Newcastle Waits

Payments to Waits

From Alan Radford, 19th February 2022

Reprints of Rare Tracts & Imprints of Antient Manuscripts, &c: Chiefly
Illustrative of the History of the Northern Counties;
and Printed at the Press of M. A. Richardson, Newcastle, Volume 3, M. A.
Richardson, 1849

March 1561 accounts, Newcastle upon Tyne corporation
payments to wayttes of
Cockermouthe – 3s.
Thriske (Thirsk) – 3s.
Darnton (Darlington) – 3s.

The Charter of 1677

From Alan Radford, 4th February 2020

Click here to read a transcription of the magnificent Newcastle Waits Charter of 1677

Newcastle Waits

As quoted in Christopher Marsh’s book, “Music and Society in Early Modern England”
(Cambridge University Press, 2013. ISBN 1107610249, 9781107610248.)


Elizabethan times: The waits played at the Corporation’s audit dinners, also at shows put on by visiting players.

1631: Mayor and Aldermen paid the wait Robert Mawpous £1.00 to cover a period of sickness.

Newcastle Waits


1.   Madeleine Hope Dodds ‘Northern Minstrels and Folk Drama’ Archaeologia Aeliana (1925), 4 series, v1, p.121-146

Earliest mention of minstrels from Ncle in Durham Priory Account Rolls, which mentions rewards given to them in 1278, 1335-6, 1360. Also town waits at Darlington in 16th century, at Gateshead in 17th century, Alnwick waits survived till 19th century.

2.   John Brand ‘History and Antiquities of the Town and County of the Town of Newcastle upon Tyne, v 2, (London: B. White, 1789)

Pages 353-354
‘The ordinary of this society, citing an ancient one that had been lost, and dated September 18th, 1677, appointed them a fellowship with perpetual succession; enjoined them to meet on the feast of St James the Apostle, and choose two stewards who might sue and be sued, &c. within the courts of Newcastle; that the admission fee should be ten shillings, but to those who came in by patrimony only six shillings and eight-pence; that none should teach music without a licence from the mayor; that no stranger should be suffered to play at weddings or feasts, unless allowed by the mayor, under a penalty of six shillings and eight-pence; that no fiddler, piper, dancer upon ropes, or others that pretended to skill in musick, or that went about with “motions or shewes”, should practice in Newcastle without licence from the mayor, on pain of forfeiting ten shillings; that at marriages where music should be chosen, the waits should be preferred; and if any other musicians, who had the mayor’s licence, were called, their fee should not exceed three shillings and four-pence, under a penalty of ten shillings. [Source footnote: From the book of inrolments in the archives of the Corporation of Newcastle. – In a list of the salaries in the time of Queen Elizabeth (ie 1558-1603) ibid. the following entry occurs: “Five waites sallary 20l.”]
By an order of common-council, November 4th, 1646, the waits were commanded to go about morning and evening, according to ancient custom.’

Page 717, Appendix
‘Waits’ Ordinary 1677′ gives the full text where the society is described as ‘fellowship or company of waites and musicioners’ and the petition is signed by the following members:
Robert Word, John Bell, Thomas Moore (Steward 1677), Edward Herbert (Steward 1677), Edward Sweeting.

However, it should be noted that members of the company were not Freemen of the Town.

3.   Extracts from The Municipal Accounts of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Newcastle: M.A. Richardson, 1848)

Page 10
1561,    November, Item, paid to Mr. Maior [ie Mayor] that he gave to two Skottes minstrilles in rewarde, 2s.

Page 11
1561,    December, Item, paid mor to Mr. Maior that he gave to two mynstrilles on Saint Thomas’ daye, 2s.
1561,    Jan. [ie 1561/2] Item, paid to Mayster Maior that he gave to the mynstrilles of this towne and to other mynstrilles of the contrathe [country] in Chrystemmas, 13s 4d.

Page 12
1561,    Feb. [ie 1561/2] Item, paid to Mayster Maior for that he gave to Sir Henry Persy [ie Percy] mynstrilles in rewarde, 6s.
Item,    paid more geven in rewarde to the wayttes of Ledes, 4s.
1561,    March [ie 1561/2] paid by Mr. Maior to the wayttes of Thriske [ie Thirsk], geven them in rewarde, 3s.
Item,    paid mor geven in rewarde to the wayttes of Carlell [ie Carlisle], 3s.
Item,    paid mor geven in rewarde to the wayttes of Darnton [ie Darlington], 3s.
Item,    paid in rewarde to the Skottes mynstrelles, 2s.
1561,    June Item, geving to the waytts of Cockeremouthe in rewarde, 3s.

Page 15-16
1565,    Octobar Item, paid to Mr. Maior for that he gave in rewarde to jesters and mynstrilles for this yeare, as apperythe by the bucke [ie book] of orders, 5l.

Page 17
1568,    Maye The charges of the boner of the play – including ‘to the waites, for playeing befor the players, 2s.

1568-1574 some books missing

Page 19
1579, July Geven to the waittes for playing on Midsommer even, 12d.

Page 20
1590,    October Paid to the mynstrilles of Whickham [County Durham], in rewarde, 3s 10d [for court day there].

Page 27
1593,    October Paid to Mr. John Oldam att London … for 16 iiardes 3 quarters [of broadcloth for liveries] for the waites, the plumer, and the paver, at 7s. 6d. per iiarde, 8l. 5s. 7d.

Page 30
1593,    November [Coronation celebrations] Paide to Will. Lassles and Ro. Askew for playing one the drum and floote, with the gunners, the 17 daie of Nov. for their paines, 5s.

Page 35
1594,    October Paid for a banquet to the Staites [ie soldiers of Flanders coming from Scotland], in Mr Maior’s … the waits playinge musicke, 10s.
Paide to Ro. Askewe for playing with his fife before the drume, 16d.
Paide to the waites for playing musicke at the audit dynner, 5s.

Page 50
1647,    Aprill [for Coronation day] to the gaurds [sic] and waits, 10s.

Page 53
1657,    August Paid which was given to the waites and trumpetters … 40s. [on proclamation of the Lord Protector]

Page 54
1658,    Ocotber [proclamation of Lord Protector] Paid … to the waitts … 33s.

Page 55
1658,    Nov. [for 5th November celebrations] Paid which was given the waites … by order of Mr. Maior, 20s.

Page 57
1660,    19 May [proclamation of the King] Paid the waits by order of the deputy mayor, 20s.

Supplied by Margaret Maddison

NEWCASTLE WAITS: a list taken mainly from parish registers arranged by active date

While checking the Newcastle parish registers from the earliest date to 1690 for another topic I have recorded the waits and musicians so named. There are a few others picked up from other sources (eg Municipal Accounts) or later dates in the registers.

  • The parish registers are as follows:
    All Saints commencing 1600
    St Andrew commencing 1597
    St John commencing 1600 (almost no occupations after 1675)
    St Nicholas commencing 1558 (occupations do not start till 1575)

This will by no means be a complete list. There are many missing registers and smaller gaps (eg the plague years 1635-6) or illegible sections in the registers. There are many registers in which the clerk has listed no occupations at all and others where they are infrequent or only given for guild members. Some clerks use the word musicioner, others use musician or practitioner in music when clearly all mean the same as they refer to the same people – I have used the word musician for all of these, except the ‘waits & musicioners’ recorded in their 1677 Company Ordinary (the only record of the Company to survive).

Open PDF version of list
Open Microsoft Word version of list

Margaret Maddison

22 October 2009, An addition for Newcastle records, Regards, Alan Radford.

New-Castle upon Tyne, Octob. 16 [1665].

On the 14th instant His Majesties Birth-day, Sir Henry Brabant our present Mayor, having summon’d all the Train-bands to be in Arms; He with his Brethren the Aldermen, accompanied by a great number of the Gentry, both of the Town and Country, and preceded by the Town Musick, went in their formalities that Morning to Church, whence (after having heard Divine Service) they returned in like order to the Mayors House; where there was a very noble Entertainment, at which Their Majesties, and Royal Families Healths were drank, with several discharges of Cannon, planted for that purpose, and from Ships in the River.

John Peacock was the Piper of Newcastle upon Tyne, circa 1775.Source: McCandless contains some info on the Newcastle Waits, including their livery of blue coats and tricorn hats (that dates them), and their survival until their discharge in the 1790s.

6 Jun 2017: “Al, Did I send you this? Alan.”


The Accounts of the Chamberlains of Newcastle upon Tyne 1508-1511, ed. C M Fraser (1987). Brotherton Modern History Y-8.2 SOC.

The accounts from the years 1508-1511 are the only ones known to survive before the sacking of Newcastle in 1640 in the Second Bishops’ War. They are mainly a record of shipping, but also of payments, including occasionally to musicians. Year dating is modern.

31 July 1508 – Item payd to Thomas Carr mynstrall for his fee 3s 4d.

8 Aug 1508 – To the mynstrall that playitt affor the mair upon Lammes day 12d.

23 Sep 1508 – To Willm Carr mynstrall the last payment off his fee 10s.

8 Nov 1508 – To Robert Harrison sergant for the three watt’ gownys 33s 4d.

25 Nov 1508 – To Willm Carr mynstrall for making his coller that was granttyd be the Comon Gyld in weight 16 owncc’ be tayll £4 6s.

22 Dec 1508 – Item paid to Thomas Carr mynstrall in party payment off his fee 3s 4d.

6 Apr 1509 – To Thomas Carr mynstrall in party payment off his fee 3s 4d.

27 Sep 1509 – To the Clark off the Watt’ for their wyn 3s.

28 Sep 1509 – To Thomas Carr mynstrall for his quarter wag’ 3s 4d.

25 Dec 1509 – To the Watt’ ther first quarter wag’ 13s 4d.

6 Jun 2017 – From Alan Radford:

“A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Town & County of Newcastle-upon-Tyne”, by E. Mackenzie

“Between this [Carlel] tower and Pilgrim Street Gate were three small turrets, one of which was called the Waits’ Tower, being formerly the meeting-house of a band of musicians kept by the town. At another, which was also once used as a meeting-house, was a curious old arch, compared by Brand to that above Pandon Gate. This part of the wall was pulled down in 1811, in forming one of the branches of the new Shields road.”

A few more choice discoveries. Alan Radford, 4th February 2020.


“A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Town and County of Newcastle upon Tyne”, E Mackenzie (1827).

“The old, merry burgesses of Newcastle maintained, time out of mind, a band of musicians, that waited upon the mayor on gala occasions, played at weddings, and serenaded the inhabitants during winter. They were called the Town’s Waits, and were dressed in three-cocked hats and blue cloaks. There is a tradition that the played while Oliver Cromwell dined in the Town’s House on the Sandhill. One of the towers on the town’s walls was appropriated to their use; but amidst some small, narrow, and gloomy schemes of economy, this company was discharged above 20 years ago.

John Peacock was one of the last members of this corporation band. He was an excellent performer on the Northumberland small-pipes, which instrument he greatly improved by adding a stop and five keys, and also a fourth drone, which enables the player to alter the key. Then late Thomas Wright, of Newcastle, published, under Peacock’s directions, a collection of tunes adapted for the pipes.”

Number of Waits employed by Newcastle

Payment records for the Newcastle Waits and their equipment

Names of Newcastle Waits in the 18th Century

From Roz Southey’s book on 18th century music in the N-E

Aldridge, John, 1786-?
Avison, Richard, 1702-1721
Cooper, Walter, 1755-1765
Cook, William, ?-1712
Franks, ?, ?-1739
Gale, John, ?-1765
Grey, William, 1788-?
Howgill, Thomas, ?-1755
Jubb, John, 1705-1712
Jubb, William, ?-1742
Kell, Henry, 1702
McFarlane, William, ?-1788
Martin, John, 1717-1720
Martin, Robert, ?-1740
Martin, William, ?-1735
Newby, Richard, 1763-1772
Orrick, Bartholomew, 1783-1786
Robson, Robert, ?-1746
Ross, Thomas snr, 1765-1786
Ross, Thomas jr, ?-1786
Shadforth, ?, 1772
Sinclair, William, 1742-1783
Smith, William, ?-1794
Tait, Henry, 1776
Walker, James, 1772-1783
Wightman, John, 1739-1746
Wilkinson, Joseph, 1730-1731
Wrightman, William, 1739