Records of the Scarborough Waits

From The London Gazette (1688)

Scarborough, 3 July [1688] – On Sunday last, the day of publick Thanksgiving for the Birth of the Prince, Mr. Mayor, with the Aldermen and Commons, were in the Evening invited to the Castle by Capt. Wolsley, who commands in chief there, where they were, with divers Gentlemen, very generously entertained; the great Guns firing, and the Soldiers giving Vollies at the drinking Their Majesties’ and the Prince’s Healths: After which the Officers and the rest of the Company went with Mr. Mayor to his House, (the Town Musick playing all the way before them,) where they repeated the Royal Healths:

[This was of course the birth on June 10th that year to King James II and Queen Mary of a Catholic heir, James Francis Edward Stuart, subsequently to be known as The Old Pretender – Alan Radford.]

From: Alan Radford, 01 March 2015:
Bartholomew Johnson, Scarborough Wait.
“We have pictures of the venerable gentleman on our website at Anyway, here’s a bit more to add to the Scarborough historical records:

“On February 17th 1814 Bartholomew Johnson, a celebrated musician in the Scarborough area, died on this day at the age of 103 years, and was interred in Wykeham churchyard. Born on October 3rd 1710, he moved from his home at Wykeham to nearby Scarborough in order to take up an apprenticeship as a barber and for almost seventy-one years he was one of the town’s waits. Bartholomew Johnson’s prowess as a musician, coupled with many commendable personal properties, ensured that he was surrounded by a large circle of friends, and his 100th birthday was celebrated with a jubilee dinner and musical performance at the Freemasons’ Lodge in Scarborough. A medal was struck as memorial of the event and Lord Mulgrave commissioned John Jackson R.A. to paint a portrait of the venerable centenarian, which was later presented to Scarborough Corporation and put on display in the Town Hall.”

From: “Old Yorkshire”, by William Smith (1891).

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



“[After the Reformation] Scarborians kept only a few of the old religious customs, though even fewer now appreciated their meaning and significance. From Martinmas (November 11) eve until Christmas day, the town’s waits played street music and sang songs before the homes of principal burgesses. Bartholomew Johnson, the musician from Wykeham, who had died at the age of 104, had been one of Scarborough’s waits for many years. Between 1794 and 1800, Joseph Todd, the painter, and his two apprentices, John Pecket and George Gambles, were paid four pounds each and provided with blue cloaks by the Corporation to perform the ancient duties of the town’s waits.

The waits started out from the lower part of the borough, passed up Merchant’s Row, Newborough, Bland’s Cliff, King Street, Long Room Street, the Old (St Nicholas) Cliff, Harding’s Walk (Huntriss Row) and then crossed over to the north side of Newborough Street, finishing at Princess Street. Scarborough had no street lights at all until 1810, so that George Gambles had to carry the lantern for the other two to see the music sheets for their clarionets.

The blue-coat men also collected money for the town’s poor at Christmas, New Year and Candlemas, and were invited to play and sing at Corporation feasts and the annual feasts of the town’s craft societies and guilds. For those who could afford them, the waits were hired for weddings, birthdays and burials.”