"Here are a few gleanings about the waits of Leicester. There are also some quotes about them in "Town Waits and their Tunes" by Bridge, elsewhere on the waits' website." Alan Radford, 28 August 2012.
"The laws which were arranged to provide the town with a due supply of licensed and native music show a marked antipathy (in the minds of the legislators) to foreign minstrelsy, an antipathy not shared by all the Leicester commoners since legislation was necessary. No strangers who were not of the company of the town waits were to be suffered to play in Leicester or at any man's house, the time of the general assizes alone excepted, and then their foreign playing must be only before strangers. Every housekeeper was taxed to the support of the Leicester waits, and they were forbidden to leave the town to play unless they obtained the Mayor's licence; a licence might be granted only for foreign fairs and weddings."
From: Records of the Borough of Leicester, by William Henry Stevenson, William Henry Stevenson, Mary Bateson, John Edward Stocks.
"Leicester's ancient tradition of Town Waits; official musicians who supported the Lord Mayor at civic events, entertained townspeople and feted visitors. The waits were originally guards or watchmen who walked round the town at night looking out for fires or other trouble. They rang bells to tell people the time, or called out '2 o'clock and all's well'. They also played music for the Lord Mayor's guests on big occasions, and entertained the general public. This became their main job. By 1900 the waits' instruments were a cornet, a euphonium, a tenor horn and a trombone. From then, the waits mostly played popular requests for a small fee, which was given to charity. By the 1940s, a request would cost about half a crown. The Leicester Waits were disbanded around 1947."
"Named Leicester Waits:
1842 Thomas Watts, Charles Newcombe, John Ralphs, Samuel Smith ,Thomas Taylor and Robert Ralphs.
1847 Thomas Preston, William Sarson and Samuel Foister."
From: Leicester Town Waytes, by Jonathan E O Wilshere
"An ancient Christmas custom quite recently revived is that of the Waits. The Waits were really the town band; a group of paid, professional musicians. They were finally disbanded in 1947 but were revived again a few years back. We had a call from a lady who remembers the old Leicester Waits playing outside her grandfather's house during the war. It was, she said, very cold, and the blackout meant that they had to know the music by heart. It was, for her, a treasured memory."
From BBC Radio Leicester website (2009).
"Originally night watchmen, the Leicester waits were a group of town musicians who provided music for public ceremonies, as well as at stated times of the day and night in order to mark the passage of the hours, and they dated back to the end of the 15th century, possibly earlier. In 1524 it is recorded that their livery was orange or tawny and, later on, scarlet gowns edged with silver lace, and later again, edged with gold lace. One of their official badges survives, dating from 1695.
At Leicester it is also recorded that in 1581 the waits were obliged to play every night and morning, both winter and summer, and not to go outside the city to play except at fairs and weddings, and then only by license of the mayor. It was further frequently resolved by the councils generally that no strangers, waits, minstrels or other musicians whatsoever be allowed to play within a town, and the Leicester waits were no exception, for in 1581 the City Council had granted them virtual monopoly over all the music played in the city.
In 2002, Councillor Maggie Bodell-Stagg marked her first day of office as Lord Mayor of Leicester by reviving the ancient tradition of the Town Waits. Since 1499, this group of official musicians had performed at civic ceremonies where they supported the Mayor and entertained the people of Leicester. The Town Waits, who had been disbanded in 1947, were reinstated at the Guildhall reception following the election of the Lord Mayor."