The Noverre Family

Noverre family portraitNoverre family portrait

The Noverre family were Swiss in origin, however, the father of Augustine Noverre and Jean Georges Noverre was an Adjutant in the French army of Charles XII.
Their father was not impressed that members of his family wished to become professional dancers, he much preferred them to go into the army. However, he placed them under the tutelage of Dupie a well known dance master. In August of 1743 Jean Georges made his debut at court at Fountainbleau at the court of Louis XV. Following the marriage of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria to Princess Beatrice of Modena, he was created a Chevalier of the Order of Christ. Later, upon the nomination of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, he joined the Imperial Academy of Dance  in Paris, working with such luminaries as Mozart and Voltaire.

Augustin Noverre (1729 - 1805)

In 1755 the Chevalier and his brother, Augustin came to England upon the instigation of David Garrick, a celebrated theatre
impresario. During this time war broke out between France and England and, although the Noverre family were billed as Swiss, they had arrived from France, so were targeted by the public. In November of that year, a scuffle broke out on the stage in Drury Lane; several men jumped upon the stage and drew their swords. Augustin Noverre, defending himself, thought he had run a man through and killed him. Presuming that the man was dead, he fled to Norfolk to live among the Huguenots who had come to Norwich to work as silk weavers and to drain the Fenlands. Fortunately for Augustin his victim was not dead and made a full recovery. Later Augustin returned to London to carry on working on the stage and as a dancing master. Eventually he returned to Norwich in 1797 and took a house in the Chantry where he lived until his death in 1805. His obituary stated that he was considered the most finished elegant and most gentlemanly minuet. dancer that ever appeared’. He was buried in St Stephens Church.

Francis Noverre (1773 - 1840)

Francis carried on the family tradition living and working as a dancing master at the Assembly Rooms in Norwich, having been set up by his father, Augustin. He married the daughter of the Manager of the city’s Theatre Royal and became a founder member and director of the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society and also an original director of the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society. His brother in law, through his wife’s sister, Louisa, was the Earl of Craven who was instrumental in the early success of the Norwich Union Societies. Francis died in 1840 and is buried with his father in St Stephens Church.

Frank Noverre (1807 - 1878)

Frank was a member of the Norwich Choral Society and founder and honourable secretary of the Norwich Philharmonic from 1841 until 78. He too was a Director of Norwich Union Life insurance, but lost his fortune when the East of England bank crashed in 1864. He was a large shareholder in the bank which in those days meant that he had unlimited liabilities.

The Monument

Noverre memorialA simple brass plaque in St Stephen Church commemorates the lives and achiements of this remarkable family whose name remains firmly established in the fabric of Norwich theatre and "joie de vie".

Click here for a readable view of the inscription