Leicester Waits

1499:  Thomas Wylkyns, waite

29 Sep 1499:  “condescended & agreed at the same comen hall yet euery of the sayd XLVII shall pay to the waytes iid. A quarter.”

1503:  Sureties of two waits for the collars of silver delivered to them.

29 Sep 1524:  “Waytes liveries 16s.”

6 Oct 1539:  “The weyttes collars wayth XIII onc.”

3 Mar 1542:  “Item the collers doth wey VII ounce dim & halfe a quarter delyveryd unto the hands of Will. Vernham & Ric. Randall the XIXth day of Nouvembre.”

1542:  “weytes lyveries 24s.”

1542:  “To the weytes in money 4d.”

1542:  “Mendyng of the towne weytys collars 3s. 4d.”

1548-9:  “wayghtes gownes 37s. 6d.”

1548-9:  “goldsmythe for an ounce of silver and twelve pence ouer wayght for the reparacions of the wayghts collers 9s.”

1562:  List of sureties for the waits’ collars with three named waits

1564-5:  Payment to “straunge weattes at the Mayor’s dinner”

1572:  “Also it is further agreed at this said common hawle that they, the nowe weytes appointed for the said towne of Leicester, shall have gownes for tis yeare, the price to bee vi s. vii d. Or vii s. a yarde at the moste.”

20 Nov 1573:  An order that the new waits shall continue.

UPDATE, 3 April 2019:
From Chambers’ Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts, Volume 42.
“At Leicester, in the year 1575, it was ordered that the ‘town wayts,’ in consideration of the money they received from the taxes inflicted upon every housekeeper ‘of reasonable ability’ for their support, should ‘play every night and morning orderly both winter and summer.'”

23 Nov 1576:  Waits to have gowns provided for them before Christmas.

1576-7:  “weytes collars £5 10s. 0d.”

22 Nov 1577:  “Hit is agreed to have weites as aforetyme hathe been used. And they to have this yeare cotes of orringe color, and the snicke file of there sleves etc.”

1578-9:  “4 yardes and a halfe of orange tawny for the weites cootes 38s.”

17 Nov 1582:  “Item it is agreed yat euerye inhabiter or housekeeper in Leicester (beinge of reasonable abyllytye) shalbe taxed (att the discression of Mr. Mayor) what they shall quarterlye geve to waytes towards the amending of there lyving. In consyderacion whereof the said waytes shall kepe the towne, and to playe euerye night and morning orderlye, boethe winter and somer, and not to go forthe of the towne to playe except to fayres or weddings then by the license of Mr. Mayor.”

17 Nov 1582:  “Item that no estraungers, viz. waytes, mynstrells or other muzicions whatsoeuer be suffered to playe within this towne, neyther att weddings, or fayor tymes, or any other tymes whatsoeuer.”

18 June 1583:  “By whom yt was agreed that the muzicions Mr. Gryffyns servauntes should be admitted and appointed the towne waytes and to have suche wages or sallarye as the towne waytes heretofore have had.”

13 Mar 1584:  “Item it is ordered that the waytes shall have from henceforth xiid. a quarter ….. and not to goe forthe of the towne to play, without lycense, neither anye straungers to be suffered to playe within the towne.”

21 Nov 1601:  “This is to let your worshippe vnderstand, that I am willing to fulfil all your requestes and myndes, and to putt vpp all injuries afore this on tyme more, hopinge itt shalbe the last in this sorte, according to his owne speech, vis. That his sonne shall pley the base one seisen, and myne an other, and his father his olde parte the treable, and so to bee iuste five, our firste stinte, and the first boye to pley one quarter his, and the next myne as longe, with this exception. Looke who is wantinge without reasonable cause att anye tyme, and will not give his attendance having sufficient notice, shall lose his share. And so if I might intreate those that are heare in presence to be witness to this agreement.”

21 Nov 1601:  “Thomas Poynter, George Ridgley, waytes”

1601:  Mayor’s decree: “If George Ridgley subscribe likewise to this agreement then I will that they continue their places as our waits. If not that they yield their collars to my Deputy.”

21 Sep 1602:  “The waytes, because they cannot agree togeither, are therefore dismissed from beinge the Towne Waytes, from henceforth.”

28 Jan 1603:  “Item itt is further ordered and agreed that George Ridgley and his companye (beinge five in the wholl) be from henceforth (upon his good behaviour) admitted the towne waites, having a laufull and sufficient companye skillfull in the knowledge and arte of muzicke.”

Undated:  Petition by George Ridgley, head wait, to the Mayor and Corporation complaining about Thomas Poynter and his company playing at inns and weddings in breach of the waits’ monopoly.

1613:  “Item paide to Barnabas Turvile for mending the Muzicions silver collers and Scutchens that wanted certen peeces of silver vs.”

1627:  Thomas Pollard, head wait

25 Apr 1627:  “Item it was agreed by most voices that the Waytes shall have noe Wages payed them here after in respect of theire negligent Service in not playing about the Towne at the tymes appointed and theire Scutchions to be called for and kept from them until other order to be theirin taken.”

4 July 1663:  “At this hall it is unanimously agreed that the Musicians now presented to this hall being foure men and a boy shalbe received as Waites into this Corpporacion and shall have Cloakes every twoe years, the 4 men shall have 4 Nobles a yeare …..”

1665:  “Paid to the Waights and Drummers the 29th day of May last past beinge his Majesties birth Day … xijs.”

1666:  The waits petioin for badges “as heretofore were provided”

1667-8:  “Item paid to the 5 waites for two quarters wages at a noble a quarter a peece iiil. Vjs. Viijd.”

1670:  Robert Howe, head wait.

1671:  Discord, and the waits dismissed.

1674?:  “The waites to have nothing out of the Towne purse for any done for the Towne the Maior and Companys att faires or any other publike meetinge.”

1671:  Discord, and waits dismissed

1684-5:  “Item paid the Waites for playing before the Charter by Mr. Maiors order 5s.”

15 Jan 1697:  “Ordered that the Waites be discharged and their Badges and Cloakes taken from them.”

1 Mar 1700:  “Likewise that the Town Weights shall have no Allowance or Gratuity from this day for Playing at any Feast over and above their Sallarys.”

22 May 1780:  “Ordered that the Salary of each of the Town Waits shall be fifteen shillings per quarter.”

1797:  “Ordered that the Town Waits be reprov’d for their Neglect of Duty & threatened by the Mayor with a Discharge, unless their Attention be more constant in future.”

17 Feb 1819:  “At this Hall the Report respecting the Town Waits below be acted upon.”

26 Aug 1819:  “Ordered that the petition of the Town Waits be complied with and that Mr. Forrester be requested to purchase the necessary instruments at the expence of the Corporation and that they be marked as the Corporation Property.”

1819:  Report on the Town Waits: “…… plan which has been adopted of substituting Wind Instruments for Violins be ratified …… number of Town Waits be increased from four to six at Salaries of £5 each …”

3 Feb 1820:  Procession on the death of King George III: “the Mayor and Corporation in their full formalities preceded by the Town Waits.”

1821:  Procession on the Coronation of King George IV, the Mayor and Corporation led by the Town Waits.

1826:  “Ordered that the Town Waits have Cloaks every six years instead of every three years.”

30 Jun 1829:  Procession on the death of King George IV and the proclamation of King William IV: ” ….the Mayor and Corporation in their full formalities preceded by the Town Waits.”

1836:  On the implementation of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 in the Borough of Leicester: “For the sake of economy the new corporation abolished a number of lesser posts. The offices of the mace-bearer, four sergeants-at-mace, two bellmen, town crier, six town waits, beadle, and mole-catcher were abolished.”

1836:  “The reformed Corporation sold the waits’ silver badges and their instruments – two horns, two clarinets, four piccolos and a bassoon.”

Records of the Borough of Leicester (1327-1509), ed. M Bateson, Cambridge University Press (1899)
Records of the Borough of Leicester (1509-1603), ed. M Bateson, CUP (1905)
Records of the Borough of Leicester (1603-1688), ed. J E Stocks and W H Stevenson, CUP (1923)
Records of the Borough of Leicester (1689-1835), ed. G A Chinnery , CUP (1965)
A History of the County of Leicester: volume 4: The City of Leicester. R. A. McKinley, Victoria Country History (1958)
The Minstrels and Waits of Leicester, J C Brydson, The Musical Times, May 1948, pp 142-144.

From Alan Radford, 23 Feb 2015.

R A Houston, “Bride Ales and Penny Weddings”, OUP 2014, ISBN 978 0 19 968087 0

In Elizabethan Leicester, there was protection for the town waits playing at ‘anye Weddinds or Bryde howsses’.

“Here are a few more gleanings about the waits of Leicester. There are also some quotes about them in “Town Waits and their Tunes” by Bridge, elsewhere on the waits’ website.” Alan Radford, 28 August 2012.

“The laws which were arranged to provide the town with a due supply of licensed and native music show a marked antipathy (in the minds of the legislators) to foreign minstrelsy, an antipathy not shared by all the Leicester commoners since legislation was necessary. No strangers who were not of the company of the town waits were to be suffered to play in Leicester or at any man’s house, the time of the general assizes alone excepted, and then their foreign playing must be only before strangers. Every housekeeper was taxed to the support of the Leicester waits, and they were forbidden to leave the town to play unless they obtained the Mayor’s licence; a licence might be granted only for foreign fairs and weddings.”From: Records of the Borough of Leicester, by William Henry Stevenson, William Henry Stevenson, Mary Bateson, John Edward Stocks.

“Leicester’s ancient tradition of Town Waits; official musicians who supported the Lord Mayor at civic events, entertained townspeople and feted visitors. The waits were originally guards or watchmen who walked round the town at night looking out for fires or other trouble. They rang bells to tell people the time, or called out ‘2 o’clock and all’s well’. They also played music for the Lord Mayor’s guests on big occasions, and entertained the general public. This became their main job. By 1900 the waits’ instruments were a cornet, a euphonium, a tenor horn and a trombone. From then, the waits mostly played popular requests for a small fee, which was given to charity. By the 1940s, a request would cost about half a crown. The Leicester Waits were disbanded around 1947.”From http://gravitys-rainbow.pynchonwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=Pages_120-136&action=edit&oldid=2027

“Named Leicester Waits: 1842 Thomas Watts, Charles Newcombe, John Ralphs, Samuel Smith ,Thomas Taylor and Robert Ralphs.1847 Thomas Preston, William Sarson and Samuel Foister.”From: Leicester Town Waytes, by Jonathan E O Wilshere

“An ancient Christmas custom quite recently revived is that of the Waits. The Waits were really the town band; a group of paid, professional musicians. They were finally disbanded in 1947 but were revived again a few years back. We had a call from a lady who remembers the old Leicester Waits playing outside her grandfather’s house during the war. It was, she said, very cold, and the blackout meant that they had to know the music by heart. It was, for her, a treasured memory.” From BBC Radio Leicester website (2009).

“Originally night watchmen, the Leicester waits were a group of town musicians who provided music for public ceremonies, as well as at stated times of the day and night in order to mark the passage of the hours, and they dated back to the end of the 15th century, possibly earlier. In 1524 it is recorded that their livery was orange or tawny and, later on, scarlet gowns edged with silver lace, and later again, edged with gold lace. One of their official badges survives, dating from 1695.

At Leicester it is also recorded that in 1581 the waits were obliged to play every night and morning, both winter and summer, and not to go outside the city to play except at fairs and weddings, and then only by license of the mayor. It was further frequently resolved by the councils generally that no strangers, waits, minstrels or other musicians whatsoever be allowed to play within a town, and the Leicester waits were no exception, for in 1581 the City Council had granted them virtual monopoly over all the music played in the city.

In 2002, Councillor Maggie Bodell-Stagg marked her first day of office as Lord Mayor of Leicester by reviving the ancient tradition of the Town Waits. Since 1499, this group of official musicians had performed at civic ceremonies where they supported the Mayor and entertained the people of Leicester. The Town Waits, who had been disbanded in 1947, were reinstated at the Guildhall reception following the election of the Lord Mayor.” From: http://www.immanuelsground.com/composers/John_Valentine.htm