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Wakefield Waits

Quarter Sessions Records of the West Riding of Yorkshire (October 1724).

Description includes petition of "one of Wakefield Waits" re harassment by attorney.

"Many particulars of the Wakefield Waits are given in W. S. Banks's 'Walks in Yorkshire' ", 1871 (Reliquary, xii, 117-118).

From "Walks in Yorkshire - Wakefield and its Neighbourhood" by W S Banks (1871), pp 81-88.

Submitted by Dr. Alan Radford

The Town Hall [in 1871] contains a few memorials of older Wakefield, as the Constables' accounts from 1715, and two or three "Waits" badges. One of the latter, dated 1688, is engraved. They are of silver, and about five inches by four in size, with loops [top and bottom] to fasten them by. The wearers were not called Waits because they sang at Christmas, as is the case in our own day. They were the town's night watchmen, who chanted the hours and half hours, and made known the sort of weather throughout the time they were on duty, as - "half past two o'clock and a fine and frosty morning."*

* I do not know the origin of the Waits, unless this entry in the Parish Register records it:-
Memorandum, that the Waits of this town of Wakefield began their watch upon the 17th day of October, in the year of Lord God 1670. Their names are as followeth:-
        Wm. Shaw }
        Tho. Shaw } "Fratres in Unum"
        Thomas Watson}
"Began their watch" may only refer to the commencement of that year's patrolling. Down to about 1810 the waits were three in number. These, and one deputy constable, sufficed in those years for the preservation of the peace. In 1812 a regular "watch" was established, but the three Waits are mentioned as late as 1826, when a town's meeting resolved to discontinue clothing them, so as to save £35 per year [but below it says this was resolved in 1813].

Some extracts from the Corporation accounts relating to the Waits:

1745-6 £ s d
Oct 5 Waites 0 7 6
Nov ? Waits clothes &c. 17 17 4
March 15 Waits shoes 0 13 6
Nov Waites and Ino. Leek (deputy) 0 10 0
John Leake shoes 0 5 6
Waits and Leeke's hats 0 12 0
Waits and beadle's stockings 0 16 0
March 19 yards fine green cloth for
Wates at 8s. per yard 7 12 0
Waits close making and Leakes 2 2 0
Oct 22 By 3 silver badges for Waits 0 7 6
By a silver badge for John Leek 0 2 6
May 5 Ordered that the expense of
clothing the Waites and Bedall
not to exceed the sum of £16
for future years.
May 22 Resolved - No more money or
clothing be allowed to the

From the above accounts we can calculate the cost of equipping an 18th century Wakefield Wait. Note that it is unusual to find records of provision of any item other than a livery coat and badge, so until the early nineteenth century the Waits of Wakefield were very fortunate.

£ s d
Livery (1755) 2 8 6
Hat 0 3 0
Stockings 0 4 0
Shoes 0 4 6
Badge 0 2 6
Total 3 2 6

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