Leeds Waits

The following records are the only available evidence to date of the Borough Waits of Leeds, the town musicians from at least as early as 1530, when they were of sufficient repute to have been hired by the monks of Selby Abbey, up to 1835, when the implementation in Leeds if the Municipal Reform Act led to their abolition. This brief history is dedicated to those musicians, known and unknown, over the centuries, who undertook the various civic duties, and in between times travelled far and wide to perform for hire by other boroughs and cities, and for the aristocracy and rising bourgeoisie.

1319“First recorded murder in Leeds when Robert de Ledes of North Hall murdered William de Wayte over a gambling dispute.”
Thoresby Society Publications XLV, Documents relating to the manor and borough of Leeds, 1066-1400. Ed. J. H. Le Patourel. A suggestive surname, but not conclusive evidence of the office of wait (as watchman or musucian) in the medieval manor and the borough within it established by Maurice Paynel, the Lord of the Manor, in 1207. The borough first achieved any significance in the second half of the fifteenth century.
1341“In 1341 Richard Waite held a messuage, a toft, and 2 bovates at will which he had formerly held in bondage.”
Thoresby Society Publications XLV, Documents relating to the manor and borough of Leeds, 1066-1400. Ed. J. H. Le Patourel. Another suggestive surname. but no evidence that it relates to the office of wait. However, the coat of arms of the family of that name does bear three signal horns representing the office of wait.
1425“Paslow J. of Potternewton, freehold of 1 mas 2 bov for 2.0 from Th. Waite”
Account of Manorial rentals, from J W Kirby (1983) “The Manor and Borough of Leeds 1425-1662”, Thoresby Society Miscellanaea. The surname is again suggestive.
1530/31“Players: 5 lusores of Leeds”
Selby Abbey, Bursar’s accounts, cited in Records of Early English Drama – West Riding, ed. B D Palmer and J M Wasson, University of Toronto Press, in press. Lawrence M. Clopper, “Communitas: The Play of Saints in Late Medieval and Tudor England,” Mediaevalia 18 (1995) p. 88 suggests that lusores “could mean either musicians or gamesmen.” Abigail Young notes that the most common meaning was ‘player,’ but also could refer to a player “in a mixed musical and dramatic performance” (“Plays and Players: The Latin Terms for Performance,” REED Newsletter 1984:2, p. 61).
1530/31“Entertainers: one histrioni at the same time as the 5 Leeds’ lusores were there.”
Selby Abbey, Bursar’s accounts, cited by Palmer and Wasson. This clearly differentiates between histrioni and lusores. Citations from elsewhere show that histrioni could be waits as the following indicates: “For the livery of the Common histriones called the waytes of the town 15s.” from Hickling Priory 1517-18: “Regiis histrionibus vocatis waytes” … As, in the Selby accounts of 1531, it is improbable that both lusores and histrioni are actors, it is likely that one or other means “wait”. Confirmation of the latter being musicians is the inscription on the minstrels’ pillar in Beverley, the capital of which is carved with five liveried musicians, which has the inscription “Orate pro animabus histeriorum” which is presumably a request to pray for the souls of the minstrels represented thereon.
1531“given in rewarde to the wayttes of ledes 4s.”
Chamberlain’s Accounts Books of Newcastle upon Tyne.
1550The year cited by Langwill for evidence of the existence of waits in Leeds.
The Waits, A Short Historical Study, By L. G. Langwill, Hinrichson’s Music Book vol. VII (1952) 170-183.
1562“Item paid mor geven in Reward to the wayttes of ledes iiij s.”
Chamberlain’s Accounts Books of Newcastle upon Tyne, for the second week of February, cited in Records of Early English Drama – Newcastle upon Tyne, ed. J J Anderson, University of Toronto Press, 1982.
1571-72“Rewards to Waits:
Ledes, x d
Ledes, vi d”

Nottingham City Records, cited in Musicians in English Society, W L Woodfill, Da Capo Press, 1969.
1597“paide by James graie to j abrahame —— father his sonne being one of the wates & deed att leedes he having the townes cunisente: & in reward iij s iv p”.
from Chamberlain’s Accounts Books of Newcastle upon Tyne, the second week of January, cited by Anderson.
16046 April-9 May, “Item unto the waittes of Leaddes, ij s”.
from Chamberlain’s Accounts of Carlisle, vol 1, cited in Records of Early English Drama – Cumberland, Westmorland, and Gloucestershire, ed. A Douglas and P Greenfield, University of Toronto Press, 1986.
1610July, “Item to the waits of Leads at Mr Maior commande, iiij s”.
from Chamberlain’s Accounts of Carlisle, cited by Douglas and Greenfield.
161226 March, “Three men the waits of Leedes who played at the gates, iii s iv d”.
from the Earl of Cumberland’s Accounts, cited by Woodfill, now in the library of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth, identified by R T Spence as relating to Londesborough Hall near Market Weighton in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Londesborough Hall was demolished circa 1819, but an illustration exists in Kip and Knyff, “Britannia Illustrata”, 1720.
161829 March, “Item given to the waites of Liddes by my masters, xij d”.
Household accounts of Sir Richard Shuttleworth for Gawthorpe Hall, cited in Records of Early English Drama – Lancashire, ed. D George, University of Toronto Press,1991. Gawthorpe Hall, near Burnley, was built circa 1605, still stands, and is administered by Lancashire County Council for The National Trust. The original minstrels’ gallery still survives.
1620“Item gyven unto the waites of Leedes 13th of ffebruary 1620, xviij d”.
Household accounts of Thomas Walmesley, vol 2, for Dunkenhalgh Manor House, Accrington, Lancashire, cited by George. The Manor of Dunkenhalgh was earlier held by the Rushton family, coming into Walmesley ownership in the reign of Elizabeth I, according to accounts in Chetham Miscellanies 4. A largely rebuilt Dunkenhalgh is now a hotel alongside the M65 motorway.
1626“The corporate seal under this Charter is of silver, and bears the following inscription or legend, ‘SIGILLVM.. BVRGI: DE.. LEEDES: 1626*’. An ancient silver badge, which may perhaps be attributed to this period, and formerly belonging to one of the four Waits appointed by the Corporation…”
Municipal History of Leeds, J Wardell, 1847. The illustration in Wardell’s book does not have the date inscribed. Two badges similar to the illustration are on display in Leeds Civic Hall.
1629“Item given the wates of Leedes the last of ffebruary, xij d”.
Walmsley accounts, vol 7, cited by George.
1629“Item given the wates of Leeds the 14th of March, xij d”.
Walmsley accounts, vol 7, cited by George.
1630“given the waites of Leedes march 10th, xij d”.
Walmsley accounts, vol 10, cited by George.
16316 March, “given the waites of Leedes, xij d”.
Walmsley accounts, vol 11, cited by George.
16326 March, “given the waites of Leedes, xij d”.
Walmsley accounts, vol 12, cited by George.
163429 February, “given the waites of Leedes, xij d”.
Walmsley accounts, vol 22, cited by George.
163426 March, “waits of Leeds”
Clifford papers, personal communication from Barbara Palmer. The Clifford family home was Skipton Castle.
1637March, “given the waites of Leedes, xij d”.
Walmsley accounts, cited by George. In later publication, George notes the going rate for musicians at Dunkenhalgh as the steward details in one item that the group of musicians were paid “iiij p. each after ould Costome”. From 1629 to 1637 the Leeds Waits had been paid xij p. per visit, presumably for three members. Their exceptional payment of xviij d in 1620 may indicate a larger group or a longer visit.
164024 December, “Item to the waites of leeds 00 10 0.”
Temple Newsam, Steward’s accounts, cited by Palmer and Wasson. Temple Newsam, a sixteenth/seventeenth century mansion, the former family home of the Ingram family, still survives as a Leeds City Council museum and art gallery. The accounts are in the West Yorkshire Archives.
17th Cent.“Leeds maintained four Waits in the 17th century.”
Frank Kidson’s entry on Waits in Grove Dictionary of Muusic, 1904
1662?“On state days, and on the various holiday festivals, they [the Corporation] attended service at the Parish Church, proceeding thither in procession from the Moot Hall. The turret bell clanged merrily, and some half dozen waits played old-fashioned instruments as the procession wended its way through the picturesque streets. When the event was in celebration of a new Mayor, the Chief Magistrate and his successor walked together, the former wearing a scarlet gown and the latter a black one.”
From “The Romance of Old Leeds” by Alfred Mattison and Walter Meakin, 1908. The wearing of gowns by the Corporation dates back to the 1626 charter if the portrait of John Harrison in a red gown, Alderman in the 1630’s can be relied upon, and the Court Books record a revival of the custom shortly after the Restoration. The office of Mayor was only instituted with the Borough Charter of 1661. One must wonder if the instruments played by the waits were archaic in the 1660s, or merely to Mattison looking back from the start of the twentieth century.
1670“The late seventeenth century Leeds waits wore an impressive badge of office in the form of an oval plaque of silver, probably made in London around 1670. These still survive with the city plate in the Civic Hall, and show the golden fleece, the original arms of the Borough of Leeds, between two crowned owls as supporters.”
Leeds Christmas Book, P C D Brears, 1982. (Note: this is presumably the same badge as that shown by Wardell, who claimed it to date from 1626, the time of the Charles I charter). The Leeds Arms in 1661 at the time of the second royal charter, from Charles II, gained the three mullets, from the arms of the Alderman at that time, Thomas Danby. The date suggested by Brears thus seems too late, although the style of the badge is typical of the late seventeenth century, as exemplified by the Wakefield Waits’ badges, known to date from circa 1680.
1683“2 Feb ‘.. but spent the evening not so well when at dancing-school with Md. D., Mr. T. etc.’ Early evidence of social dancing in Leeds, hence the need for musicians, the waits.”
“The Diary of Ralph Thoresby FRS”, edited by Joseph Hunter and published by Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, London, 1830. Ralph Thoresby (1658-1725), clothier, diarist and antiquary, was in 1683 a young bachelor in search of a suitable wife, and clearly brushing up on his social skills.
1689“19 Feb ‘The Accession of King William and Queen Mary was proclaimed in Leeds with the usual solemnities and the joyful acclamation of congregated thousands.’ A royal proclamation would of course be proclaimed at the usual sites around town and require the services of the waits.”
“The Civil, Ecclesiastical [&c.] History of Leeds …”, Edward Parsons, 1834.
1700“‘At the wedding of Mr William Calverley (a younger son of Mr. Calverley of Leeds), who was married to Alderman Kitchingman’s daughter, and I led the bride to the church, had a pair of gloves and a favour, and sent half-crowns apiece to the butler, cook and music.’ This latter doubtless refers to the Corporation Waits – the town’s band – in evidence on all corporate ceremonials. On this occasion they would tune up as the happy couple emerged from church.”
Original source “The Note Book of Sir Walter Calverley, Bart.”, published by The Surtees Society, vol 77, (1883), subsequently adapted for “Chronicles of Old Leeds” by Mattison. The Calverley family were lords of the manor of the same name, and lived in Calverley Hall, about ten miles West of Leeds. However, the town house of Mr Calverley at this time was The Red House, on the south side of The Headrow (the site of the Schofields Centre), during the Civil War the site of the temporary imprisonment of King Charles I. Ald. Kitchingman was Mayor of Leeds in 1702.
17006 Nov, “Dined at Sir Walter Hawkesworth’s. We had a extray fine entertainment, and, after, danced all night.”
From Calverley’s Note Book. The waits were the usual band of musicians hired for such private functions.
17027 Mar, “Queen Anne was proclaimed by the Mayor and Corporation in their formalities ..”
From Ralph Thoresby’s Diary. A civic ocasion for the Waits
17044 Mar, “Rode with the Mayor and rest of Corporation in their formalities to meet the Judges (Tracy and Smith)”
From Ralph Thoresby’s Diary. Another civic event for the Waits
17047 Jul, “With the Corporation and clergy, at the public rejoicing for the Duke of Marlborough’s late victory in Germany” [Battle of Blenheim, 13th August].”
From Ralph Thoresby’s Diary. A civic commemoration for the Waits
170711 Sep, “Made an entertainment at Esholt to all the neighbouring gentlemen and their ladyes, and on Saturday after same Sept. [13th], had my tenants and neighbours and wives at another entertainment provided on purpose. Both the said entertainments were upon the account of my wife’s coming to Esholt.”
From Calverley’s Note Book. He had married earlier that year.
17081 Feb, “This day the Mayor, the High Sheriff of the county, and our excellent Recorder, received the sacrament in the parish church in respect of their new offices.”
From Ralph Thoresby’s Diary. Mayor-making, the Waits leading the civic procession to the Parish Church
170827 Nov “Evening, with the High Sheriff [and Mayor-elect], Recorder, and Corporation, at the public rejoicing for the great victory of the Duke of Marlborough in Flanders” [Battle of Oudenarde, 16th November].”
From Ralph Thoresby’s Diary. Another victory celebration for the Waits
171122 May “To see the new white Cloth Market in Kirkgate, the new Whitehall, being opened that day..”
From Ralph Thoresby’s Diary. A significant event in the town for the Waits to be involved
171222 May 11 Jun, The first Assembly of Ladies and Gentlemen was held in the new Assembly Room on the upper floor of the new White Cloth Hall on Kirkgate. Who but the Waits could provide the music?
From the Memoranda Book of John Lucas
171312 May, Tuesday, “Was proclaimed the Peace of Utrecht with France…. Mr Mayor, being a right worthy and religious gentlemen, desired the aldermen and common councilmen to meet him at the Old Church at ten o’clock, where the Reverend Mr Killingbeck , vicar, read prayers, which, being ended, the gentlemen being mounted in Mr Mayor’s yard, first went the bellman and beadle, next the constables, after them the waits on foot, then followed on horseback Mr Mayor’s two eldest sons, the younger of which carried a streamer of white silk on which were written in golden letters the word Peace, 1713, under that a crown, then A. R. in a cipher, after them went a great number of scholars with each a favour in his hat of red and white ribband, next the common council men, then the aldermen all in order, as they had been chos’n, viz., the youngest the first, next the golden mace carried by Mr Thomas Cornforth Sergeant-at-Mace, and the silver mace carried by Mr William Nottingham, Deputy Constable, then Mr Henry Adam, Town Clerk, who read the proclamation at most public places in the town, and after him the Right Worshipful William Cookson Esq., Mayor, in all their robes…. They began at Mr Mayor’s, near the Old Church, went up Kirkgate and so up the Shambles, round the cross, down the back of the Shambles, to the Bridge End, then up Cow Lane into Kirkgate, and so up to Mr James Wainman’s at the Sign of the Swan where a dinner was provided…”
From the Memorandum Book of John Lucas, a Leeds schoolmaster. Also recorded in Ralph Thoresby’s diary
171327 May, Alderman Milner’s gift of the white marble statue of Queen Anne was installed on the front of the Moot Hall. The day was observed in the town as a festival. There was a civic procession through the town to the Moot Hall for the unveiling which, like other such processions of the period, would certainly have been to the music of the waits.
Parsons’ History of Leeds, 1834, original sources John Lucas and Ralph Thoresby
17151 August, The first anniversary of the Accession of King George I was observed with great solemnity according to proclamation.It would certainly have been to the music of the waits.
The Memoranda Book of John Lucas
171619 Jan, “We and the two Mr. Ramsdens went to Leeds, and dined there; and in the evening went to the assembly.”
From Calverley’s Note Book. Based on examples from elsewhere as definite evidence for Leeds is lacking, the waits would normally provide music for such assemblies.
1725“In the night between the 5 & 6 December 1725 Mr Robert Green’s workshop in Kirkgate was burnt down but no more damage done, the fire being timely espied by the waits.”
From the Memorandum Book of John Lucas. Another source (Lumb, Proc. Thoresby Soc. XXII, 199) states that seven cloths and all the contents of the shop were burnt, the total loss being estimated at £150.
172620 September, “Notice is hereby given that on Friday next will be performed at the Assembly Room in Kirkgate, Leeds, a Consort of Vocal and Instrumental Musick by several eminent Persons. After the performance there’ll be dancing.”
Announcement in The Leeds Mercury, cited in “Musical Leeds in the eighteenth century”, E Hargrave, Thoresby Society Proceedings 28 (1928). This is one of a series of concerts held at the Assembly Rooms in Leeds through the 1710s, 1720s and 1730s, all followed by a ball. If The Leeds Waits were playing at the York Assembly Rooms and at The Green Dragon, Harrogate during this period (see below), it is highly likely that they would be the musicians for the post-concert dancing.
172719 June, “Ordered that the Aldermen and Assistants of this Borough, do wait upon Mr Mayor tomorrow, at twelve of the clock, at his own house, in their gowns and on horseback, to go from thence in procession up the Back of the Shambles to the Market Cross, and there to proclaim the Mighty Prince, George Prince of Wales, to be lawfull and Rightfull King of Great Brittaine, &c. & from thence to go down the Shambles, & to make the like Proclamat’on at Kirkgate end, at the Vicaridge, at the North end of the Bridge, & at Boar Lane end, & from Boar Lane to adjourn to the house of Mr. James Wainman’s to Solempnize the day, where an entertainment is to be prepared at the Corporac’on charge, but the same is not to exceed the sume of fifteen pounds. The method to be observed in the procession is to be as follows, ‘viz’t, the Constables of the Burrough are to lead the Van two by two, and are to be followed by the Musicians; then the two youngest Assistants (Councillors) are to go in abreast, and are to be followed by the other Assistants, two by two, in order of seniority; until the Aldermen fall in their ranks, who are to observe the like method ’till they come to the Mayor, who is to be preceeded first by the two maces, and then by the Com’on Clerk.’ It was a gay spectacle, the strains of “musick” from the town’s waits old-time instruments.”
Borough Council resolution, quoted in Wardell’s Municipal History of the Borough of Leeds, re-quoted in part with comment by Mattison. The Market Cross was near the northern end of Briggate at its junction with Cross Arcade, and Leeds Bridge at the southern end crossing the River Aire. The Parish Church (fourteenth to seventeenth century) was demolished and rebuilt in the nineteenth century. It stood south of the eastern end of Kirkgate. The Vicarage on Vicar’s Croft was at the junction of Vicar Lane and Kirkgate, the current site of the building housing Leeds Market. The Vicarage was built on land given to the church in 1453 by William Scott of Potter Newton, and rebuilt in 1717, and demolished in 1824 to make way for the new market. The original market was at the north end of Briggate, between the Market Cross and the Town Hall. The Shambles was the middle section of Briggate, with the Town Hall (Moot Hall) in the centre of Briggate just above the junction with Lands Lane, The Shambles to the east side, and The Back Shambles to the west. Briggate, Kirkgate and Boar Lane still survive. The Moot Hall was built in 1615 by John Harrison, rebuilt in 1710, and finally demolished in 1825. The Market Cross was built by Harrison in 1619, replaced in 1776, and removed with the move of the corn market to the new Corn Exchange in 1828. Incidentally, Harrison also built St. John’s Church and almshouses on his land just north-west of the intersection of Briggate and The Headrow. The first reference to Leeds Bridge is in the Manor Rolls of 1383. It was the site of sconces (defensive earthworks) erected by the Royalist army commanded by Sir William Savile, defended by two demi-culverins against the Parliamentary army commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax, in the Civil War siege of Leeds on 23 January 1643. Leeds Bridge was widened in 1730 and again in 1760 with dressed stone transported by barge down-river from Kirkstall Abbey, and finally totally rebuilt (in iron, not stone) in 1871.
1727“Yet behind the facades of the splendid houses of Mr. Bernard Bischoff in Kirkgate, Mr. Dixon in Call Lane and Alderman Breary in Boar Lane, for example, there were counting houses, warehouses, packing and dressing shops, either under the same roof or in the adjacent yard, so that in the parlour he might enjoy, with the ladies of his family, the pleasures of music, dancing and polite conversation ….”
The Rulers of Leeds: Gentry, Clothiers and Merchants, c. 1425-1726. J Kirby, Thoresby Soc. 59, p 47. Kirby is referring to the houses illustrated in the Cossins map of Leeds, published in 1727. Breary had been elected an Assistant in 1717, Alderman in 1719 and served as Mayor for 1720-1. The musicians for the dancing would, in all probability, have been the borough waits.
172711 October “… the Coronation Day of their Majesties King George II and Caroline, his Queen, was honoured not only by the magistrates, gentlemen &c of this town …”, so a full civic celebration.
The Memoranda Book of John Lucas
~1734“About this time there was a long-room built at the Green-Dragon in Harrogate. More music being wanted, he engaged one Midgeley (one of the Leeds waits) and his own son as assistants. Midgeley, senior, being a good performer, he was taken into partnership gratis; but the son, and Metcalf’s former assistant, paid five pounds each premium. “.
originally from “The Life of John Metcalf, commonly called Blind Jack of Knareborough” dictated by Metcalfe himself in 1793-4 and published by R. and R. Peck, York in 1795. Blind Jack was blinded by smallpox at the age of six. He was in turn a fiddler and hautboy plyer in a number of inns in Knaresborough, Harrogate and York (with the above residency in the Long Room of the Green Dragon continuing until 1745), when he joined the army of General Monk on his Scottish campaign, and civil engineer. According to a History of Harrogate, “The Green Dragon” was one of the earliest inns built in High Harrogate, in the late seventeenth century, for those taking the waters of St. John’s Well (the sweet water or chalybeate well). It was located on the south-west side of Silver Street, shown as an unnamed building on a map of 1778, identified as “The Green Dragon” on an 1821 map, and as “The Dragon” on maps of 1840 and 1851. From 1870 to 1886 it was a school, and was then demolished to make way for the construction of Mornington Crescent. Who was John Midgeley? Leeds parish church records show a John Midgeley christened in 1684, and marrying Susanna Backhouse on 20th February 1707. If Midgeley’s son was his apprentice/assistant in 1734, this would place his birth some time between 1713 and 1720, consistent with the age of Midgeley senior.
1734Aug 16th, “By the 2 Leeds Waites for playing 6 nights in the race week, £4-4-0”
From the Account Book of the York Assembly Rooms, currently housed in the York City Archives, Exhibition Square. By this time the York Waits’ monopoly for music in the city had broken down. The management of the Assembly Rooms was in the habit of providing evening music during the August race meeting, and supplemented the York Waits with other musicians. Among those other waits named in the accounts between this time and 1774 are the Leeds Waites, the Wakefield Waites and the local “Skeldergate Waites”. Named musicians include John Dixon (hautboy), James Blaycock (hautboy), Thomas Walker, Francis, Henry and George Beckwith, Daniel Whalley (hautboy), Thomas Thackray, John Priestley (violin), Thomas Sedgwick (violin), William Shaw (violin), George Harrison, Henry Middleton, Hatfield, John Barnard, Joseph Shaw’s servant/apprentice, Charles Mason and William Audsley. Were any of these Leeds Waits?
1737Aug 10th, “By Ino Midgley for playing six nights at 5/- per night, 1”10”- “
from the Account Book of the York Assembly Rooms, currently housed in the York City Archives, Exhibition Square. This seems like the Midgeley of the Green Dragon in Harrogate. Was this John Midgley the only Leeds Wait to play at the York Assembly Rooms during the Lent Assize, Card assemblies, Lammas Assizes and the May and August race meetings at Knavesmire?
1739“war with Spain declared with the usual solemnity by the Mayor, Aldermen, Common Council etc., the Town’s Musick playing before them ‘Britons Strike Home!'”
An item in The Mercury, November 1739, cited by Hargrave. “Britons Strike Home” is from the opera “Bonduca” (1695) by Henry Purcell, in which it is sung by the archdruid and a chorus of druids, but as a patriotic song it must have maintained its popularity for half a century, despite being re-used by Dr Pepusch with somewhat different words by John Gay in “The Beggar’s Opera”.
1741September, a series of subscription concerts at the Rotal Oak, Briggate, were organised for the winter season.
If Midgeley and the other Leeds Waits were entertaining at York Assembly Rooms, surely they would be doing likewise at home in Leeds? Cited by Hargrave.
17422 November: “a Person that can play well on the Hautboy, if such a one will apply to the Printer hereof he shall find proper Encouragement.”
Advert in the Leeds Mercury. Who was looking? One of the waits? Cited by Hargrave.
17573 November: “On Thursday November 3rd Will be performed at the Assembly Rooms in Leeds a Concert of Musick.
Act I. Concerto, Hautboy Mr. Perkins
Act II. Hautboy Solo Mr. Perkins

Local press notice cited by Hargrave. Was Mr. Perkins one of the borough waits? There was an oboist called Perkins in London at that time, but there is no indication that this Mr Perkins was an import. Another possibility is Thomas Perkins of York who, according to James Merryweather, was a waite of that city, and he played the oboe and flute.
175728 November: “Yesterday the Gentlemen of the Independent Company now forming in this town, went through their Exercise with great Dexterity, after which they marched in good order to the Front opposite the ‘Three Legs’ where they made three excellent Fires in honour of the Victory gained by the King of Prussia over the common enemies of Justice, Religion and our Country.”
Report for 29th November in The Leeds Intelligencer, cited by Hargrave, of the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763).
175728 November : a concert at the Assembly Rooms “For the Benefit of Mr. Perkins”
and including:
Act I. Concerto Hautboy Mr. Perkins.
Act II. Concerto for two Hautboys, Mr. Perkins and son.

Local press notice cited by Hargrave. Mr. Thomas Perkins of York had a son, aged 17 in 1757, who was probably the duettist.
175810 January 1758: “Yesterday our two Independent Companies marched from their Exercising Ground with Drums beating and Colours flying to the Cross where they fired three vollies in honour of the King of Prussia’s taking of Breslaw.”
Report in The Leeds Intelligencer, cited by Hargrave. Below, in the music manuscript book of the Crawshaw family, among the sixty pieces including several marches, is the music for The King of Prusshia’s March. What music could be more appropriate for a celebration of the victories of our ally, and who more likely to play it for the local militia than the town’s waits?
Crawshaw Manuscript
175813 December: a concert, including:
Act I. Concerto Hautboy Mr. Perkins
Act II. German Flute Concerto by Mr. Miller
Act III. Duet for 2 Hautboys Mr. Perkins & Son

Local press notice cited by Hargrave. Again Mr. Perkins and son. Was Mr. Miller a member of the waits?
1762William Herschel’s Yorkshire soujourn
William Herschel moved from his post as Director of Music to the Durham Militia in April to reside in Leeds, and performed in concerts in and around Leeds. In November 1764 he took up the post of organist at Halifax Parish Church, continuing to perform in subscription concerts until he moved to Bath in 1766. An eighteenth century music manuscript book associated with the Crawshaw family of Leeds musicians and waits (see below) contains two Herschel-related pieces, “Vilo Primo March of Mr. Herschel” and “Lady Millbank’s Minuet” named after the wife of his former employer Sir Ralph Millbank, the Colonel of the Durham Militia. A third piece in the book, “The Macklenburg Minuet”, obviously commemorates Queen Charlotte od Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who married King George III in 1761, may also have a Herschel connection as I know of no other source.
Crawshaw Manuscript
1765“The first whole week after Michaelmas, The Quarter Sessions. Dine with the old Mayor, go to Court after dinner to swear the new Mayor. Sup with the new Mayor. Waites playing before them from Court.”
5th November. Waites to play before the Mayor to church.”
29th May. A gown day, and if not Sunday, the Waites to play before the Mayor to church.”
22nd June. A gown day, and if not Sunday, the Waites to play before the Mayor to church.”

from a memorandum book of Thomas Barstow, Town Clerk of the Borough of Leeds in the mid-eighteenth century, listing annual duties, cited by Wardell. The court quarter sessions were in fact held in the Moot Hall in Briggate. A new court house was not erected until 1811, in Park Row, opening in 1813. The Moot Hall was finally demolished in the 1820s.
177031 May at Leeds Parish Church, a performance of “Messiah”
“The Hautboys, Clarinetts, &c., by Mr. Tatnall, Mr. Perkins, Mr. Turner, Mr. Lincoln, and Mr. Muchman from London. ….The rest of the performers were from Wakefield, Halifax, Manchester, Sheffield, and other parts adjacent.”

Perkins again (senior or junior?), and also Tatnall, Turner and Lincoln as Leeds-based wind musicians. Concert programme cited by Hargrave.
17701 June 1770 at Leeds Parish Church, a performance of “Judas Macchabeus”
“The Hautboys, Clarinetts, &c., by Mr. Tatnall, Mr. Perkins, Mr. Turner, Mr. Lincoln, and Mr. Muchman from London. …The rest of the performers were from Wakefield, Halifax, Manchester, Sheffield, and other parts adjacent.”

Perkins again, cited by Hargrave.
177917 May
“Unanimously ordered and agreed that the Treasurer pay to Joseph Fountane Esquire late Mayor of this Corporation the sum of Twelve Pounds towards his Expenses of Cloathing the Baliffs, Beadle, Belman and Waits in his Mayoralty.
Unanimously ordered and agreed that the Treasurer pay to Gamaliel Lloyd Esquire the present Mayor of this Corporation the Sum of Nineteen pounds towards his Expenses of Cloathing the Baliffs, Beadle, Belman and Waits in his Mayoralty.”
Elsewhere in the book, when a Mayor is appointed on or about the 29th of September each year, the record of appointment generally includes:
“….to have the same allowance as his predecessors had.”
From the Minute Book of Leeds Corporation.
17805 July
“Crawshaw, musician, Leeds theatre”
Actor/impresario Tate Wilkinson’s receipt books (York Central Library YCL Y792). This Mr. Crawshaw was presumably the father or grandfather of Thomas Crawshaw (1781-1858), the last of the pre-1835 Corporation Waits, performing at Tate Wilkinson’s Theatre on Hunslet Lane. As waits membership tended to run in families, it is highly likely that this Mr. Crawshaw was a borough wait. For the record, other Leeds musicians performing at Tate Wilkinson’s theatre were string player and music shop owner Edward Porter and Messrs. Theaker, West, Wilson and Wood. Local musicians in the theatre earned around 2/6p per performance, and the theatre band in Leeds was normally four or five musicians, plus one or even two drummers for some performances, drummers earning only 1/0d per performance. According to Tate Wilkinson’s accounts, there were three or four performances per week at Hunslet Lane, and the season ran for three months from mid-May to mid-August. His season at York Theatre Royal ran from January to mid-May plus the late August race week, Wakefield for three weeks in September, Doncaster from late September to mid-October, Sheffield mid-Octobetr to mid-November and Hull from mid-November through December.
Crawshaw Manuscript
1781Thomas Crawshaw, son of William Crawshaw, christened 7th June, at Saint Peter’s Parish Church, Leeds.
The birth of Thomas Crawshaw (1781-1858).
17825 July
“Midgley, musician, Leeds theatre”
Tate Wilkinson’s receipt books. This was presumably the son of John Midgley, Wait of Leeds, who played with his father at York Assembly Rooms in 1737, or possibly his grandson, performing at Tate Wilkinson’s Theatre on Hunslet Lane. As with the 1780 Crawshaw above, another probable wait.
Crawshaw Manuscript
17845 July
“Porter, Edward, musician (strings)
Theaker, musician
Wilson, musician (bassoon?)
Wood, musician
Tate Wilkinson’s receipt books, performing at his Theatre on Hunslet Lane. Edward Porter owned a local music shop. Were any of these local musicians also members of the borough waits?
1788“the Town Band performed with the band of the 44th Regiment of Foot ‘on the occasion of the passing of the Bill to prevent the exportation of live sheep and wool'”
Local press report in July of that year, cited by Hargrave. This was of course legislation to protect the domestic wool textiles industry, and is reported in Hansard. According the the Curator of the Essex Regiment Museum, the 44th Regiment of Foot (The East Essex) was stationed in Leeds from April to November 1788.
1788November, “The centenary of the Glorious Revolution was honoured in Leeds with every demonstration of public joy.”
Annals of Leeds, by John Mayhall (1860). This civic celebration would of course have required the services of the Waits.
1789“This Town Band, (of which we know so little) also played before the Corporation in the procession to and from the Parish Church, on the day of thanksgiving or the “happy Restoration of His Majesty’s health.”
March 16th local press report in the Leeds Mercury, cited by Hargrave. It refers of course to remission of the insanity of King George III, who suffered from the hereditary disease, porphyria (port wine urine disease). According to official sources, on 26 February 1789 George III’s physicians had issued a bulletin announcing the King’s recovery from his first serious bout of porphyria, and the news prompted widespread public thanksgiving. THis is also reported by Mayhall
1792“Many associations were formed about this time for the protection of liberty and property against ‘republicans and levellers’. Meetings were held in Leeds to make public Declarations of Loyalty to the Constitution, and ‘God Save The King’ was sung in the Parish Church, accompanied by the organ ‘in excellent time’, and it was also sung at the Market Cross and other places aided by the Town’s Band.”
Report in the Leeds Mercury, cited by Hargrave. Republican sentiments were common, resulting from the French Revolution of 1789. A similar report appeared in the Leeds Intelligencer on 24th December.
1794June 4th, the King’s Birthday. “..at 10 o’clock the Leeds Volunteers assembled in the yard of the White Cloth Hall, and from there marched through all the principal streets of the town, accompanied by an excellent band of music.  The band played such loyal airs as “God save the King”, Britons strike home”, “Rule Britannia” etc..”
Press report, cited by Hargrave. The local volunteers’ band must surely have been built around the waits.
1794October 19th “The band of the Leeds Volunteers seems to have been rather notable, for when the Troop of Cavalry (raised in the Wapentake of Skyrack) went to Harewood Church it accompanied them, playing “God save the King” and other popular tunes.
Press report, cited by Hargrave.
1798“Crowshay, William, musician, Kirkgate Crowshay, William jun., musician, Kirkgate Crowshay, Thomas, musician, Kirkgate Lawson, D., musician, St Peter’s Square Lister, Richard, musician, Meadow-lane Porter, E., musician & musical instrument seller, Lower-head Row”
Leeds Directory for the year 1798, the first published directory of the borough. Such early directories did not list every inhabitant, only leading citizens and business people. Crowshay and Crawshaw were alternative versions of the family surname (see below). Not all professional musicians were waits, but from the records of other towns and cities, there is a strong correlation. There is no mention of the Leeds Wait Thomas Laycock, whose obituary is cited below, as a musician. Perhaps he was not of adequate status to be listed.
Crawshaw Manuscript
1801June 4th “Leeds was brilliantly illuminated inOctober in consequence of the ratification of peace between Great Britain and France.””
Cited by Mayhall. Another formal civic precession and proclamation.
1804April 26th, the two battalions of the Leeds Volunteer Infantry returned to Leeds from York, and were preceded along York Road from the borough boundary by “a select band of music”.
Cited by Hargrave.
1804June 4th the King’s 66th birthday, “fifes and music (of the Leeds Volunteers) playing “God save the King”.”
Cited by Hargrave.
1817“Crawshaw Thomas, musician, Harper’s Yard”
Entry in the Directory of Leeds, 1817. Could this be the Thomas Crowshay of the 1798 listing? Harper’s Yard was in the Kirkgate division of the borough, and was a side-street off Kirkgate itself. Directories from 1798 onwards list a number of other musicians, but with no known links with the Leeds Waits. Among them are William Heginbotham, David Lawton (Lawson), Richard Lister, Edward Porter, William Southern and Thomas White.
182021 February, A procession was arranged to mark the Accession of King George IV, the order being:
“Chief Constable, Detachment of the 4th Dragoon Guards, Colonel Salvin and the Recruiting Staff of the District, Division of the 6th Regiment of Infantry, Band of the 6th Regiment, Constables, Musicians [waits], Deputy Constable, Beadle etc., Sheriff’s Officers, Mace, Mayor and Vicar, Aldermen and Common Councilmen, Gentlemen on horseback, Division of the 6th Regiment of Infantry, Staff of 1st West Yorks Militia, Detachment of the 4th Dragoon Guards”
The procession route was up Park Row, down Upperhead Row, along Briggate and Call Lane, up Kirkgate and down Briggate, with the Proclamation read at the Courthouse, the Market Cross, the bottom of Briggate, the Vicarage and at Boar Lane end.
Another subsequent procession was to the Parish Church for a memorial service for the late King George III, the order being:

“Chief Constable, Troop of 4th Dragoons, Cavalry of The Leeds Yeomanry, Freemasons, Churchwardens, The Town’s Waits, The Deputy Constable, Beadle, Macebearer and Town Crier, Mayor and Vicar flanked by Col. Campbell and Col. Salvin, Aldermen, Assistants, Town Clerk, Gentlemen, Operative Masons, The Orange Society, The Independent Odd Fellows, Sixth Regiment of Foot”.
This procession went up Boar Lane, up Briggate and along Kirkgate to the Parish Church.
A loyal petition was signed by over 700 local citizens, led by the Mayor and Corporation but including gentlemen, members of the professions, merchants and tradesmen of the Borough. Signatories included:

“Thos. Crawshaw, woolstapler
Thos. Laycock, clothier”
so being a wait was only moonlighting then like it is now! From the Minute Book of Leeds Corporation.
Crawshaw Manuscript
1824“On the 7th inst. in the 87th year of his age, Mr. Thomas Laycock, for upwards of 45 years one of the Waits of this borough.”
Obituary in the Leeds Mercury, Sept 18th, cited by Mattison. From the obituary details, Thomas Laycock was born about 1738, which would make him 60 years old at the date of the 1798 directory, late in his career as a wait, but surely within the 45 year period of his service. Is there supporting biographical evidence? There is no corresponding christening in Leeds circa 1738, but at nearby Bolton Percy a Thomas Laycock was christened on 20th January 1737, and subsequently married Mary Campey, also at Bolton Percy, on 27th May 1764. Also, just across the river Aire from Bolton Percy, at Ryther, another Thomas Laycock was christened on 10th September 1737.
1826“Crawshaw, Thomas, musician, 14 Harper’s Yard, Kirkgate”
Entry in the Directory of Leeds, 1826. Harper’s Yard is shown on the 1811 map of the centre of Leeds, as an alley off the east side of Harper Street near its junction with Kirkgate. The westward extension of York Street (New York Street) to its present junction with Kirkgate has intersected Harper Street, which still runs from Kirkgate, crosses New York Street, and runs along the back of the covered market extension. New York Street has obliterated the northern end of Harper’s Yard, but the southern end survives, a set-paved alley running from the intersection of Harper Street and Kirkgate along the west side of “The Duck and Drake” public house.
Crawshaw Manuscript
1830“”…… Men of the Recruiting District, six deep. Staff of the Militia and Men, eight deep. Constables, with staves, six deep. Town Waits. Band of the Royal Hussars. One Troop of the Royal Hussars. Detachment of the Roayl Horse Artillery, with a field piece. …..”
Part of the procession for the Accession of King William IV, Leeds Intelligencer, 8 July 1830 and Leeds Patriot anbd Yorkshire Advertiser 10 July 1830. And:
“…of Hussars. 5 Royal Horse Artillery. Free Masons, six deep. Churchwardens, six deep. Beadle and Town Waits. 2 Assistants, two deep. Town Clerk. Aldermen, two deep. Constable. Mace, Constable. Mayor and Clergy. Militia Staff. ….”
Part of the procession marking the funeral of King George IV. Leeds Intelligencer, 15 July 1830.
18318 Sep, “The celebration of the Coronation of their majesties King William IV and Adelaide his queen took place this day.”
Cited by Mayhall. The Waits, including Thomas Crawshaw and George Firth, would certainly have been involved in the civic celebrations.

Crawshaw Manuscript
1834“Crawshaw, Thomas, music teacher, 14 Harper’s Yard, Harper Street”
Entry in the Directory of Leeds, 1834.

Crawshaw Manuscript
1835“The Officers of the corporation named in the governing charter are:
Mayor 1, Aldermen 12, Assistants 24, Recorder 1, Deputy Recorder 1, Town Clerk 1, Deputy Town Clerk (when appointed) 1, Coroner 1, Clerk of the Market 1, Serjeant-at-Mace 1.
Other officers of the corporation are:
Constables (considered as Mayor’s Officers): Chief 1, Deputy 1, Beadle 1, Assistant Beadle 1, Waits 2.
The Beadle, Assistant Beadle and Waits are appointed by the mayor and aldermen during pleasure. The Waits have suits of clothes only.”

Report compiled as part of the review of Leeds Corporation in 1835 in connection with the Municipal Corporations Act.
1835“Corporation funds are frequently expended in feasting and in paying the salaries of unimportant officers. In some cases, in which the funds are expended on public works, an expense has been incurred beyond what would be necessary if due care had been taken. These abuses often originate in negligence … in the opportunity afforded of obliging members of their own body, or the friends and relations of such members.”
Parliamentary Papers (1835) XXIII. Royal Commission on Municipal Corporations. Thus, as “unimportant officers”, the waits were abolished.
1837It is interesting that local press accounts of civic events marking the accession of Queen Victoria and the funeral of King William IV no longer list musicians among the Officers of the Corporation processing around the town to make the proclamations, unlike the death of KIng George III and accession of King George IV in 1820 and the death of King George IV and accession of King William IV in 1830 (above), evidence that the corporate waits really were abolished with the implementation of the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act.
1837“Crawshaw Thomas, musician, Harper yard”
“Firth, George, musician, 15 George Street”

Entries in The Directory of Leeds, 1837. There are also entries in Leeds Directories for George Firth, musician, at 15 George Street in 1837, 1839 as “professor of music and straw hat manufacturer”, 1842, 1843 and 1845 as “musician and professor of music” and in 1847 as “musical instrument maker”. Firth expanded in the 1840s into 17a George Street. Those premises are now underneath the new Victoria Gate/John Lewis shopping complex. See the entry for 1848 (below).
Crawshaw Manuscript
1840In a survey of the poor housing in Leeds, prior to large-scale demolitions of such insanitary accommodation, only one house was recorded in Harper’s Yard, that being of two floors, two rooms, of total size 1000 cubic feet, with five residents. Was this the house where at least two generations of the Crawshaw family had lived and taught music. The demolition of houses in the by then notoriously squalid and unhygienic Leeds yards, ordered by the Improvement Commissioners of Leeds in conjunction with the construction of sewers and a domestic water supply may account for the subsequent fall into destitution of Thomas Crawshaw.
Crawshaw Manuscript
1848“Mr. George Firth, musical instrument maker, was for many years one of the town’s waits, and was greatly respected by his musical friends.”
Obituary in The Leeds Intelligencer, 18th March. This would appear to be our musician/ professor of music/musical instrument maker from 15 George Street. He was almost certainly the son of George Firth who died 14 January 1827 aged 56, professor of music and bandmaster of the 1st West Yorks Militia.
185815th November, Thomas Crawshaw, age 76 years, occupation musician, cause of death bronchitis, place of death Workhouse 1, Grantham Street, Leeds South-East.
Death certificate, registered on the 17th of November, attested by the mark of Ann Hyde of the Workhouse who was present at his death and the signature of Edward Cooke, Registrar. Workhouse 1 was otherwise known as the Vagrant Office or Mendicity Office, and was established in 1818 on St. Peter’s Street, moving to Grantham Street about 1836. The Grantham Street in question was in the Richmond Hill district east of the city centre and just south of the then Marsh Lane Railway Station, not the one off Woodhouse Lane. The Vagrant or Mendicity Office was established for the discouragement of begging, supported out of the Poor Rate, and some years gave support to up to 6,000 people, according to White’s “History, Directory and Gazeteer of the West Riding” of 1837. It was separate from the main workhouse which was located at Lady Lane until 1858 and then at Beckett Street. Geo. Hollings was the Supervisor of the Mendicity Office from 1818, but in the 1851 census Sarah Hollings, widow, was listed as Head.
Crawshaw Manuscript
“name: Crawshaw, forename: Thomas, burial: 14144, grave: 6641”
Entry in the register of burials at Beckett Street Cemetery, Burmantofts, Leeds. Grave 6641 is a “common grave”with multiple interments, with no headstone, although a small memorial was subsequently added for two other occupants. The grave is located in the consecrated or Anglican section of the cemetery.
Crawshaw Manuscript
“Thomas Crawshaw, musician, the last of the old Corporate Waits, died Wednesday last, aged 74.”
Obituary in the Leeds Intelligencer, Nov 20th, cited by Mattison.
Crawshaw Manuscript
A large concourse of people assembled in the Burmantofts Cemetery, near Leeds, on Sunday afternoon last, to witness the funderal of Thomas Crawshaw, last survivor of the old (as they used to call themselves) ‘Corporate Waits’. Crawshaw was an inmate of the Mendicity Office, and died on Wednesday week, aged 74. A large procession of the inhabitants of the district, was formed near the Mendicity Office, and with Milburn’s band proceeded to the Burmantofts Cemetery. The band on the route to the cemetery played ‘The Dead March in Saul’. The funeral service was read by the Rev. R. C. Weston, after which ‘Luther’s Hymn’ was performed by the band, and the assembly dispersed. The approaches to the cemetery were crowded with spectators.”

Report of the funeral in “The Leeds Intelligencer” 27 November 1858. Herbert Milburn was a leader of the brass band movement in towns and workplaces across the noth of England, in 1858 at the start of an illustrious musical career. Handel’s ‘Dead March’ and Luther’s ‘Ein Feste Burg’ were a perfect send-off for the last of a long line of civic waits.
Crawshaw Manuscript

This is almost the last link with an original Leeds Wait, the office having been abolished by the Municipal Corporations Act in 1835. There can be little doubt that Thomas Crawshaw, christened in 1781 in Leeds Parish Church, and Thomas Crawshaw, pauper musician dying in Workhouse 1 in 1858, is indeed the Thomas Crowshay listed as a musician in the Leeds Directory of 1798, presumably living in the parental home off Kirkgate. In 1798 he would at that time have been around seventeen years old, at the very start of his sixty year musical career.

However, there is one last link, a manuscript music book in the Special Collections of The Brotherton Library, The University of Leeds, containing nearly sixty pieces of music from the eighteenth century, nearly all the music written in the same hand but inscribed in four different hands with the names “William Crowshay”, “William Crawshaw”, “Thomas Crowshay His Book Leeds 1800” and “Thos Crowsha Book 1803 Leeds”. This book belonging to several generations of the Crawshaw family contains marches appropriate to the militia, minuets and other dances of the Assembly Rooms, and keyboard pieces including some from the London theatres, some dating back to the time of Handel.

There is now also a published version of this history available:
A. Radford (2009) The Leeds Waits: official town musicians and peripatetic entertainers for over three centuries.
Publications of The Thoresby Society, second series, vol. 19, pp 59-76.