Bath Waits

Waits – A Living Tradition that (almost) never went away

by Ian Gilchrist of The Bath City Jubilee Waits

This article is reproduced here by kind permission of the editor of The Living Tradition – please visit their website at:

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“By and by comes music to play to me, extraordinary good as ever I heard at London, or anywhere.”
Samuel Pepys Diary, Bath, 1668. (In context, these strolling musicians could only have been the Waits of Bath.)

“The city fathers were not slow to cash in on the prestige accorded toan on-tap musical establishment and, in 1733, re-established the CityWaits, whose business was “to attend the Corporation on all occasions”for which the remuneration was four guineas per annum. They may have hadsecond thoughts as to the wisdom of this action when, in 1773, a refusalto desist from playing in Lodging Houses “to the great disturbance ofthe sick” led to their stigmatisation as “vagrants and extortioners”.”
(A quote on Bath Waits from

“The customs that particularly relate to the Strangers be welcoming with them to the city, first by a Peal of the Abbey Bells and, in the next place, by the Voice and Musick of the City Waits … the Waits seldom miss their fee of a Crown, Half-a-Guinea, or a Guinea, according to the Rank of the People they salut.”
John Wood, ‘Description of Bath’, (1769)