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Talent search in tough times
PERCY REBOUL and JOHN HEATHFIELD set the scene for young love in Victorian times when social class influenced where people would meet their match.
We can only imagine what our ancestors would have thought about today's newspaper and TV advertisements for, let's call it, 'dating services'.
How you met Mr Right in Victorian times often depended on your social class.
For the upper crust, there was the ritual of presentation at court and elaborate parties.
For many, it was through social events organised by the church which provided a 'respectable' opportunity to view the talent.
The local church hall or purpose-built Assembly Rooms were the meeting places for lectures, musical events, debates and the like.
Other locations were less formal; the upstairs rooms of 72 High Street, Barnet, for example, were used as a theatre and meeting room.
In 1858, there was 'a recessed orchestra with a complete set of refreshments frequented by gay and fashionable visitors as well as residents of quality'. A special concert in aid of the victims of Rorke's Drift was held there on May 1, 1879.
E Ferguson Taylor built the new Assembly Rooms in Lytton Road, Barnet, which were used by the pioneer photographer Birt Acres for one of the first public showings of moving pictures in January 1896. Lectures included one on Oliver Cromwell and a series of Penny Readings 'strongly attended' by 'the rough and labouring classes'.
Not to be outdone, Henry Holden built his own rooms in Holden Avenue, Woodside Park. Special features included ladies evenings and afternoon whist drives.
East Finchley went further with Temperance Rooms in the High Street, where the programmes included entertaining readings from Dickens and dance academies to teach young people how to dance in a seemly manner - no smooching. A dance band was available for hire from Barnet Barracks.
Concerts at home and elsewhere provided plenty of opportunities for aspiring singers to sing the sentimental ballards of the time, the proper stance being to have the thumb resting in the waistcoat pocket.