The Twickenham Museum
People : Dance Masters

Augustin Noverre
Dance Master
1729 - 1805

Hogarth's caricature of a dancing master

Augustin Noverre bought or leased a house from Robert Baker in Heath Lane, Twickenham from 1774 until 1783. The house was probably rebuilt during the 19th century and named Laurel Lodge. The earlier property can be seen on Samuel Lewis’s map prepared in 1784, described as “Mr Green late Noverre” alongside Heath House (Mrs Haynes) on the north side of the road.

Born, according to David Garrick, of a Swiss family, his father had actually settled in France, after serving as a soldier in the army of Charles XII of Sweden, a career which he had intended for his sons. However, they took up dancing. Augustin’s older brother, the Chevalier Jean Georges, became dancing master to Marie Antoinette.

The brothers came over to England from France with their ballet troupe by the invitation of Garrick in 1755. France and England were now at war in America, and the Seven Years war commenced in the following year. There was much anti-French feeling abroad and, while performing on stage at Garrick’s theatre, Drury Lane, that year, the troupe was attacked by members of the audience. Apparently equipped with a sword for the performance Augustin wounded one of his attackers and retreated to Norwich where he was able to enjoy the protection of the Huguenot community there. In Norwich he raised his family, a dynasty of dancers and became a prominent part of the theatre establishment.

Later he returned to London and was naturalised, but in 1794 retired again to Norwich where he died on 25 August 1805 in the house where he lived: The Chantry. He was buried in the Church of St Stephen. Three further generations of his family became dance masters in the city.

back to top