Nottingham Waits

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


1628: Each wait received 10s per annum from the Corporation, but compulsory contributions from the townspeople: from aldermen 4s, commoners of the better sort 1s, and the lower ranks whatever they could afford.

1633: Corporation dimissed Humphrey Coggs and his son from the waits, but ordered the remaining waits to pay the older man £3.00 a year for the rest of his life.

The lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff Esq: revised and corrected by the author (1710)

“Whereas by Letters from Nottingham we have Advice, That the young Ladies of that Place complain for Want of Sleep, by reason of certain riotous Lovers, who for this last Summer have very much infested the Streets of that eminent City with Violins and Bass-Viols, between the Hours of Twelve and Four in the Morning, to the great Disturbance of many of Her Majesty’s peaceable Subjects. And whereas I have been im∣portuned to publish some Edict against these Mid∣night Alarms, which, under the Name of Sere∣nades, do greatly annoy many well-disposed Persons, not only in the Place above-mentioned, but also in most of the Polite Towns of this Island. I have taken that Matter into my serious Con∣sideration, and do find, that this Custom is by no means to be indulged in this Country and Climate. It is indeed very unaccountable, that most of our British Youth should take such great Delight in these Nocturnal Expeditions. Your robust true-born Briton, that has not yet felt the Force of Flames and Darts, has a natural Inclination to break Windows; while those whose natural Ruggedness has been soothed and softened by gentle Passion, have as strong a Propensity to languish under them, especially if they have a Fidler behind them to utter their Complaints: For as the Custom prevails at present, there is scarce a young Man of any Fashion in a Corporation who does not make Love with the Town-Musick. The Waits often help him through his Courtship; and my Friend Mr. Banister has told me, he was proffered Five hundred Pounds by a young Fellow to play, but for one Winter under the Window of a Lady that was a great Fortune, but more cruel than ordinary. One would think they hoped to conquer their Mistresses Hearts as People tame Hawks and Eagles, by keeping them awake, or breaking their Sleep when they are fallen into it.”

For more on Nottingham Waits, please see John Coldeway’s paper on the Waits of Nottingham and Newark

Available online at

From Alan Radford, 4th February 2020.

Digitised records of Nottingham Corporation are now on line. I’ve extracted the following on the borough waits.


From: Nottingham Borough Records extracts online

1704. Wednesday October 11.
“Town Waits.— Memorandum this day this House agreed that Joseph Dodsley, Mathew Ratcliffe, Mathew Langford alias Gray and John Clayton be the Towns Waites- so long as this house shall think fitt And they were accordingly sworn and had each of them a Badge delivered to him For the Redelivery of which they are to give security to the likeing of this Corporacion.”

1708. Friday August 27.
“The Town Waits. — Memorandum this day Thomas Harryson was admitted and sworn one of the Towns Waites in the room of John Clayton who has left the Town.”

1711. Monday September 17.
“The Town Waits. Memorandum this day Joseph Frost is hereby admitted one of the Waites belonging to the said Town of Nottingham And is to have the usuall Sallarv Badge and Cloak.”

1711. Fridav December 7.
“The Town Waits. — ‘Memorandum this day Mathew Ratcliffe was admitted to be one of the Waites to begin att Christmas next and he is to have the usuall Sallary Badge and Cloak.”

1713. January 3.
“January the third paide to the waits . . . o — i — o”

1713. July.
“gave to the waits that Day as the Proclimation of the Day of thanksgiving was ….. o — i — o”

1718. December 23.
“for a scarlet cloake makeing for one of the waits . o — 6 — o”

1724-5. Tuesday January 12.
“The Waits. — Ordered that the Waites shall be allowed each forty shillings a year and a laced hat and when they shall want Cloaks this Corporacion will consider thereof and likewise of their wages.”

1730. December 24.
“Received of Isaac Wyld Chamberlain one pound ten shillings, the gift of the Corporation to the Waits for one quarter.”

1735/6. January 29.
“The Town Waits ….. 6 — o — o

1747. Wednesday December 9.
“The Waits. — Ordered That the Waites being Three in Number & shall have New Cloaks at the Corporation Expence ; made in the usual manner.”