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Richard “Beau” Nash was an ex-army officer, ex-lawyer, dandy and gambler, who became Bath’s Master of Ceremonies in 1704, conducting public balls of an unprecedented splendour. Wielding dictatorial powers over dress and behaviour, Nash orchestrated the social manners of the city and even extended his influence to cover road improvements and the design of buildings. In an early example of health awareness, he banned smoking in Bath’s public rooms at a time when pipe-smoking was generally enjoyed among men, women and children. Less philanthropically, he also encouraged gambling and even took a percentage of the bank’s takings. According to his rules, balls were always to begin at 6pm and end at 11pm and each one had to open with a minuet “danced by two persons of the highest distinction present”. White aprons were banned, gossipers and scandalmongers were shunned, and, most radical of all, the wearing of swords in public places was forbidden.

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