The Dance Families of the Forest of Dean


 JOHN DANCE 1838 - 1922






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The Red House at Scowles near Coleford

Built by John Dance on the plot where Edward Dance's original home stood.







"This is how the house looked at the end of its life. The original cottage is the middle section. The newer part at the left consisted of two bedrooms with a sitting room and bathroom below. The bathroom originally was a pantry complete with salting stones for curing bacon, etc. The right hand end was a large kitchen. I guess the name 'Red House' came from the colour of the sandstone used in construction. For all of my life it was whitewashed or emulsioned."     David Dowle


John Dance (1838) was born to Edward and Mary Ann at Redbrook. He was a stone-mason who was married four times. His first wife was Zipporah Webb (1834). Married in 1861 she died after giving birth to Annie that same year.

Second wife was Sarah Evans (1843), the daughter of Monmouth tailor Thomas Evans. She married John at Monmouth in 1863. A witness was his brother George Dance. Sarah gave birth at Redbrook to John Edward Dance (1864), and Florence Ellen (1866) and then William Dance (1868) at the Scowles. 

William only survived for five months and died in January 1869. He was followed by his mother Sarah in June the same year.

John's fourth child George Hamilton Dance (1878) was born to third wife Margaret Hamilton (1842) at the Scowles, Forest of Dean. His family believe he married her in America. She died at Coleford in 1879.

He married again in 1899. She was widow Marie Ann Watts (1858) the daughter of Monmouth baker Frederick Wild Pugh and was 20 years younger than John. In 1901 she was at their Scowles home with her daughter Emily Watts.

Son George Hamilton Dance (1878) was employed as an underground labourer in 1911. He was still, at that time, single and lodging at Six Bells, Abertillery, Monmouthshire

John was lodging at Abertillery, South Wales in 1901 with his niece Eleanor Roberts's family (see her photo above) but had moved to Western Australia around  1910 to join his son John Edward.

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John Dance 1838 at Abertillery in 1901



He was quite a world traveller, apparently spending time in the USA and Brazil during the 1870s and 1880s. The home at the Scowles, Coleford seems to have been maintained during  his absences - in 1891 a housekeeper is shown looking after the young motherless George Dance (1878) and in an 1897 letter from the Abertillery area to his son Ted in Western Australia he suggests any reply should go to Scowles.

His occupation as a stonemason had him working at a variety of building projects. He relates in his 1897 letter about completing recent work at Monmouth Grammar School and was at the time employed at Cwmtillery, Monmouthshire, possibly at the colliery.

He joined his son in Western Australia around 1910.


I asked Fay whether old John worked after arriving at Yarri from England around 1911 when he would have been 73 years old. She believes he may have made a modest living from Ted's worked-out gold mine.  (Tom)         

John Dance died at Kookynie, West Australia  in 1921. He was 84 years old.



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The churchyard at Newland and the 1861 grave of John the mason's first wife Zipporah.   Also added to the inscription after 1879 & 1882 were his parents Edward & Mary Ann.  1920s photo from Fay in Western Australia (probably taken on Ted Dance's 1926 visit.)

I found a piece of paper on which was written ' Annie lies at her Mother's feet in Newland Cemetery.'  Fay



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A modern and an 1890s view of Monmouth Grammar school where John Dance (1838) was employed as a stonemason in the mid 1890s.




John Edward Dance 18641938


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RMS John Elder at Melbourne Port in 1884. Did John Dance arrive on this ship in March 1884?


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John Edward (Ted) Dance migrated to Melbourne, Victoria in the 1880s. We do not have the date of his arrival but believe it was after his Aunt & Uncle, Edwin and Mary Ann Hodges, arrived there on the SS Garonne in March 1882. (see the Hodges family). He had in earlier years spent time with them at their Bristol home and they were probably a strong influence on his decision to go to Australia. His 1938 death certificate records that he spent around 15 years in Victoria. He left the State in 1897 which indicates that he arrived there around 1882.

This earliest photograph his grand-daughter Fay Widdicombe has, shows him prospecting in the gold-fields around Ballarat in the 1880s.

The indications are that there does not seem to be any obvious signs of sudden wealth from this enterprise. The bonanza times had ended ten years earlier and during the 1850s the population of Australia increased almost threefold.


There is a record in the Victoria Public Record Archives of a John Dance arriving at Melbourne on the John Elder in March 1884 but the online transcribed index gives his age as 28. (not perhaps our 20 year old John Edward?).  Maybe if one of our Aussie relations is ever at that Record Office they could search for his arrival?


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On the left is an 1890 letter of reference from his employers at Yarra Flats, (now Yarra Glen), Melbourne where he worked as a plasterer on the new housing development from 1888. 

On the right is Ted with workmates at Spotswood, Melbourne.  It is believed that he worked there as a mason till his marriage to Jane in March 1897.


Between his arrival in the 1880s and his marriage in 1897 he appears to have worked mainly around the Melbourne area. A reference, written by his building contractor employers Johnston & Shaw at Yarra Flats, Melbourne (now Yarra Glen) in October 1890, relates that he had worked with them as a plasterer for two years. That was around the time of the arrival of the railway at Yarra Flats when a fair amount of new buildings were being erected.

Family photos show him with workmates at Melbourne's Watch works and in later years at the Spotswood Sewerage Pumping Station which was completed in 1897. The Spotswood Pumping Station (today  one of Australia's most important industrial heritage sites) was built in the late nineteenth century as a key component of Melbourne's first centralised sewerage system. He was probably employed there as a mason, as a letter posted to him by a mate to be collected from Perth, WA post office in June 1897 is addressed to Mr J E Dance, Mason. 

This letter from his friend F W Curson in Denmark, WA, who he knew from his time in the Victorian gold-fields,  seems to be an answer to one from the recently married Ted Dance asking about job prospects at Denmark. (today Denmark is about a 45 minute drive from Albany)

It mentions Ted's possible landing at Albany which suggests that he and his new wife Jane had sailed to Perth only weeks after their wedding at Melbourne in March 1897.




Denmark June 6th 1897

Dear old Chum

Your letter of 26th just to hand. I hasten to drop you a few lines. I am glad to hear from you again and I am sorry to say things do not seem so brisk here for labor as they did, as the fields are reported to be in such a bad state, the men are sticking here.

My advice to you is to try Bunbury where, by all accounts in the paper, they cannot get masons or carpenters, and it would be much better and healthier than on the fields.

I expect the family here in the present month about the 22nd and then I'll say Hurrah hooray.

I do hope you will be able to get a job down these parts for the fields are not what they used to be, when you have to buy your own water and pay extra for tucker, there is not so much difference in the money.

Poor old Cussack the store keeper at Paddington pegged out a few days back.

I'll not write to Albany for perhaps you will not have time to land and as you intend going to Perth I'll address there and be sure of you getting this.

I hope you will write again to me and that also we may meet again some-day and have a good old yarn of our short acquaintance  on the fields.

Hoping that you will have no difficulty in procuring a good job and good wages.

With my very best respects to your better half, hoping she is well, and also yourself and now with a Hooray I'll conclude and remain your Sincere Friend.

F.W Curson

Denmark, Albany, WA



Ted may have gained something from this letter. The mention of Paddington's recently deceased store-keeper and the cost of water in the gold-fields may have helped both him and Jane realise that there was a more profitable future in supplying the gold-fields rather than working them.


By the time their first child John Andrew Dance was born in 1899 they were already settled in the Kalgoorlie area. His birth was registered at Broad Arrow, Paddington on the 2nd of February. Tragically he died in October 1900. 

Broad Arrow is now another West Australian ghost town. Located 38 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie on the road to Leonora, in 1896, and at its peak during the gold rush, it had 15,000 residents, eight hotels, a soft drink factory, two breweries, a hospital and a stock exchange. By the mid 1920s the rush was over and the town was virtually abandoned.

Annie Frances was born at nearby Yarri in 1901 and Jean Florence 18 months later in 1902. Ted's only son, Norman Eglington Dance was born in August 1904.

Ted and Jane were now settled at Yarri as storekeepers. With Jane taking care of the store, Ted started to develop his transporting business. His early activities included the use of camels. The most expensive commodity in Kalgoorlie was at that time water as it had to be brought out from Perth on camel trains.

Thousands of camels were imported between 1840 and 1907 to open up the arid areas of central and western Australia. They were useful in that waterless environment  for riding, and as draught and pack animals for exploration and construction of rail and telegraph lines; they also  supplied goods to remote mines and settlements. There are now estimated to be one million feral camels across the nation, with the biggest flocks in desert country on the borders of South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, with numbers are doubling every eight years.



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Ted Dance in 1896

Jane in 1896

Jean, Annie and Norman in 1905



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The photographs above show two views of the Yarri store. Fay writes about the one on the left - This is the shop at Yarri. Ted is holding Norman's hand and Jane is on the other side of Norman. My Mum Annie Frances is in the middle of the 3 children and her sister Jean Florence is next to her. Lardi is the man on right in front with dark pants and white shirt. I have never ever heard him mentioned before but he could have been a silent partner.

You will notice the stone wall to the left of the shop. In 1991 when my sister and I and our husband's went to Kalgoorlie. we hired a car and went to Yarri. The wall was only 4' high so I took two rocks off the top and bought the next one home 90 years after Ted had put it there. It was an eerie feeling. There isn't much left these days. The State Battery was up a hill away and still working but mainly for the part time prospectors. We went to the Kookynie Hotel and had a beer. My brother in law was fascinated. The road to Yarri was gravel and as straight and as flat as the eye could see. We let him drive and he still talks about it. We saw kangaroos in the bush and even a mother emu with 6 little chicks walking in a row behind. They loved it.    Fay.



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I have moved from my planned time sequence to add this photo of Ted and his father at Scowles near Coleford, UK taken at the Red House around 1882. It shows  John Dance the stone-mason who was born at Upper Redbrook in 1838 with youngest son George (1878) and eldest son John Edward (Ted) (1864).  Ted's sister Florence (1866) is on the extreme left. 

On the right, taken at Yarri around 1914, John Dance with son Ted and family and his Newport born grandson, Florence's son, John (Jack) Griffiths (1891) on the extreme right of the picture. 


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John Dance's daughter and Ted's sister Florence Dance (1866) married James Griffiths (1859) from Newport, South Wales and settled there. She had nine children, all born in Newport. 

Her son Jack Griffiths (1891) migrated to Western Australia around 1911 where his Grandfather John Dance (1838) and uncle John Edward (1864) were now settled. He joined the AIF for World War l and died in France on the 18th of  October 1918.


SEE Jack Griffiths - Life and Death of a Newport, Gwent ANZAC


Jack Griffiths and on the right his mother Florence Dance

See Griffiths Family Page



Kookynie (pronounced koo-ky-nee) is a townsite in the eastern goldfields, located between Menzies and Leonora, 796 km from Perth. Gold was discovered in the area in the late 1890s, and in 1899 the government decided there was sufficient interest in the area to declare a townsite. It was gazetted as Kookynie in 1900, and is believed to have been named by Mr Beaumont, the manager of the Lady Shenton Gold Mine after a holding near Clare in South Australia. Kookynie is situated 197 km by road north east of Kalgoorlie.  Although now commonly referred to as a ghost town Kookynie caters for many thousands of tourists, prospectors, fossickers, mining and exploration companies, pastoralists and has a very active population of 13.  Kookynie was first discovered by prospectors in 1895, the population grew at an astonishing rate with a population of 3500 and as many transient prospectors and by 1907 it could boast to have the first public swimming baths on the Goldfields, 11 hotels, a workman's club, State School, Hospital, Police Station, Mining Wardens Office, and a Post and Telegraph Office.  There were businesses of every kind - Newsagent, Chemist, Cycle Works, two Blacksmiths, two Banks,  five General Stores and red light areas run by the Japanese Ladies.  The Kookynie Turf Club held three meetings a year, there was a brewery and two cordial factories and at one stage four trains a day arrived from Kalgoorlie. 


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In the early days, Dances had a spring cart and delivered the mail out to Yarri and the surrounding places. Eventually Mr. Dance (Ted) bought a small red car and I remember when he'd lose control on rough ground he always grabbed for the cart hand brake and called out orders to his horses."  Tom Lowe from Mt Remarkable station in 'Niagara - Kookynie - How it was'  a fascinating book written  by Margaret E Pusey.




Jane (Jenny) Dance applied for and was granted  a boarding house license at Yarri in 1907. A boarder in later years who was to become a family friend was local Yarri school teacher John Trezise Tonkin.  Born at Boulder City in 1902, Yarri was his first teaching assignment after attending Claremont Teachers College. A staunch Labor supporter he set up a branch of the Australian Labor Party at Forest Grove in 1923 and was one of the youngest delegates elected to the ALP's State Executive.  

He had two unsuccessful attempts at entering Parliament before winning the seat of North-East Fremantle in 1933. During his time in Parliament he served as Minister for Education, Social Services, Agriculture and Works, and Water Supplies.


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John Tonkin at Yarri.

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He became Deputy Premier in 1955 under Bert Hawke. In 1967, he was elected leader of the Opposition and became the first person from a metropolitan electorate to hold that position since Dagleish's year in office.

He was the only Labor Premier born in WA up until 1981 and was popularly known as "Honest John". After his first wife and daughter died of cancer, John Tonkin crusaded for many years for radio-wave therapy  treatments for cancer sufferers and set up a treatment clinic run by cancer surgeon Dr John Holt in the Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital.  At the time he married his second wife in the early 1970s, he was already renowned for his tireless support of the Tronado anti-cancer machine.



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A reference written by John Tonkin for Norman Dance when John was the ME for North East Fremantle in 1938.




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62 year old Ted Dance returned to South Wales and the Forest of Dean for a 7 month holiday in April 1926. On the Moreton Bay's passenger list he gave his destination as his sister Florence's home at Maindee, Newport. The one-way ticket was priced at 36 pounds and 18 shillings. Fortunately he took several photographs in the Forest of Dean and South Wales that are now in Fay's keeping.

He returned to WA on the SS Jervis Bay leaving the UK in November 1926.


Mike Kohnstamm of Harriett Dance's family, recalls "my mother remembered a time when she lived with her parents at one end of Risca, and her grandparents John Roberts and Eleanor (nee Powell) ran a pub at the other end of the town.
Apparently there was a very great commotion one day, and the reason  was that a Ted Dance had come visiting from Australia."



Ted with his sister Florence at South Wales in 1926

When Ted returned from his UK holiday in late 1926 the Kookynie area was in decline. He decided to pull down the Yarri store and move to Kalamunda in the suburbs of Perth where he opened a store next to the post office.  

The picture gallery has several photographs of that move.    




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    Ted & Jane in the 1920s


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A bill from the Kalamunda Store.

Ted's store at Kalamunda, near Perth. On its right is the old post office which has now moved to the museum area.


Jane Dance died in 1932 and is buried at Karrakatta Cemetery. Ted was back in Kalgoorlie when he died at the age of 74 in June 1938. His son Norman was unmarried and died aged 60 in 1964. 

Daughter Annie Frances Dance (1901-1986) married Charles Leighton. They had three children, Fay Annette (1935), Geoffrey Charles (1937-2003) and Margaret Rae (1938).

Jean Florence Dance (1902-1987) married Scottish born Andrew (Scotty) Heeps (1901-1975) in 1947. They had one adopted son, John Andrew Heeps (1949).


Old  photos supplied by Ted's grand-daughter Fay Widdicombe from Western Australia







Mrs Helena Dance and her part in Western Australia's History  



First of all - let me quickly explain that she is not related to any of the Gloucestershire or Wye Valley Dance families. I have included this section as a result of a couple of queries from Australian family members asking if there is any connection.

Born Helena Barbara Roper (1808-1863) she married Londoner William Townsend Dance (1789-1857) at Westminster in 1828. William was the son of another William Dance, a musician who is credited with forming the first London Philharmonic Society.

Lieut. William Townsend Dance  entered the Royal Navy in 1806 and became a full Captain in 1834.  In 1829 in command of HMS Sulphur he accompanied the  settlers under Captain James Stirling to Western Australia.

The origins of the present state had begun with the establishment of a British settlement at King George Sound in 1826 (later named Albany from 1832). The settlement was founded in response to British concerns about the possibility of a French colony being established on the coast of Western Australia.

In 1829, the Swan River Colony was established on the Swan River by Captain James Stirling. By 1832 the British settler population of the colony had reached around 1,500, and the official name of the colony was changed to Western Australia. The two separate towns of the colony developed slowly into the port city of Fremantle and the state's capital, Perth.

William's ship, the Sulphur, which had sailed from England in early February, had arrived on June 8th carrying Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Irwin, 57 crew and 69 troops, with 22 wives and 12 children.

The soldiers were mainly from the 63rd Regiment and brought in to protect the settlers. The Sulphur was placed at the disposal of the colony and was to provide a useful service in all sorts of ways for the next 3 years.

It returned to the UK in December 1832.

The couple had seven children. Their only child born in Australia, Arthur Dance (1832), also wore a uniform for most of his working life. He was a clerk and ticket collector at Peterborough, Northants railway station for many years.

This ceremony seems to be William and Helenaís only brush with fame. He did appear in the London Gazette in 1843 as being imprisoned for debt. Most of his later years were spent in Devon and he was promoted to retired Rear Admiral in 1846 but without an increase in his Captainís half-pay. William Townsend Dance died in 1857 and Helena in 1863.






The official ceremony depicted in this painting was held on a small hill overlooking the Swan River. As no stones were readily available, it was decided to mark the occasion by felling a tree. The only woman fit enough to accompany the party so far up the river from Fremantle, Mrs Helena Dance, was invited to strike the first blow. The Foundation of Perth depicts Mrs Dance holding the axe and about to make the first cut. Immediately to her right in the painting is an axe-man, waiting to complete the task. Other people depicted in the work include Lieutenant Governor James Stirling, Captain Charles Fremantle, Commander Mark John Currie, Captain Frederick Irwin, Captain William Dance, the Colonial Secretary Peter Broun, Dr William Milligan and the Surveyor-General Lieutenant John Septimus Roe.

Australian Michael Norbury has been in contact. He is related to this London Dance family, a descendant of James Dance of Winchester and his son Giles Dance (1670-1751) of London. Click here for his  family tree.



HMS Sulphur was launched in 1826, and in 1829 was the ship which carried Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Irwin, officers, passengers and a detachment of troops from the 63rd Regiment to the Swan River Colony. She was converted into a survey ship in 1835, and used on Belcher's expedition. On her return to England in 1839 by the Trans-Pacific route, she participated in the First Opium War between 1840 and 1841. The ship was used to survey the harbour of Hong Kong in 1841 and returned to England in 1842. She was used for harbour service from 1843, and was broken up by 20 November 1859, by then the last bomb vessel on the Navy List.