Waits’ Galleries

Below is the start of a list of musicians’ galleries known or thought to have been built for the use of Waits. Please email to let us know of any others, either still in existence (preferably with photograph) or removed (preferably with copy of contemporary illustration!).

Bath Guildhall, built in the 1770s, showing the musicians’ gallery high on the left, the gallery in the Pump Room, and the gallery to the left in the Upper Room, the latter two drawings from the time of Jane Austen.

Bolling Hall in Bradford has a gallery running the length of the hall, late 16th century but modernised in the 18th century. The Leeds Waits have played from it.

Waits’ gallery in Bruges Town Hall
The stunning gothic town hall of Bruges (1376) is the oldest in Belgium. In the entrance hall, a large staircase leads to the Gothic Hall (1386-1401). The small balcony near the door allowed the town pipers to perform from an elevated platform.

Doncaster Mansion House, one of only three in the country, the others being York and London) has three galleries! The ballroom or grand room, opened in 1749 when “the towns musicians played”, has a balustraded gallery set into a recess with a decorated plaster ceiling featuring music and what looks like a recorder. There is a second balustraded “gallery” at floor level which is much later and was presumably intended to protect the musicians from the dancers! In 1806 a new dining room (now the council chamber) was built with a recessed balcony decorated with Corinthian columns for the “orchestra” By this time the Waites were in decline so whether they actually played in this gallery is perhaps open to question.

For a really up-market venue, there is Fontainebleau minstrels’ gallery (1552). Pwerhaps a suitable venue for a future gathering of The International Guild of Town Pipers?

Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Lancashire, dining room, circa 1610, has at the far end the musicians’ gallery. The Shuttleworths of Gawthorpe were major employers of waits (see REED Lancashire). Many northern waits, including those of Leeds and York, visited and played there in the first half of the seventeenth century when the house was first built. The Leeds Waits played up there again a few years ago.

Haddon Hall has a minstrels’ gallery, a circa 1600 addition to the mediaeval banqueting hall.

Hoghton Tower, a late sixteenth century fortified manor house between Blackburn and Preston, has a fine minstrels’ gallery in the great hall, but no picture is available. According to local history, it was at a banquet in the great hall that King James I was so impressed with the loin of beef that he knighted it, the somewhat dubious origin of the “sirloin”.

King’s Lynn has a musicians’ gallery, on the Town Hall staircase, built in the 1620s. A gallery in King’s Lynn Town Hall Assembly Room, built in the 1760s, has been removed.

Leeds Civic Hall, a neo-classical Italianate structure built in the 1930s depression, has musicians’ galleries at each end of the Lord Mayor’s banqueting hall, and these have been used several times by the current Leeds Waits – on one notable occasion to entertain the assembled Lord Mayors and Mayors from across the county on Yorkshire Day, August 1st, a few years ago.

Keble College, Oxford, minstrels’ gallery in the Dining Hall, where the Leeds Waits entertained at the Centenary Conference of the Tolkein Society a few years ago.

Oakwell Hall in the West Riding of Yorkshire has a minstrels’ gallery in the great hall. Leeds Waits have played there on several occasions.

Ripon town hall has a fine example of a musicians’ gallery in the ballroom upstairs, but the only picture available is of the outside of the building. It’s Jacobean with a Georgian make-over. Fountains Hall, also in Ripon and built in 1611, has a musicians’ gallery in the Great Hall. As Ripon had its own waits, it is inconceivable that they did not play from both of these galleries.

Methley Hall in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the ancestral home of the Savile family, has a minstrels’ gallery at the far end of the Great Hall.

Stamford Town Hall, 18th c. has a fine gallery, populated in the photo by the Waits of Lynn.

York Mansion House, 1732, has a musicians’ gallery, but no image is available.

York Assembly rooms, 1730, had a musicians’ gallery which was subsequently removed. It may still be seen in a print available from York Art Gallery. (See also “York Music”, page 119).