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Joan and Bert Booth

What follows is a collection of Photographs and memories of Joan and Bert Booth who were members of the Frank and Peggy Spencer Ballroom Formation Team, Professional Formation Team and the Senior Ballroom Team, spanning the years from 1954 to 1988 !

We are deeply grateful to Joan, Bert and their daughter Kay for all of the following and  for allowing us to add and display the collection on our website.

Joan writes :-



I started dancing at the age of 18 at Jimmy Small's dance studio in Sydenham and Bert also came to the studio.  We both took our dance medals there.  After Bert completed his National Service in 1953 we became dance partners. Needing a change and wanting to progress, we decided to look elsewhere.  My mother suggested Frank and Peggy Spencer's studio at Penge as she had seen a great deal of mention of them in a dance magazine.  So, in 1953 we came to the Royston Ballroom, Penge and had private lessons with Frank and Peggy and there we stayed.    Peggy had two ballroom teams of eight couples at this time, 'a tall team' and a 'short team'.  We were invited to join the tall team in 1954 and were in the reserves until a place in the team proper was made available when other members dropped out for various reasons - marriage, children, job, moving home, etc.   When we first joined there were eight reserve couples.  We practised either at the Royston Ballroom or in  a church hall nearby at Clock House in the evenings or on Sunday afternoons when the Royston Ballroom was being used for private lessons or classes.  The reserves had to be able to take the place of any member of the team who was not able to dance in a formation competition due to sickness or another commitment.

Frank and Peggy had their own 12-piece band at the Royston which played on Saturday nights for general dancing, so the dancers had strict tempo and live music to dance to.   

Known as the Penge Ballroom Formation Team we entered contests held at Hammersmith Palais, Tottenham Palais, Butlins at Filey, Maida Vale, Astoria in Charing Cross Road, Lyceum in The Strand, Folkestone, Streatham Locarno, Albert Hall, Blackpool, Cliftonville, Southsea among many other venues.  Some of these events were televised. Peggy's daughter, Helena occasionally sang accompanied by the band during our routine.  I especially remember her singing "Cara mia mine".

In 1955 we danced in the Blackpool  Formation Championship at Blackpool Winter Gardens and won.  A photograph of the team was taken with Frank and Peggy holding the prestigious cup.  Members of that first team that won at Blackpool  were (including reserves) Brian Hitchen (Captain), Gladys Firmin, Alfred Clark, Jean Hall, Robert O'Hara, Sheila Hewitt, David Knight, Vera Petty, Bert Booth, Joan Wood, Valerie and Sheila Trowse, Bernard O'Connor, Victor Norman, Peter and Nora North, Dennis and Margaret Read, David and Wynn Duffy, Ron and Maureen Fox and Helena Spencer.   Fourteen formation teams had entered from all over the U.K and one from Holland.

We left the team in 1956 following our marriage and the expected arrival of our daughter, Kay.

( Continued after photograph & caption ……)


We went back to do a little social dancing in 1958 and were invited back into the team we had left, firstly as reserves and then later into the team proper which had in the meantime become professional after having won all the available titles in amateur competition.   Our routine consisted of the five ballroom dances commencing with the Viennese Waltz and while we did a quick change into latin costume another couple filled in sometimes with freestyle jive (at the Grosvenor House Hotel it would sometimes be Lionel Blair and his sister) then we returned to dance the four latin dances. A Charleston was included for a time.  We danced many times at Grosvenor House to Sid Lipton and his Orchestra.

   We were there so often that the doorman got to know us by our first names.  We often danced to Joe Loss and his Orchestra, including when we danced at Buckingham Palace.    He wanted us to accompany him and the Orchestra to Australia for a tour but there were many members in the team who could not give up their day jobs to do this.  

( Continued after photograph & caption ……)

Penge Ballroom Formation Team, Blackpool Winter Garden, British Open Formation Championship 1955

From left to right

Albert Booth & Valerie Trowse; Victor Norman & Margaret Read; David Knight & Vera Petty; Bernard O'Connor & Sheila Trowse; Peter North & Nora North; Brian Hitchen & Gladys Firmin; Robert O'Hara & Sheila Hewitt; Alf Clark & Joan Wood.

  When we went to Jersey we danced to the music from "My Fair Lady" which I really loved.  The music which accompanied our routines was scored and copied and the music sheets went with us to be given to the orchestras who played for us.  We had our own pianist who came with us and sat in with the orchestra so that if any mistake was made in the music by the orchestra he would carry us through.  On one occasion the time for our performance was very close and our pianist had not appeared and Joe Loss came into the changing room to check with our captain, at that time Alf Clark, the number of beats and bars to each dance of our routine.  Our pianist did however arrive in the nick of time.

( Continued after photograph & caption ……)

(Above) Penge Professional Team arriving at Jersey Airport in 1959 for cabaret performances at the West Park Pavilion, Jersey

Photo (taken by Albert Booth) includes, left to right, Alf Clark, David Knight, Joan Booth, Christine Sanders, Ann Newnham, Jean Hall, Brian Dowdall, Marlene James, Jacqueline Wood, Maureen Freeman, Alan Freeman, Victor Norman, Bill Collier, Dennis Read, Margaret Read & Peggy Spencer.  Also dancing on tour was George Mitchell but cannot be seen in the photograph.

(The child in front is Kay Booth, daughter of Joan and Albert Booth.)

Michael Spencer also travelled with the team.

(Left) Penge Professional Team at the Albert Hall in 1960

From the top

Frank & Peggy Spencer;

Michael Ward & Sheila Trowse;

  Alf Clark & Jean Hall;

Albert & Joan Booth;

Brian Dowdall & Margaret Read;

 Robert O'Hara & Sheila Hewitt;

 David Knight & Vera;

Alan & Maureen Freeman;

Victor Norman & Valerie Trowse.

When at Buckingham Palace I remember feeling so very nervous as we were standing in line waiting to make our entrance that the thought entered my head that I could walk away and nobody could stop me, then I started counting the sequins on the girl's dress in front of me to try to relax.  When the announcement was made and the familiar music started complete concentration kicked in, heads went up, smiles turned on and on we danced.  It all ended far too quickly.  The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were in attendance and it is a treasured memory.

Team members I remember included Alfred Clark, Jean Hall, Peter and Nora North, Dennis and Margaret Read, Alan and Maureen Freeman, Michael Ward and Christine Sanders, George Mitchell and Marlene James, Victor Norman and Jacquie Wood (my sister), William Collier and Sheila Hewitt, Bert and Joan Booth, and Ann Newnham  

( Continued after photograph  ……)

Our engagements included amongst others,  The Royal Variety Performance at the Coliseum, Buckingham Palace Staff Christmas Ball, Grosvenor House, T.V with Mike and Bernie Winters, one with Mike Sarne and another with Brian Rix, The Savoy, Connaught Rooms, Albert Hall, Wembley, Festival Hall, Park Lane, Seymour Hall, Dorchester, Empire Rooms, Kursaal at Southend, Porchester Hall, Quaglinos, Trocodero (where my father worked and he watched us dance) Café Royal, Caxton Hall, Park Lane, Derry and Toms, Lyceum, Kensington Palace Hotel, Victoria Palace Theatre,

Albert Hall, a two week engagement at the Pavilion, Jersey, Holland (at the Kurhaus Hotel, Scheveningen),  and Germany (Cologne).  One evening, we even had three shows each at a different venue!   Most of our performances were cabaret, some were demonstrations and some were for charities, such as one for The Water Rats and also at the World Refugee Ball.  Four couples from the 8-couple team also often appeared in Victor Sylvester's T.V. show, "Dance Club", demonstrating steps with Victor Sylvester instructing.  A photograph of the four couples appeared with Victor Sylvester on the sleeve of one of his dance records.

( Continued after photograph & caption ……)


After a long spell away from serious dancing we returned to social dancing in 1980 and were invited to join Peggy's Senior Ballroom Team.  At this time it was a six-couple team captained by Bert and Pat Burton.   Peggy supported our application to revert to our amateur status in ballroom dancing in order to facilitate this.  As we had only been professional as far as formation dancing was concerned and had not taught or competed and had been completely away from dancing for many years we regained our amateur status.  

We entered and won the Blackpool cup for ballroom formation in May 1982 which meant that we had been in two teams of Peggy's which had won this cup.   It was great to bring the trophy back to Penge.  

(Left and below) Programme from the cabaret performed by the Penge Professional Team for the Royal Household Social Club at Buckingham Palace, December 1961.  

The event was attended by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. .

There was also a Brian Dowdall who left to go to a job in South Africa.  Bert and I were first reserves at the time of the Royal Variety show and were standing by all the time in case we were called upon to dance.  The following are the dates for the highlight events while we were with the team.






Robert O'Hara competed and became a World Latin Champion.  He and Margarite went on to demonstrate and teach on the cruise ships.  Alf  Clark also went on to the cruise ships.  Jacquie Wood, Sheila Hewitt and Ann Newnham went on to teach for Peggy.      We left the team in 1962.

( Continued after photographs and captions  ……)

(Above) The Penge Professional Team attended a televised European competition at Scheveningen, Holland,  giving a demonstration of ballroom and latin dance.

In the photo, from left to right are team members Alf Clark, Jacqueline Wood, Ann Newnham, Sheila Hewitt, Joan Booth.

(Left) Record sleeve featuring members of the Penge Four Couple Professional Team including John Ely, Jacqueline Wood and David Knight (far right) and Doreen Freeman and Victor Silvester in front.

(Below) Four couple Professional Team demonstrating with Victor Sylvester and Doreen Freeman.  From left (some names unknown) George Mitchell & Christine Sanders, John Eley (partner not recognised), David Knight & Jacquie Wood, Marlene James, Michael Early.

(Above) Penge Senior Ballroom Formation Team at Southall, 1984.

Left to right, Albert & Joan Booth; Peter Parker & Irene Sponder; Michael & Irene Dodd

Ron & Greta Shaw; Arthur & Phyllis Miles; Peter & Audrey Goldsmith

Ken & Margaret Beal; Bert & Pat Burton

(Above) Penge Senior Ballroom Formation Team, photograph taken at Blackpool

and used on record sleeve c1986.

(Left) Penge Senior Ballroom Formation Team at the Albert Hall in 1984

From the top, Phyllis & Arthur Miles

 Irene & Michael Dodd

Pat & Bert Burton

Greta & Ron Shaw

Margaret & Kenneth Beal

Irene Sponder & Peter Parker

Joan & Albert Booth

Audrey & Peter Goldsmith.

When dancing in the senior team taped music had become the norm.  Sadly I felt that this took away from the atmosphere.

As a senior team we were dancing against energetic young teams.  In the German Championships we only succeeded in dancing in the first rounds in the morning although we received very heartwarming comments in the write-ups regarding our straight lines, our standard of dancing and our demeanour.

( Continued after photographs and captions  ……)

  We were told its value was £2,000.  It was large and very impressive.  Following this win we were invited to take part in the European Championship in Velbert, Germany and we then represented England  in the following Ballroom Formation Championships:

1982  V ELBERT, GERMANY - European Championship

  DUISBERG, GERMANY   World Championship                

1983  STUTTGART       "       "

1984  ESSEN   European Championship

1985  BERLIN   World Championship

1986  BREMEN         "      "

  USA, UTAH - Sponsored by the Brigham Young University

1987  OSLO, NORWAY  World Championship

1988  DORTMUND         "  "

In 1982 we were a six couple team but this increased to eight couples.  Team members I remember included Bert and Pat Burton, Arthur and Phyllis Miles, Ron and Greta Shaw, Bert and Joan Booth, Peter and Audrey Goldsmith, Ken and Margaret Beal, Peter Parker and Irene Sponder,   Norman and Joyce Botley, Michael and Irene Dodd, Max Collins and Mo Johns, Frank Tuddenham and Fleur.Wilks  

In May 1984 the team came 2nd at Blackpool and we received the wonderful ovation nicknamed "the Blackpool roar".    

In 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986 we competed in the T.V. programme "Come Dancing" as part of the Home Counties South team.  

( Continued after photographs and captions  ……)

In 1986 we and the Penge Latin American Team were sponsored by the Brigham Young University to go to Utah.  We danced against the Provo Ballroom Formation Team and came second to them.  This   trip included a visit to Disneyland.  While in San Francisco we experienced an earthquake during the night which was quite unnerving.  Luckily the epicentre was in the Bay and did little damage locally.

Another memorable trip was to Berlin in November 1985 for the World Formation Contest.  On the flight over the pilot announced on the tannoy "Halley's Comet on the right and Peggy Spencer's Formation Team on the left"!   While in Berlin we were taken on a tour of Berlin in a luxurious Mercedes Benz coach.  We went to Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenberg Gate, the Reichstadt and the Berlin Wall.  This was before the Wall was demolished and was being guarded.    I wrote in my notes that I thought this was a sad City.

The Penge Senior Team in action competing in the Blackpool Championships featured on the sleeve of a Japanese record of dance music.   We were also invited to take part in a photo-shoot which resulted in a photograph of the team being used in an advertisement for Thai Airlines.  The money from this and from two successful jumble sales held in an empty shop in Brockley went towards the cost of our dresses.

( Continued after photographs and captions  ……)

In 1988 we left the team.   Our time in all three teams left us with so many great memories.  

We called in on Peggy a few years ago in Norfolk on our way back from a holiday and had coffee with her.  She made the comment that it wasn't really appreciated at the time just how great and grand it all was and we totally agreed.  It is only in hindsight that we realise how really wonderful it all was -  the dressing up, the makeup and hair and everyone striving for perfection in the performance.

(Above) Members of the Penge Senior Ballroom Formation Team at Essen, 1987.

In the photograph from left to right Irene Sponder, Joan Booth,

Peter Parker, Greta Shaw, Ron Shaw and Peggy Spencer.

(Above) Penge Senior Ballroom Formation Team competing at

Bremen World Championships, 1986.

(Above) Penge Senior Ballroom Formation Team travelling to Bremen in 1986

(Above) Penge Senior Ballroom Formation Team at Fairfield Halls, Croydon in 1986.

Left to Right

Back row: Peter Parker, Albert Booth, Ken Beal, Bert Burton, Arthur Miles, Ron Shaw,

Peter Goldsmith and Michael Dodd

Middle row: Margaret Beal, Irene Dodd, Joan Booth, and Mo Johns

Front row:  Greta Shaw, Irene Sponder, Phyllis Miles and Audrey Goldsmith

(Above) Penge Senior Ballroom Formation Team at Blackpool, 1987.

From left to right: Frank Tuddenham & Maureen Shaw; Albert & Joan Booth;

Michael & Irene Dodd; Greta & Ron Shaw; Geoffrey Hearn; Norman Botley & Irene Sponder;

Peter Parker & Joyce Botley;  Ken & Margaret Beal; Max Collins & Mo Johns.  

Reserve sitting in front.

(Above) Penge Senior Ballroom Formation Team at Blackpool, 1987.

From left to right: Michael & Irene Dodd; Peter Parker & Irene Sponder;

Norman & Joyce Botley; Frank Tuddenham & Maureen Shaw; Ron & Greta Shaw;

Ken & Margaret Beal; Albert & Joan Booth; Max Collins & Mo Johns.