Tributes paid to Norwich ballet teacher who taught for more than 80 years

Beryl Manthorp in 1996

Beryl Manthorp in 1996 - Credit: ARCHANT

A prominent Norwich ballet teacher who taught hundreds of pupils to dance over eight decades has died just ahead of her 100th birthday.

Beryl Manthorp, the founder and former principal of the city's Guildhall School of Dancing, was a life member of the Royal Academy of Dancing, the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing and a recipient of the Royal Academy’s President’s Award for services to the academy.

Beryl Manthorp smiling

Beryl Manthorp has died aged 99 - Credit: ARCHANT

Born February 22, 1921, in Colchester, Essex, she was the only child of Harry and Felicia Manthorp.

Her love of dancing began at the age of four when her parents were encouraged to enroll her in ballet classes to correct a slight curvature of the spine. At the end of her second class, she declared she would teach ballet when she grew up.

Aged seven, the family moved to Bury St Edmunds and then a few years later Norwich, where she attended the Lonsdale School. She continued dance lessons before studying for two years at The Tinkler School, a dance boarding school in Felixstowe.

Retired principle of the Guildhall School of Dancing, Beryl Manthorp, is celebrating the school's 70

Pictured front right is Beryl dancing - Credit: ARCHANT

On finishing, she was due to attend London's Bush Davies School of Dance three days after the Second World War broke out. The course was cancelled, so she returned to Norwich, where Miss Tinkler asked if she would start classes in the city.

Aged just 18, she began teaching dance full time at the Guildhall Gym and, by taking down the wall bars and putting up mirrors and ballet barres, The Guildhall School of Dancing was born.  

Retired principle of the Guildhall School of Dancing, Beryl Manthorp, is celebrating the school's 70

Pictured is the old premises just by the Guildhall - Credit: ARCHANT

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During the early war years, Miss Manthorp’s pupils took Royal Academy examinations in ballet and Greek grades, ballroom medals, and a few went to London for professional examinations and general teaching syllabi. She also taught at Sutherland House, near Aylsham, Thorpe House School, and several other schools in Norfolk.  

In September 1942, aged 21, she was called up for national service and joined the ATS as a Physical Training Instructor, a role that took her all over the country. She achieved the rank of Warrant Officer Class II.   

Beryl Manthorp in her ATS uniform during the Second World War.

Beryl Manthorp in her ATS uniform during the Second World War. - Credit: Archant

She returned to Norwich in 1946 to teach dance again. The Guildhall Gym was no longer available, so she held classes in various alternative venues until 1948, when they moved to the Arlington Rooms – a former NAAFI.   

In 1954, a premise on Newmarket Road became available to buy but, being a single woman, she could not take out a mortgage on her own. Her father helped her to buy the property, and she converted it into the dance school that stood on that same site until recently. She also continued to teach at Thorpe House School, where the purpose-built Manthorp Studio was named in her honour in 1984.  

Retired principle of the Guildhall School of Dancing, Beryl Manthorp, is celebrating the school's 70

Retired principle of the Guildhall School of Dancing, Beryl Manthorp, is celebrating the school's 70th anniversary. 95 years old, she is still teaching ballet. The premises on Newmarket Road.

Retired principle of the Guildhall School of Dancing, Beryl Manthorp, is celebrating the school's 70

The Guildhall School of Dancing when it celebrated its 70th anniversary - Credit: ARCHANT

Her specialty was teaching ballet to children in their early years, and in 1981 she published a book entitled Towards Ballet. It remains one of the definitive books on the subject used by the Royal Academy and worldwide. Pupils from the Guildhall School of Dancing were used as models and photographic examples in the book.  

Ballet book

Beryl Manthorp published her book in the 80s - Credit: ARCHANT

In 1982, she became a founding member and vice-chair of the charity Norfolk Dance Association. Over the years, she also raised a lot of money for various charitable causes by putting on shows, including Norwich's Hippodrome to help the war efforts, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and the British Red Cross.  

A keen dog-lover, she owned many poodles over the years, who were always as well trained as her pupils, and they would sit in the front of classes. She was also heavily involved in dog training.

poodles and ballet dancers with their teacher

Beryl Manthorp teaching with her poodles at the front of the class - Credit: GSD

She officially retired in 2010 and handed over the dance school to a former pupil, Francesca Waite, but continued to teach until December 2018. Although severe arthritis prevented her from doing any practical demonstrations, her ability to teach had not diminished.  

Susie Whitehouse, former governor of The Guildhall School of Dancing, described her as “a well-known and much-respected dance teacher”.  

During her later years, she wrote a memoir of her time in the ATS and her life in ballet. She also resumed piano lessons and was a keen gardener. From the 1990s, she lived with the Worth family who adopted her as one of their own.  

Miss Manthorp died on January 9, following a brief stay in hospital. Her funeral took place at Earlham Crematorium on February 10. 

Beryl Manthorp with guests for her celebration lunch in 1996.

Beryl Manthorp with guests for her celebration lunch in 1996. - Credit: Archant

- To view all our obituaries and tributes join the Facebook group Norfolk's Loved & Lost.  

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