On Sunday 3rd March, St Swithun’s hosted a Regency style Netherfield Ball for 115 U5 pupils from St Swithun’s and Winchester College to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The inspiration behind this event came from the girls’ enthusiasm for the novel during their English Literature IGCSE classes.
To embrace fully the spirit of the event, students arrived in Regency costume. Girls wore empire line dresses, their hair in ringlets decorated with pearls and flowers in the style of heroine Miss Elizabeth Bennet, whilst the boys were dressed in cravats, waistcoats and buttoned overcoats resembling the wardrobe of Mr Darcy.
The evening began with a drinks reception of fruit punch, a fashionable drink of the early nineteenth century ballroom, during which pupils completed their dance cards. Etiquette was strictly observed with girls allowed no more than two dances with the same partner lest there should be talk of an engagement.
A three-course dinner followed; each item on the menu was selected from references in the novel to add authenticity to the occasion. After dinner, students danced The Grand March with music provided by an ensemble of St Swithun’s pupils. Coordinated and guided by the renowned Hampshire Regency Dancers, the guests then danced to Jane Austen favourites including cotillions, quadrilles and the waltz.
The event had both an educational and social purpose. Ella Jonas remarked that ‘The evening gave us a glimpse into the style, grandeur and etiquette of the Regency era and we were delighted that boys from Winchester College were able to share this with us.