Alnwick Waits

Alnwick Corporation accounts

As quoted in ‘The history of the borough, castle, and barony of Alnwick’, Volume 1, By George Tate (1866)

This item was kindly provided by Alan Radford.

In Alnwick there were usually two waits, but there were three for a period in the eighteenth century. Each had an annual salary of £1 plus livery.

The waits’ livery was of blue broadcloth faced with yellow, trimmed with silver lace, with silver buttons bearing the town’s arms. On one sleeve was a silver badge with St. Michael killing the dragon, copied from the town’s seal. The vest was yellow, trimmed in like manner with silver lace and buttons. Breeches were yellow plush. A hat with a cockade and silver lace completed the outfit.

On New Year’s Day the waits, dressed in their livery, called at every house in the town seeking their waits-fee, and somewhat more than £30 were collected by them.

1640     The Skinners paid the waits 6s.

1641     Item to the Waits for their Coats 30s.

1645     2 Coates to the Towne’s Waytes 24s.

Given to the waytes the last St. Mark’s Day 1s.

1659     paid for two Blew Coats 13s.1687     paid for Blew Coats triming and making to the waitts £3 1s 3d.

1691     John Busby, John Cuthbertson and William Cuthbertson is elected and chosen waites for the town of Alnwicke.

1694     To Geo. Alder for the Waitts Coats Stay tape 3d., 8 yeards Blue Cloth £2, Thread 9d., Canvis 9d-£2 1s 6d, 5 doz. La: buttons 5s, 3 doz. buttons6d-5s 6d, 30 yds.
Lace 8s, Lining 6d-8s 6d, 9 yds. Plauish 10s 6d.

1705     For Dyeing the Waitts Coats 12s.
Paid Mr Langlands, goldsmith, Newcastle, for mending 2 old silver badges and making a new one for the Musicians £1 19s 0d.

1749     It is ordered that John Young musician of the town be dismissed from his said employment, and that we shall have no waits for the future; and it is further ordered that Wm Cuthbertson, Daniel Cuthbertson and the said John Young shall deliver up to the chamberlains the towne’s Badges, or otherwise they shall be sued for the same.

1766     Thomas Moffatt for Musicians’ Silver laced Hats £3 17s 0d.
Mr Richard Strother for Trimming for the Musicians Clothes, making them &c £4 17s 1 1/2d.
Mr Gray jun. for the Musicians Cloaths £9 15s 1d.
it was ordered that William, Daniel and William Cuthbertson waits to have livery and Silver laced Hats to be worn on public occasions.

1769     the Chamberlains and Four-and-Twenty ordered that James Allan be and is hereby appointed one of the Town’s Musicians and to have a new livery and hat as the rest, which is intended to serve 3 years; and that if he goes away or misbehaves before the end of the Term, thet then he shall give up the same to the then Chamberlains.

1770     James Allen was discharged and ordered to deliver up his livery, hat and badge, he having misbehaved himself.

1771     Thomas Coward jr. was appointed wait and rewarded with 2s 6d for his trouble in playing before several of the Common Council by way of a treat. In case he shall behave himself well and orderly in the ensuing winter, then the sum of five guineas shall be expended at or about Candlemas towards him instructed in playing on the violin.

1800     Thomas Coward III was appointed wait on the death of William Cuthbertson.

1803     Moffatt for Waites Hats and Lace £2 18s 0d.
Hardy for Waites Liveries and Herds Cockade £13 12s 10d.

1823     John Hogg appointed wait upon the death of Thomas Coward II.

1831     ordered that the office of town’s waites be discontinued, and that they deliver up their badges, but keep their present livery.

1845     Gravestone: “This Stone was erected by Friends and Admirersof Mr. Thomas Coward, Musician, The last of the Waits of this Ancient Borough, who died on the 6th of February, 1845, aged 61 years.” [We have a photo of the York Waits at the gravestone on this website]

1865     John Hogg, wait from 1823-1831, died.

James Allan, Alnwick Wait

from a list of official pipers to the Percys of Alnwick on a website on the history of the Northumbrian pipes at

1746-7   James Allan played for the Countess of Northumberland

1752   Walpole records that “the Countess has her pipers”

1760   James Allen accompanied the Countess to the Coronation of George III

1766   In the publication “The Life of Allan” it states that James Allan wore the Percy’s crusade trophy on his right arm

1769   James Allan appointed town waite by the Chamberlain of Alnwick

1769   James Allan dismissed as town waite of Alnwick and from the castle for stealing

1803   James Allan convicted at Durham Assizes of horse stealing. He escaped hanging and deportation, and died in 1810. His pardon, signed by the Prince Regent, arrived two days after his death.

There’s more on James Allan at$193 including a picture and details of the biography mentioned above.

Another eighteenth century Alnwick Wait:

“John Young was dismissed in 1749 as an Alnwick Town Wait.”

Three Youngs are known to us, all living in Alnwick. One, John, was dismissed in 1749 as the last of the Town Waits. The other names are George, and James, his son. The family were pipemakers, James supplying Robert Reid’s father (also Robert) with his first set of ‘large’ Northumbrian pipes. Little else is known of them.”

19/3/2019: A few more choice discoveries. Alan Radford.


“A Descriptive and Historical View of Alnwick”, W Davison 1822).

“In the town’s books is the following order, dated April 24, 1688, to preserve the continuance of this custom, which it appears was then falling into neglect:- “It is unanimously agreed, that upon the town’s waits giving warning about the town every St. Mark’s Day in the morning, every freeman shall pay a penalty of one shilling each, to be levied upon their goods and chattels, that doth not attend the chamberlains at the Tollbooth, and from thence accompany them to ride the boundary of our moor, except they shall give a lawful excuse before.”

From Alan Radford, 4th February 2020.


1790s – “The Life and Times of James Catnach, (Late of Seven Dials), Ballad Monger”, C. Hindley, 2011

“The stocks, cock-fighting, the kicking of football in the open streets were always sure to draw a gazing throng. At nights the streets were considerably enlivened by the strains of the borough waits.”