Hull Waits

Hull Archives Office, 79 Lowgate (corner of Lowgate and Queen’s Gardens), Hull. 01482 – 615102

First reference: A History of the County of York East Riding, OUP London.

In this book ‘waits’ are listed under ‘Corporation’.

p. 34:  Minstrels first mentioned 1392 -5. From the second half of the fifteenth century they had to give pledges for silver collars.

p. 84:  In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries The Town Council kept its own waits whom the guilds could hire. It also paid for other players. (Hull Corporation Records, M. 479 (eg. 9, 17), relabelled and not checked.

p. 126:  ‘Small wages were paid to several lesser officers including the sword and mace bearers, the clock and gate keeper, porters, the waits and the mayor’s cook’..

References: Hull Corporation Records, BB 3A f 230: 4 ff. 312, 325. These reference books have been relabelled under BRB ‘Minutes of meetings of Mayor and Aldermen and committees thereof. (continuation list)’, and I have not yet found the right ones. Bench book 4 1555 – 1609, has been checked but no references found.

Hist.Mss. Com. Middleton, 440:

Jordan, Story of Holy Trinity Church. 21 -22, 96.

Hull Corporation Records, box 124, Rentals Shelf 107, Town Husband’s Accounts 1634 – 40; Audit books 1653 – 79, 1681 – 99. These have also been relabelled under BRF ‘Financial records of the Chamberlains (continuation list)’. BRF /3/51, /52, /53, /54, /55, /56, checked but they seem to be day labourers’ wages , payments for sand and ballast etc.

Sketches of Hull Celebrities: Or, Memoirs and Correspondence of Alderman Thomas Johnson and four of his lineal descendents.
by William Anderson Gunnell (1876)

1679: “Ye Corporate Bodie noghte onlie agreyed toe ye Requestance but cojoynidhym ye Subscrypt, ffor ye sake o makyn itte ynto an Exchaing, ase wel ase a Roome ffor ye bettremowste sorte a Folk toe enjoie yayre’Jiggcs an Roundelays yere, an odder Amuseyns. One itts compleatmente, ye Maior [Lennard Wistone] gav an Invitemente toe Willie Gee and thodder Aldermen an Magistrats an yayre spouses togedder wi ye Towne Bande, an a graundlie Entertakmente took one yere Spotte, whare Jiggyn wase Kepen vppe tyl a Yerlio houre yere.”

BRF/3/19 Town Husband’s Accounts 1634 – 40, mainly as above.

BRF/3/20 Audit Books 1653 – 79. In this book there are entries for ‘The Town’s Playte weighed’.

1653: 3 chains formerly ? for by the Wayts  
  one 07 – 00 – 8
  one 06 – 02 – 0
  one 06 – 01 – 0 1/8
  20 – 00 – 8
  A large saggbutt laid up in the Town’s chist

1654: 3 siver chains formerly used by the Town waytes
  1 silver saggbutt but is now in the town’s hands.

1655: no assessment

1656: 3 chains of silver for the waytes 1: 7oz ¼ and another 6½ oz and another 6oz 3/8 and one saggbutt

1657: 3 chains for waytes 20 ½
  1 large saggbutt cost 8s (?)

1658: no assessment

1659: no assessment

1660: 3 chains of silver for the waytes
  1 large saggbutt
1661: 3 chains of silver belonging to the waytes 20oz 8
  1 large saggbutt

1662: 3 chains of silver for the waytes

1663: no assessment

1664: plate listed but no chains for waytes or saggbutt.

1665: 3 silver chains for waytes
1 large saggbutt

1666: no assessment

1667: plate listed but no chains for waytes or saggbutt

1668: 3 silver chains for waytes
large silver saggbutt for waytes

1669: 3 silver chains for the waytes
large siver saggbutt cost 8 s(?)

1670: no assessment

1671: 3 silver chains for the Town’s waytes in the Town’s chist
large silver saggbutt cost 8 s (?)

1672: no assessment

1673: no assessment

1674: 3 silver chains for townes waytes
1 saggbut cost 8 s(?)

1675: no assessment

1676: 3 silver chains for the town’s waytes
1 sagbutt cost 8 s(?)

1677: 3 silver chains for the waytes with escutchions of silver
1 sagbut cost 8 s (?)
20 – 12

1678: 3 silver chains belonging to the Town’s waytes
1 sagbut cost 8 s(?)
20 -12

1679: no assessment

BRF/3/21 Audit book 1695 – 1701

1695: 4 silver chains for the waytes
a sackbutt with silver mouth

1696: 4 silver chains and escuchions for waytes
a sackbutt with silver mouth

1697: 4 chains with escutchions for waits
a sackbutt with silver mouth

1698: 4 silver chains with escutchions for waits
a sackbutt with silver mouth

1699: 4 silver chains with escutchions for the waits
1 sackbutt

1700: 4 silver chains with escutchions for the waits
1 sackbutt


The main information I have about Hull waits comes from evidence in the Audit Books of 1653 – 1679 and 1695 – 1701. In many years there is an entry for the ‘Town Playte weighed’. This contains entries for the mayor’s chain, various ceremonial maces etc. and the silver, such as goblets and bowls, given by many of the aldermen . These are listed by weight. Then comes a further list of items with weights listed rarely. In 1699 this list was as follows:-

  • 4 chains with escuchions for the waits
    2 large gilt maces
    2 swords and cap of maintenance
    1 sackbutt
    1 seal for the mayor
    1 ? seal gift of Mr Roberts
    1 seal for fines
    1 seal for statutes
    a large silver mace
    2 water bailiff maces
    1 Brazill ?
    1 Brazill ?

I suggest that these items and similar ones in other years, were out on loan and not available for weighing. This would be evidence for the presence of active waits. It could be argued however, that such items were not important enough to weigh, they simply sat in the town’s coffers and therefore the listing of chains for the waits, although it shows that Hull had had waits, does not mean that waits were still employed at this time. Indeed the entries for 1653 and 1654 use the word ‘formerly’ and in 1653 list that the ‘large saggbutt’ is ‘layd up in the townes chist’. Were the waits therefore in abeyance at this time? Also in 1653, 1656 and 1657 the weights of the chains are given so they were obviously available for weighing in these years.

Evidence that the waits were still active comes in 1695. In the years 1695 to 1700 there are four chains for waits listed. Since there are no records extant for the years 1680 to 1695 and in 1678 there were only three chains listed we do not know when the waits numbers were increased to four. However this does provide evidence that they were very much a going concern.

Evidence of their earlier existence in the seventeenth century is more difficult to find. The Town Husband’s Accounts of 1634 – 40 do not list the weighing of the town plate and I could find no reference to payments to waits among the money for day labourers and provision of loads of sand and ballast.

The ‘saggbutt’ shows that at least one instrument was provided for the waits by the town. This is borne out by a reference in A History of Hull, by Edward Gillett and Kenneth MacMahon – ‘the last two waits who, as late as 1792 had been required to practise on the trumpet for ceremonial occasions, were released from all further duties in 1798 and ordered to give up the instruments belonging to the corporation’. (Hull Corporation Records BB 10 ff 139, 151, 292, unchecked).

Pamela Radford