Bury Assembly

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BURY ASSEMBLY. English, Country Dance Tune (2/4 time). England, East Anglia. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The tune was composed by J. Reeve, who also contributed another composition to J. Gray's Twenty Four Country Dances for the Year 1812, published at Bury St. Edmunds, East Anglia. The title refers to a dance assembly in the town established in 1714 by dancing master John Eastland, who purchased a large house at the end of Angel Hill, and converted it into an Assembly House. The building survives today and is called the Athenaeum, and was used for public events such as lectures and meetings as well as for dancing. "It had been one of the largest private houses in Bury, for it had 17 hearths recorded in the Hearth Tax returns of 1674. It was on three floors at this time and Eastland had his ballroom on the second floor. The gentry would pay a subscription to use the place, and assemblies were regularly arranged. In 1715, John Hervey the first Earl of Bristol, recorded that he had paid his subscription to Mr Eastland's New Rooms in Bury. The building would stay in this form until 1789, when the ballroom was removed to the Ground Floor, as it is today" [David Addy [1] ].

Bury Assembly is briefly mentioned in an anecdote in the weekly periodical The Academy (August 25, 1877) about the St. John's College-educated Rev. William Cole, the son of a tallow-chandler in Bury St. Edmunds. His pride was excessive (as was his brother's, who was an excellent lawyer, "but very haughty and stately"), and so intense that it was "disgustful to everyone." He was not spared by the sharp tongue of an elderly townswoman, however:

His pride was much mortified at Bury Assembly one evening, where the ladies were complaining of the inconvenience of the small and dropping of tallow candles, and made a motion to Sergeant Bryme to request of the company if an additional 6d. a piece would be agreeable in order to have wax tapers. The Sergeant undertook the office, and went round the room, and coming to a Mrs. Cracke, an old peevish maiden lady, who bore him no good will, he acquainted her with the proposal. She said she had no exception to the additional expense, as it was agreeable to the company, otherwise it was a matter of indifference to her, for, having lived next door to his father, who used to poison them with the smell of tallow when he made his candles, the smell was become familiar to her; and she added that she though it must have the same impression upon himself.

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