1862 Fancy Dress Ball at Le Vallon

Costume Collection | Folk and Costume Museum

This magnificent leatherbound album containing hand-tinted photographs of guests attending a Fancy Dress Ball held at Le Vallon on, probably, Monday September 22nd 1862*, has been generously loaned to National Trust of Guernsey by Sir De Vic and Lady Carey. 

Held during Queen Victoria’s reign and hosted by Mrs. De Vic Carey the Fancy Dress Ball and subsequent album reveal an extraordinary glimpse at a moment in time for Guernsey’s high society. Costumes described as poudré, were chiefly of the time of George II and George III and were, in most cases, the genuine dresses of the ancestors of those who wore them on this occasion. 

Imagine our delight when one garment already owned by National Trust of Guernsey, revealed itself as having been worn at this glittering social event, by a Mr. John Dobrée, in character as The Duke of Alva.

The party scene is described as:

“one of remarkable interest and beauty, the splendour and, in some cases, the historic interest of the dresses, being only equalled by the good taste and fancy of which they displayed. The variety and richness of the costumes spoke, indeed, in a remarkable manner, of the sumptuousness of the dress of the ladies and gentleman of Guernsey in the early part of the last century. The richly-decorated coats and waistcoats, the gorgeous brocades, the gold and silver-headed swords and canes, and other articles of ornament or dress, which, for this occasion, were disinterred from old ancestral receptacles, were speaking evidences of the opulence and luxury of the progenitors of many of our island families.

The ball was opened with a quadrille, which, from the variety and beauty of the costumes, had an almost pleasing effect. This was followed by the usual course of polkas, mazurkas, gallops, waltzes etc., which also presented very effective and sometimes very amusing groupings. There was a Quakeress dancing with the Emperor of China, a Jockey with the White Lady of Avenel,George Villiers,Duke of Buckingham, with Charlotte Corday, the Great Mogul with a Manola, and many other equally charming mesalliances and anachronisms which gave infinite piquancy to the scene.

At about 1 o’clock the company adjourned to supper, after which dancing was resumed and kept up with unflagging spirit till past 3 o’clock.

Having already spoken of the general effects presented by this fête, it still remains for us to notice some of the costumes. Where all were stamped with good taste, it is inviduous [sic] to single out individual dresses for exceptional notice, nevertheless we are compelled, in deference to the verdict of all who were present, to particularize a few. In the first rank we must place Miss Hodson who appeared as a quakeress. Her costume was perfect, and she bore it in so admirable a manner as to call forth the ejaculation – "Looked other maidens fair as thee, the men would all soon quakers be.”

The other pictures which were particularly admired were those presented by Mrs. Corrance as Frost, Mrs. Cameron as Mary Queen of Scots, Mrs. Durnford as Semiramis, Mrs. Bell as Lady Jane Grey, Miss Slade as Dinah, Miss Connell as a lady of the time of George II., Miss E. Ward as Aurora, Miss Buckley as Winter, Miss A. Tupper as a Russian lady, Miss Gosselin as the Queen of May, Col. Durnford, as a gentleman of the time of George II., Captain McCrea, as the Emperor of China, Mr. W. Carey as an Albanian, and Mr.MacGregor as Hamlet …… 

The fête was pronounced by all who were present to have been a decided success in every respect, and to have testified unmistakeably to the savoir faire of the courteous and hospitable hostess."

*The original cutting citing September 22nd 1862 (a Monday) has been hand-amended to January 22nd 1863 (a Thursday) … We wonder if the photograph album was received some fourth months later in January 1863?

In a dedicated cabinet, together with the 18th Century court coat, the album forms part of the second floor Elegant Georgian exhibitions. 

Photographs of the album will be showing on a slideshow in The Dollshouse Room where visitors can enjoy comfortable seating.  All floors are access-friendly.

Open from Tuesday 2nd April 2024. Free entry.

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