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Dame Darcey Bussell visits Norwich to unveil blue plaque in honour of the father of modern ballroom

PUBLISHED: 19:45 30 April 2019 | UPDATED: 20:45 30 April 2019

Dame Darcey Bussell was invited to unveil a commemorative blue plaque in honour of Vernon Castle, a world-renowned dancer who grew up in Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Dame Darcey Bussell was invited to unveil a commemorative blue plaque in honour of Vernon Castle, a world-renowned dancer who grew up in Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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Former Strictly Come Dancing judge and retired ballerina Dame Darcey Bussell unveiled a plaque in Norwich honouring one of the city's most famous dancers.

Dame Darcey Bussell signed the childhood ballet shoes of Sarah Childs from Lowestoft at the unveiling of a blue plaque foR Vernon Castle in Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyDame Darcey Bussell signed the childhood ballet shoes of Sarah Childs from Lowestoft at the unveiling of a blue plaque foR Vernon Castle in Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The dancing icon visited Norwich on Tuesday to unveil the blue plaque for Vernon Castle in Prince of Wales Road at the side of Premier Inn Hotel Nelson.

Born Vernon Blythe in 1887, Mr Castle was brought up at the Nelson Hotel, which was then known as the old Great Eastern Hotel, before moving to America and becoming a world famous dancer in the early 1900s.

Once in the Big Apple he pursued his dreams of becoming an actor and he and his wife, ballroom dancer Irene, inspired the likes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Some even say it was the dancing duo's influence that brought the popular TV show Strictly Come Dancing to our screens.

Signed by the Dancing Queen herself, Dame Darcey Bussell. the childhood ballet shoes of Sarah Childs from Lowestoft. Picture: Neil DidsburySigned by the Dancing Queen herself, Dame Darcey Bussell. the childhood ballet shoes of Sarah Childs from Lowestoft. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Dame Darcey said: “It's lovely, for me it's so important to remember where it came from and people like this they modernise dance at the beginning of the 1900s, and it's extraordinary what they did in such a short time.”

Upon the first outbreak of the First World War, Mr Castle gave up his celebrity life to join the military as a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps.

He flew more than 150 missions over enemy lines and survived being shot down.

But in February 1918, while teaching other pilots how to fly, he was forced to crash his plane to avoid a mid-air collision and died aged 31.

film historian Philip Yaxley who has campaigned for a plaque for many years. Picture: Joanne Yaxleyfilm historian Philip Yaxley who has campaigned for a plaque for many years. Picture: Joanne Yaxley

Dame Darcey said: “He didn't have a very long life, he was a pilot and died in the war and it's incredibly sad to think what else he could've done.

“He was in films and worked with amazing composers and producers and was incredibly creative, and it's really important to recognise his work and what he did for the British arts, even though he went off to New York and Paris, but he travelled the world, it's wonderful.”

She was joined by film historian Philip Yaxley who has campaigned for a plaque for many years.

His daughter, Joanne Yaxley, said: “It was a fantastic occasion and I'm very proud of my dad who has been instrumental in making this happen after first muting the idea 10 years ago.

Ballet royalty, Dame Darcey Bussell said it was an honour to be asked to unveil a plaque to remember the life of Norwich dancer Vernon Castle. Picture: Neil DidsburyBallet royalty, Dame Darcey Bussell said it was an honour to be asked to unveil a plaque to remember the life of Norwich dancer Vernon Castle. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“We first met Dame Darcey in November when we asked her to perform the unveiling and we're delighted she came today and completed the honours.

“Fabulous to be recognising an important Norwich historical figure and hopefully the plaque will be a reminder of his importance in years to come.”

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