will include the Fandango, which made its appearance in the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. The dances at the ball have been taken from dance manuals which were published regularly from 1728 to 1815.
“They were very popular and were produced so that people knew how to do the dances,” said Elizabeth. “People danced slowly then because they wore a lot of heavy clothes.
“The dances were designed so that people could fall in love so there quite a lot of pauses to give participants the chance for witty banter.”
Elizabeth’s group, Scrape the Barrel, will provide the music on the night.
“The idea is to have fun so it doesn’t matter if the dance goes wrong,” she said.
The ball is on June 23 from 7pm- midnight in the main hall. Tickets are £40 from 0191 237 9100. Tickets are also available for the Georgian Banquet on September 29, 7pm-11pm at £50 per person. Early booking is advised for both events and discounts are available for groups or for booking both events.