Grantham Waits

Alan Radford – 27 Nov 2013

Three sightings of the Grantham Waits through the mists of time:

From Spalding churchwardens’ records, mid-16th century:
Quote found on Rootsweb:

“After the Dissolution, when it was decided that all the churches within the monastery were to be destroyed, funds were urgently needed for restoring and enlarging the church of St. Mary and St. Nicholas and converting it into the parish church. The following curious record made by Maurice Johnson two hundred years ago, tells how funds were raised for that purpose in Henry the Eighth’s time.

“In the old acts of the churchwardens of the Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin St. Mary, in Spalding, there are, amongst others, very large acts of some plays, which were exhibited here in the Gore against the Great Gate of the Priory, one of which, uncertain as to time, wanting date, in three long paper rolls appears to have been very costly and magnificent.”

“All Lincolnshire and many great towns and much quality in the neighbouring counties, being invited to it by special messengers by billets of baines.From about thirty of the towns there were spectators present. It was contributed to by Lord Willoughby, the Lady Fitzwilliam, the Champion Dymocke, the Lady Kyme, Mr. Mann of Bolingbroke, the Lord Bishop of Peterborough (John Chambers 1541-56), and the City of Peterborough, and the Burghers of Boston and Stamford, from all of which many were present.”

“It seems from the articles of expense such as arms, drums, and much minstrelsy, besides the Grantham Waits, to have been a manly performance and sort of Tournament or representation of the War in Heaven and battle between St. Michael and the Devils, with the machinery of heaven and hell, much gunpowder was used in it and bows and staves, headed with iron, and it seems to have been performed on horseback. There are large allowances for horsemeal and shoeing horses. It was composed and ordered by Mayster Howsun, an ingenious priest, and the guests who were foreigners and nobility of the corporations, were treated by the town with comfitts and other cakes, and with malmsey wine and claret wine.”

“The inhabitants had allotments of so many first places measured out about the scene of action and paid largely for the same to accomodate their families and foreign [visiting] friends. It seems to me, by all I can discover, to have been towards the latter end of King Henry the Eighth’s reign, and to have last three days in action, besides the rehearsals which are mentioned, and for which, to have it accurate, the players were fed likewise.”

“The principal performer was one Edgoose, who I presume played the Archangel. There is particular mention made of three tormentors with staves tipped with iron. Much carving and painting, and the place seems to have been parted off with great poles and cables and much cordage was used about it.”

The Musical Patronage of the English Aristocracy circa 1590-1640
Lynn Mary Hulse, Ph D Thesis, King’s College, London (1992):

“The Grantham Waits were employed at Belvoir [Castle] in 1607-8 and 1637-8 and were paid £3.00 on each occasion.”

Continuity and Change: The town, people and administration of Nottingham between c.1400 and c.1600.
Judith Anne Mills, Ph D Thesis, University of Nottingham (2010):

“Payment to Grantham Waits 6p.” (Nottingham Corporation Records, 20 Aug 1572).

In April 2014, Jackie Searl contacted me saying that she was involved in a project to transcribe the Grantham Hall Book for the 1650s. When she found a reference to Waits in the Hall Book, she wanted to find out what waits were – that is how she found the IGTP web site. Jackie noted that Grantham was listed on our website as having Waits and asked if we would be interested in having transcription of the excerpts she has found for 1656. They relate to the Liverys [sic] and the failure of the Waits to perform their duties as was the norm in the town, implying that the Waits had had a role for many years. The implication was that they were spending their time at a “gentlemans home in the country” (Jackie thinks this may refer to Belvoir Castle). Here are the references she found. The waits are not mentioned in the Grantham Hall Books for Courts held 1653-5 and 1659-60.

References to Grantham Waits in 1655/6

Grantham Hall Book 26th day of October Anno D[omi]nj 1655

The Waits Liv[er]yes to be demannded from them for their neglect of their Service.

Att this Court itt is ordered that the Chamberlaines doe goe and demannd the Waits Liv[er]yes for that they neglected to tender their Service the last yeare to the Towne and have not attended att the last Elect[i]on of the Alderman as hath accustomed and their continuall absence from the Towne att Gentlemens’ houses in the Country and att horseraces and other meetings whereby the Towne hath beene much slighted & neglected And the Chamb[er]laines be now returne and respect to the Court That the Waites are all from home and that they have the Liv[er]yes wth them therefore the Chamb[er]laines are againe appoynted to goe and make further demannd of the Liv[er]yes upon they come home and give an Accompt thereof att the next Court.

Grantham Hall Book 22th Day of February Anno D[omi]nj 1655/6.

The Waits Liveryes brought in by Wm Stubbs.

Att this Court three of the Waite Liveryes were brought in by Stubbs the Cheife of the said Waites wch were layd upp in the Hutch by Mr Ald[er]mans appoyntment.

Grantham Hall Book 23o Octob[e]r. 1656.

Towne Waits to have noe more Clokes but Cotes

Att this Court itt is Ordered That Willyam Knewstubbes wth his Ccompany whoe were the last Waite of this Burrowe in case they be againe chosen the Townes Waites Or any other that shalbe reteyned for the Waite, shall not hereafter have Liv[er]y Cloke given them by the Towne but Cotes only, as form[er]ly hath been accustomed.

The Diary of Ralph Thoresby FRS (1658-1725)

Thoresby was a frequent commuter between Leeds and London.

1714, May 4. Morning, we dined at Grantham; had the annual solemnity, (this being the first time the coach passed the road in May) of the coachman and horses being decked with ribbons and flowers, the town music and young people in couples before us; we lodged at Stamford, a scurvy, dear town.