THE STAMFORD WAITS AND THEIR PREDECESSORS:
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH.
BY JUSTIN SIMPSON.
FATHER TIME is perpetually deepening the shadows of the past, and rendering its former features more and more obscure. Manners, customs, and fashions are continually undergoing changes individually small, and consequently unheeded and unrecorded on their occurrence, but which gradually remodel, not only the external face of society, but also its inner machinery, and the very tone and spirit of its schemes and speculations. Before it is too late, I shall endeavour to place on permanent record all such notices of our town music — the Waits — as are found in the municipal records, an institution which was in the “good old times” considered as a most important and necessary addenda to all municipal state occasions, whose members wore an escutcheon, or badge, on which were the arms of the borough, and received an annual stipend, which at times fluctuated.
In the reign of Henry III., Geoffrey de Rockingham held a virgate of land, late in the possession of Simon le Wayte, who had fled for theft, and which had been held by him on tenure of being castle-wayte (per servicium essendi Wayta in Castro Rokyngham), a kind of musical watchman. This office was also held at other places.
Froissart, the Chronicler (vol. 4, c. 41), speaking of Gaston, Earl of Foix, and a noble entertainment which he gave, says: “Ther wer many mynstrells as well of his own as of straungers ; and each of them dyd their devoyre in their faculties. The same day the Earl of Foix gave to the hereauldes and minstrelles the som of five hundred frankes; and gave to the Duke of Tourayn’s minstrells gounes of gold, furred with ermyne, valued at two hundred frankes.” The order subsequently became degenerated ; and in the 4 Hen. IV., it was enacted “that no Master-Rimour, Minstrel, or other Vagabond, be in any wise sustained in the land of Wales, to make commoiths or gatherings upon the people there.”
In England every vagabond who could thrum a guitar or beat a drum, obtruded his services on all public occasions, and brought great discredit on the order. The regular guilds of minstrels discountenanced these proceedings, but were altogether unable to suppress them, although their regulations contained an ordinance for that purpose.
In the reign of Edw. IV., waits were established in the service of the court, and their allowance at this period is very curious so much so as my reader will pardon its recital. “A wayte that nightlye from Michaelmas to Shrove Thorsdaye pipeth the Watch within this court fower tymes, in the somere nyghtes iiij tymes, and maketh bon gayte at every chambere-doare and offyce, as well for feare of pyckeres and pillers. He eatheth in the hall with mynstrelles, and taketh lyvery at nighte a loffe, a galone of alle, and for somere nyghtes ij candles picke, a bushel of coales; and for wintre nyghtes halfe a loafe of bread, a galone of alle, iiij candles picke, a bushel of coles, daylye whilste he is presente in courte, for his wages, in cheque roale allowed iiijd ob., or else iijd by the discresshon of the stewarde or tressorere and that after his cominge and deserninge; also cloathinge with the household yeomen or mynstrielles lyke to the wages that he takethe, and (if) he be syke he taketh twoe loves, ij messe(s) of greate meate, (and) one galone of alle. Also he partethe with the households of general gifts, and hath his beddinge carried by the comptroller’s assygment; and under this yeoman to be a groome watere. If he can excuse the yeoman in his absence, then he take the rewarde, clotheinge, meate, and all other things lyke to other grooms of the household. Also this yeomanwaight at the makinge of knightes of the bathe for his attendance upon them by nyght-tyme in watchinge clothing that the knight shall wear upon him.”
In the absence of any definite evidence to the contrary, the origin of our town music–the Waits–must be fixed to this period, that of Edward IV. Harrod, in “the Antiquities of Stamford and St. Martin’s,” printed in 1785, vol. 2, p. 418, thus alludes to them and their duties: “The four waits have an annual salary of fifty shillings each, these drest in scarlet cloaks trimmed with gold lace precede the Mayor with their music the day on which he is chosen, commonly called the Mayor’s feast day; on the proclaiming of Simon and Jude fair; and on his Majesty’s birth day ; thrice weekly also in the dead of the night they walk round the streets playing from the above fair to Christmas, at which holidays they call at persons houses where after playing a tune or two (a practice continued to recent times), they are presented with a shilling, or half-a-crown, at the donor’s pleasure. It was customary for them to go the same rounds from the holidays to Lady-day and again call on the same houses, but when there is not a vigilant magistrate this quarter is neglected.”
Many of my readers, especially townsmen, will call to mind, not perhaps without a maledictory growl of disapprobation, hearing one of the party, after playing a short tune, call out, quoting the words of Shakespeare, at the time of:
|“Deep night, dark night, the silent of the night,
The time of night when Troy was set on fire,
The time when scritch-owls cry, and ban-dogs howl,
And spirits walk and ghosts break up their graves.”
‘Good morning, masters and mistresses all, past one, fine morning.” The first allusion that I find relative to them in the Municipal records is an entry recording that “at the Sessions before Thos. Kesteven, Alderman, and his fellow justices, die lune prox. festo Sea. Andrew Apost. (i.e, the Monday before the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, Nov. 30th), in the 2nd Hen. VII. (1486), Henry Hayner, minstrall, pledge Robert Nebour for scuto (or badge), Rauc Pyndar simili mode minstrall, pledge Johnis Rede and Bernhard Richman, and Xpofor Totyll minstr, admiss(us), pledge, Johnes Gybbes p.(er) scuto. and sworn.” The next time they are met with again is in Nov., 1495, [amended to May 1492 in margin] during the Aldermanship of William Radcliffe (a man whose memory should be held in great respect as the founder of the Grammar School), in the following minute: “Md. at this dey receyved of Ralf Boweman a coler of sylv(er) wt a skoehen ordeyned for a wayte, which was afore in the keping, of Roberde Nebo'(ur) Receyved also of John Stede a coler of sylv’ wt a skochen in lyke wise. Receyved also of David Sicill (grandfather of the Lord Treasurer Burghley and Alderman of the town in the years 1508-4, 1514-5, and 1525-6) a coler of sylv’ wt a skochen which John Dyconde hadd in kepying for oon of the wayte.” No further mention is made of the waits until 1628, a period of nearly 133 years: “1628 Sept. 1. At this hall (Peter Fullwood, Gent., Ald.), upon the request of the Earl of Stamford (Henry Grey, 2nd Baron Grey of Groby, co. Leicester (cr. 1603) and first Earl of Stamford, co. Lincoln, so created 26 Mch. 1628, married Ann youngest dau. and coheir of William Cecill 2nd, Earl of Exeter, by whom he acquired the Manor and Castle of Stamford. The Earl of Stamford was afterwards a commander in the service of the parliament, and died 28 Aug. 1673) seaven persons were appointed to be town waytes of Stamford, doe as other waytes doe, and begin their services at the Alderman’s feast, and to have the badges at the cost of the town.” This event may be looked upon as the resuscitation of the order, and placing it on a firm basis. The holders seem to have gone astray, as may be inferred from the wording of the following minute: “1639, Oct. 26, Leonard Cole, Gent., Ald. At this hall Willm Mewes, musician, wth other younge men of his company, are chosen to be the townes waites, and they are to have the use of scutcheons, the said Willm Mewes putting in sufficient securing to the towne for the safe custody and relingg of them when they shall be hereunto called.” The next time mention is made of them is at the latter end of the year 1641, somewhat ticklish times, men’s minds being occupied with matters of a far higher import than our “town waytes,” viz. the struggle between Charles 1. and the parliament: “1641, Dec. 2, Richd Langton, Gent., Ald. At this hall it is ordered and agreed that those three scutcheons of the townes, and two more to be made to them shall be delivered in the custody of Willm Mewes, musicon, to be woorne by him and the rest of his company as the townes musicons, he the said Willm Mewes givinge securing for the safe re-delivery of them at his or, any of their deptures from the place of the townes musicons.” History is silent as to how they toddled on during the period of the civil war and the gloomy interregnum, as the Commonwealth authorities suppressed our mid-lent fair, the race meeting, and the number of public-houses in 1652-3, 64-6, anti 55-6. It is very likely the waits would not escape their pruning knife, but be subjected to some curtailment of privilege. However, when the king came to his own again, the order revived, and continued to toddle on in sunshine and shade till 1832, when the reforming spirit of the age struck their death blow, as will hereafter he seen. 1662, Oct. 23, George Hill, Gent. (G. H. was Steward of the Manor and Castle for the Earl of Stamford, and donor of the little silver cup, still among the Corporate regalia, and which has scratched underneath it these initials, G. A. H., i.e., George and Abigail Hill. The minute book (A) of the hall records the names of several aldermen of the town who took the customary oath on accepting office, before him on the “Scite of the Castle of Stamford”) upon “the peticon of Henry Joanes, Robert Mitchell, Willm Crabton, and ffraunces North, musicons to the Alderman and the rest of the company (they servinge for waites of this corporason) to have liveries allowed them by the corporason as formerly it hath bene. It is ordered and agreed by the alderman, com-burgesses and capital burgesses or comon councell assembled, that they shall have livery cloakes bought them at the townes charge by the Chamberlaines (Robt. Camock, Jr and Willm. Larret) of red cloath of the price of nyne shillings the yard, and the musicians to pay for the makeinge of them, and so for every fouerth yeare after in like manner.” In this progressive age were “a bill of charges” for liveries presented to the Finance Committee of our town council, its adoption would certainly encounter strong opposition, yet at the period of which we speak it was paid, but then it must be remembered that the Corporate revenues were considerably more than now, the freedom money being a source that added much thereto. “1686, Aug. 26, Stafford Thorpe, Gent, Mayor. At this hall it was ordered and agreed upon yt Mark ffleming and Robert Norwood, ye two waites of ye town upon plying ffifty shillings apiece to ye use of ye corporacon shall have licenses granted them to sell ale and beer in their respective houses.” “1692, Aprill 26, Thomas Linthwait, Gent., Mayor. At this Hall itt is ordered and agreed upon, yt Mark ffleming and (Robert) Norwood, formerly ye waites of this corporason, upon their request to ye corporason shall bee again admitted to come and live in Stamford, and serve ye corporason as formerly, and yt ye towne badges shall bee new cast (they p’viding silver chaines as they have p’posed.”)
In Drakard’s “History of Stamford,” p. 158, note, in a bill for persons employed, articles used, and sums that were paid by order of the Hon. Philip Bertie at the election of himself and Chas. Bertie, esq., in 1695, are, i.a., the following disbursements: “The Waits, �2 ; The bellman, 10s. ; The Bull, �3.”
We do not find any more mention of them till ten years after the preceding note, where, judging from the following petition, the late town musick made a sad breach in their manners : “1705, Aug. 81, John Seaton, Gent., Mayor. At this hall it was ordered yt ye petition hereafter written be read and entered in ye town booke, viz., the petition of Walter Rogers. To ye Mayor, Aldermen and capitall burgesses, humbly sheweth, that whereas ye musick of this towne have formerly had cloakes, and I beleive might have continued yt favor to this day, had not a company of rnusicke some time since afronted and disobliged this corporason by going from it and carrying away these cloaks, and this petition humbly begge yt ye favour of foar cloaks may be restored, and that the whole business of musick, cloaks and badges may be lodged in him who will be answerable for them and will alwaye take care as much as in him lies yt ye corporason be served with good musick. This (if you please to grant it) shall allways be acknowledged as a great favour done to ye corporation’s most humble servt and petitioner, Walter Rogers, Stamford, August ye 30, 1705. Ordered, yt four cloaks for ye musick be p’vided as usual at ye corporation charge and that they and ye badges be lodged with ye sd Walter Rogers, according to ye prayer of ye sd petitioner, and yt he be answerable for ye same, and take care to p’vide a good sett of musick.” “1708, Aug, 26, Robt. Langton, Gent., Mayor. A petition of Walter Rogers and his company of musick was presented and read setting forth yt it is three yeares since they had cloaks from ye corporacon and desires they may have new ones as usual. Ordered yt Cloaks be p’vided for them at ye Corporacon charge which are to be for three years.”
“1752, Oct. 5. Charles Rogers was unanimously chosen one of the town waits in the room of Walter Rogers dec. (? res. as Walter Rogers, musician, was buried at St. John’s, 19th Nov., 1752, aet. 81).
“1773, Aug. 26. Francis Sharp, Musician, son of Francis, admitted to freedom, and unanimously chosen one of the waits in the room of Willm. Hinton, dec., 10 Oct, 1776.” He was father of the late Edmund Sharpe, esq., M.A., of Lancaster, the distinguished architect, and was buried in St. George’s, Stamford, as will be seen from the following entry: “1783. Francis Sharp, a most excellent and skilful musician, Mar 31.”
“1772, Nov. 3. Charles Rogers, musician, son of Charles, admitted to freedom.”
“1819, Dec. 19. Mr John Rogers one of the waits resigned and John Woolman, Jr appointed in his room.”
1827, Oct. 4. Under this date are entered in the minute book a list of the municipal officials, and among them are the waits, viz., John Rogers, Chas. Fairchild, John Woolman, (Thadeus) Wells, (John) Belton, and (John) Woolman, Jun. The same names, except Jno. Rogers, are recorded in list of 9 Oct., 1828 ; these are the only instances of their names being recorded.
In 1822, the Chamberlain, Mr. Edw. Butt, paid Mr. Thos. Haynes, silversmith, for new medals for the waits, etc., fifteen guineas. In the next year, Mr. Edw. Askew, the Chamberlain, paid Mr. Haynes for 2 medals, for two additional waits, six guineas.
This time-honoured institution, as far as its being retained in the service of the Mayor and Corporation, was brought to a close in 1832, during the Mayoralty of Mr. John Roden. At a meeting of the hall, held 26 Jan., on the motion of Mr. Chas. Neale Fox, seconded by Mr. Ald. Butt, it was ordered that the Waits be discontinued at the end of the present year (Michaelmas next), and that they have notice thereof. Since that period up to date they have acted as an independent body ; as the old bands died others filled the places. One Of the last of the old regime was Mr. Wm. Thompson, corkcutter, Maidenlane, who retired in 1868, and died in Feb., 1871, at the ripe age of 78, and as Mr. Thad. Wells has left the town, the last connecting link between old and new customs has become severed, and I believe there is not a person now living who served as a functionary under the old system.
In conclusion, I append the following list of payments from the Mayors’ and Chamberlains’ accounts. 1705, Dec. 24, at the auditing of the accounts of John Seaton, gent., late Mayor : “Memorand (i.a.) It is also agreed yt ye Musick be allowed 5s p. man for attendance on Mr Mayor and ye Corporation yearly and no more. 1701 John Butcher, Gent., late Mayor, pd the Musick at Simon and Jude ffair 11s.”
In a MS. account of Richard Brookes, Chamberlain, 1705-6, are the following items. “1705 Nov. ye 26 pd ye Waits as appeares by bill £1 1. 6. 1706 July ye 12 pd ye waits as by bill then £1. 0. 0. ”
“1709. Dr Francis Bellinger, Chamberlain. Pd the Corporation Musick for attending the Mayor’s ffeast and proclaimeing the ffaires 01. 00 00. Pd to Mr ffrancis Willcox for the cloaks for the towne musick and the Bellmans coate £11. 12. 00.”
“1710 Henry Peake, Chamberlain. To ye Corporation Musick for attendingye late Mayor att his toast and at Simon, and Jude (fair) £1. 5. O.”
“1711. Valentine Holtum, late Chamberlain. To ye Corporation music for attendingye late Mayor at the feast, and attending St. Simon and St. Jude fair and ye thanksgiving day £2. 5. 0.”
“1713. Samuel Ross, late Ch. : To the Musick on the proclamation day £1.”
“1718. Willm. Berresford, late Ch – P4 the Musick half a years sallary £5.”
“1719. Robert Miller, late Ch: To the Music a year’s sallary £10.” This is the first entry of the payment of this annual stipend, and it was continued for many years. In 1824 it was raised to £15, and so continued till 1832, when the last payment was made by the Chamberlain, Mr. Chas. Lowe.
“1720. John Smith, late Ch: To Mr Seaton for Musicks Cloaks, £12. 2. 9.”
“1729. Thomas Linthwaite late Ch: pd for Sergeants (at Mace), Bellmans Coat and Musicks Cloaks, £22. 9. S.”
In 1771 Mr James Yorke was paid for same £22 16s. 2d.
“1788. Henry Tatam, Chamb. : pd Mr Rayment for lace for the Musicks cloaks £6. 17. 6.”
“1803. William Elger, Chamb, pd William Elger for Cloaks for the Waits £30. 13. O.”
“1822. Horatio Thos. Gilchrist, Chamb. Extra music on proclaiming the fair, 12s 16d”
“1830. Henry Weldon, Chamb. Payments made to the Musicians on proclaiming King William 4th £1. 18. 0.
NEWSPAPER REPORTS ABOUT THE LAST OF THE STAMFORD WAITS
[Rutland & Stamford] Mercury, 14 Mch 84
Mr. Thaddeus Wells, after a connection with the musical element of the town extending over more than sixty years, is about to leave Stamford and to find a home with one of his relatives. Mr. Wells in his younger days was a member of the band of the Royal South Lincoln Militia before its headquarters were removed from Stamford, of which regiment his father was bandmaster. Mr. Wells, too, was one of the Stamford “town music” or waits-minstrels in the pay of the corporation, who on state occasions played in scarlet cloaks and cocked hats and gold lace. His old pupils and musical associates, by whom he was held in the deepest respect, have determined that Mr. Wells shall not leave Stamford without a substantial recognition of his character and of his long services, and this feeling will no doubt be shared by the town and neighbourhood generally. We understand a concert is to he given next month and that donations will also be solicited.
Last night, under distinguished patronage, a concert was given to mark the leave-taking of Mr. Thaddeus Wells — the last of the Stamford corporation minstrels. There was a large audience. An orchestra of 17 string, reed, and brass instruments gave selections from Suppe, Reyloff, Beethoven, and F. A. Browne (B.M.R.H. Art.); Signor Luchini contributed Mendelsohn’s “Andante e Rondo Capriccioso” and Ascher’s more rollicking “L’Orgie Bacchanale,” and was encored; Messrs. Rippon, J. Squires, and W. Parkinson (Derby) gave solos respectively on the violin, silver flute and cornet, with much skill; Mr. Eldred, of Grantham played a trombone solo, “The Death of Nelson,” which had a very effective military accompaniment; and members of the Rifle Band gave a septuor with brass instruments. Miss Joplin, who was in good voice, sung with clear enunciation and much feeling “Esmeralda” and “Distant lands:” the latter was enthusiastically applauded, and Miss Joplin had again to appear on the platform, when she gave with equal success, “Never to know.” Messrs. Bettle and Dodman also contributed solos, and joined with Miss Joplin in a pretty trio, “The Erl King.” Mr. Rippon expressed Mr. Wells’ thanks for the generous response to the appeal made in his behalf, and also acknowledged the hearty reception given to the Performers. Mr. Rippon, one of Mr. Wells’ most promising pupils. is to be congratulated on the musical success of the concert.
[Rutland & Stamford] Mercury, 14 Mch 84 13/5/87
Fatal Accident to Mr. Thaddeus Wells. — An inquest was held at Burslem on Friday touching the death of Mr. Thaddeus Wells, musician, aged 77, formerly of Stamford, who fell downstairs and fractured his skull on the Wednesday. — Frederick Hood, furnaceman, said he was at the Blue Ball Inn, Nile Street, shortly before midday on Wednesday.
He heard the noise of someone falling, and ran out of the vaults. He saw the deceased lying at the bottom of stairs, his head downwards, and his feet on the third step. He had evidently fallen backwards on to the brick floor. He had not seen the deceased that morning before the accident. Deceased was unconscious when found. Witness lifted him up and called for assistance. Deceased was a feeble man, and sometimes had a difficulty in getting about. — Jane Wells, wife of Charles Wells, landlord of the Blue Ball said deceased was her father-in-law, and had been living there for upwards of three years. He was in good health, but latterly had been feeble. He went out to make some purchases at about 11 o’clock on Wednesday, and returned half an hour afterwards. At about a quarter to 12 he went upstairs and she heard a fall. Mr. Hood and others rushed out and picked deceased up. She immediately sent for a medical man, and Dr. Taylor came.
He said deceased had a fractured skull. Deceased had only fallen down three steps. He died shortly before two O’clock on the same day. – Verdict, “accidental death.” Mr. Wells, who was the son of the band-master of the South Lincoln militia (a regiment formerly quartered at Stamford), served in his younger days as a member of the corporation waits. These minstrels — collectively they were known as “the Town Musick” — when officially engaged wore scarlet cloaks and cocked hats with gold lace, besides a heavy metallic badge bearing the arms of the borough. Mr. Wells left Stamford for Burslem with a public mark of respect for his benefit, and the sad circumstances of his death have caused painful feeling among these who knew him so well.
In recording the death of Mr. Thaddeus Wells in last week’s Mercury we noticed that he was for many years a member of the Corporate Waits or Town Music. Probably few of our readers are aware that the waits were an institution of considerable antiquity. They are first mentioned in our municipal records under date Nov., 1486, when certain minstrels had given them a scuto or badge, and gave pledges for their return in the event of death or leaving the town. In May, 1492, is a minute in book A of our books in the hall acknowledging the receipt of four silver collars with an escutcheon (the arms of the town), and which had belonged to the waits and been in the keeping of (their pledges or securities) Ralf Bowman, John Steele, David Sicill (grandfather of William first Baron Burghley), and John Dyconde. They are again named in the reigns of Charles I., Charles II., James II, William and Mary, Anne, and down to their extinction as far as being considered an important addendum to all municipal state occasions, in 1832. A paper treating upon “the Stamford Waits and their Predecessors — an historical sketch,” with a plate of the old (dated 1691) and new (1823) badges, was contributed to the pages of the Reliquary for July, 1885, by Mr. Justin Simpson, of Stamford.
From Alan Radford, 4th February 2020.
Re; Electing a new Alderman.“The entire oligarchy of the town repaired first to the house of the new alderman for a short banquet, then to the castle yard for the swearing of his oath, then to the Church of St. Mary for a short sermon, back to the new alderman’s house, this time led by gold and silver maces and the town’s waits playing music, with students from the free school stopping him at several points to deliver orations in Greek and Latin, and finally to a great feast for town and country at the new alderman’s house.”