A jig upon the rope

These snippets are from an advertisement for rope trick entertainments at Bartholomew Fair, an annual event which took place at Smithfield and began on the eve of St Bartholomew’s Day, 24th August.

At Mr Barnes’s Booth, between the Crown-Tavern and the Hospital-Gate over-against the Cross Daggers in West Smithfield, where you will see the English flag out on top of the Booth, during the time of Bartholomew-Fair, is to be seen the Famous Rope-Dancers in Europe. By these incomparable Companies (all joyn’d in one Booth) will be presented the Variety of Agility of Body, as Dancing, Tumbling, Vaulting and Walking the Slack Rope, the like was never seen since the Age of Man.

1. You will see the Morocco Woman and her Company who Vault upon the High Rope to admiration.

2. You will see the French Company who perform things too tedious here to relate.

3. You will see the two Famous High-German Children who are the Wonder of the World of their Sex performing such things the like was never seen before.

4. You will see the English Company, Mr Appleby and Mr Barnes who are the two Only Famous Men in the whole World for Tumbling and Rope Dancing; where Mr Barnes dances with a Child standing on his shoulders and two at his feet, with Rolls, Baskets, Boots, and dances a Jig upon the Rope with such Variety of steps that few or no Dancing Masters in England exceed him on the ground, keeping exact time to the Musick.  He likewise walks the Slack Rope, not bigger than a Penny Chord, and swings himself several Yards distance, standing upright, with the Pole in his hand.  Also you will see such Tumbling performed by the English Company as throwing Hoops over Halbards, over 16 mens Heads, over an Horse with a Man on his back, and two Boys standing upright on his Shoulders.  In short there is no Agility of Body, as Walking, Vaulting or Tumbling, but what is performed in this Booth.

You will likewise be entertained with Good Musicke and the Merry Conceits of Pickle-Herring and his son Punch. 


  • April 30, 2010 - 11:48 am | Permalink

    Philippa, the advert is dated 1700, and the illustration is from the ad itself. Original in Harvard University Library. Facsimile copy via EEBO. You might also be interested in my post on English dances: http://daintyballerina.blogspot.com/2010/03/dancing-master.html

  • April 30, 2010 - 11:32 am | Permalink

    Any chance of some more information on the source of these quotes? In particular, what year are they from? And is the illustration from the same source?


  • April 29, 2010 - 5:48 pm | Permalink

    I know. I’m not sure whether it’s the fact they’re French, or the fact their act is a bit dull. The author does a lot to big up the English tumblers.

  • April 29, 2010 - 5:37 pm | Permalink

    “2. You will see the French Company who perform things too tedious here to relate.” – that’s a bit harsh!

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