As we’re doing a performance for Wakefield Historical Society in a couple of months, I thought I should do some homework. Attached is my revised and expanded history of the Wakefield Waits, from 1556 when their duties were specified until 1826 when they were abolished, to replace the current entry in “Historical Records”.
Quarter Sessions Records of the West Riding of Yorkshire (October 1724).
Description includes petition of “one of Wakefield Waits” re harassment by attorney.
“Many particulars of the Wakefield Waits are given in W. S. Banks’s ‘Walks in Yorkshire’ “, 1871 (Reliquary, xii, 117-118).
From “Walks in Yorkshire – Wakefield and its Neighbourhood” by W S Banks (1871), pp 81-88.
Submitted by Dr. Alan Radford
The Town Hall [in 1871] contains a few memorials of older Wakefield, as the Constables’ accounts from 1715, and two or three “Waits” badges. One of the latter, dated 1688, is engraved. They are of silver, and about five inches by four in size, with loops [top and bottom] to fasten them by. The wearers were not called Waits because they sang at Christmas, as is the case in our own day. They were the town’s night watchmen, who chanted the hours and half hours, and made known the sort of weather throughout the time they were on duty, as – “half past two o’clock and a fine and frosty morning.”*
* I do not know the origin of the Waits, unless this entry in the Parish Register records it:-
Some extracts from the Corporation accounts relating to the Waits:
From the above accounts we can calculate the cost of equipping an 18th century Wakefield Wait. Note that it is unusual to find records of provision of any item other than a livery coat and badge, so until the early nineteenth century the Waits of Wakefield were very fortunate.
4th February 2020 – from Alan Radford
The Leeds Waits having taken a booking from Wakefield Historical Society, I really needed to find out more about the Wakefield Waits than we currently have on the website.
The Manor of Wakefield dates back to the Conquest, and includes not only the present Wakefield MDC area but also extends far to the west to encompass Huddersfield and Halifax! There is a Wakefield Borough charter dating back to 1307 but the borough seems to have fallen into oblivion about 1580 when its assets and functions were divided between the Manor and the town burgesses. Did the town have another charter, perhaps from the Lord of the Manor rather than from the Crown? Anyway, the town burgesses largely dealt with the town of Wakefield and the Manor Court Leet with the rest of the manor. It does seem odd that at various times the Wakefield Waits had different masters, with payments in 17th and 19th centuries in the records of the Parish Church/Vestry and in the 18th century from the Town Accounts.
However, I found the two volumes of J W Walker’s “The History of Wakefield” in the Brotherton Library to be a useful source. In addition to the information we already have from the book by W S Banks [designated so below], Walker has the following.
The waits were the night watchmen who kept the hours, they were three in number, and it was not until 1826 that they were superseded by a police force.
Each wait wore a silver badge of office, for which he had to find a surety to deliver it up. Three of these badges were in the possession of the Corporation in 1871, one of which was dated 1688.
There are line drawings in the book of two of the badges, the one dated 1688 (which is now in private ownership) and the broken one now in Wakefield Museum.
In the early 19th century John Houlden, musician, musical instrument seller and Town Wait had a shop off Northgate.