Notes & Queries Archive 2000

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Please send replies to queries to the address at the end of the query, with a copy to the Waits Website for publication.

Bagpipe Website  Deutscher Schalmei  Domain names  East Anglian Waits   Gilded Badges  Hans Mons  Lincoln Waits  London Waits & Barges  Lord Mayor of London's Barge   New History  Oxford Waits  Pfifferstag  Samuel Pepys  Spellinge  Waits' Badges  Waits' Song  What is a Wait?  What sort of Wait?

East Anglian Waits

I am working my way through the Malone Society's collections volume XI with a view to extracting references to Waits in Norfolk and Suffolk and posting them on this site. As a taster, I give you the following extract from the preface to the section on Great Yarmouth:
One wait, William Manning, moonlighted as a town mole-catcher, and the Churchwardens' Accounts show that, between 1575 and 1589, he caught over eight hundred moles, for which he was paid a penny apiece.
Chris Gutteridge.

World's First Rock Festival
Another fascinating snippet from the Malone Society concerns the West Norfolk village of Snettisham. Although irrelevant to the direct subject of Waits, I felt I had to share it with you:
Snettisham can lay claim to having the world's first 'rock festival', which dates in these records [the Church Wardens’ accounts, held at the Norfolk Record Office] from 1474. Whatever the tradition behind this ‘Rockfeste’1 was, it seems not to have been much different from modern ones, featuring as it did music and dancing. It was a source of considerable income to the church. [e.g. 1476 Item receptum de nortanhyll Rockfeste    vijs]
1 Mr R. F. Hill suggests 'Feast of Fools' (rock = rook, fool).
Chris Gutteridge.

Bagpipe Website

Hello James,
My name is Aron Garceau, I'm the fellow you met on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont, USA last Christmas time and we struck up a conversation about the pictures I had been collecting on bagpipes, etchings, paintings, etc. Well it is long past the time I said I would e-mail (and probably right back into your busiest season) but I wanted to let you know of a web page which I am in the middle of creating at where I have put my collection on the web. I've been e-mailing many of my pictures to Julian Goodacre and realized how much easier it would be if I put them on the web and he could choose from them all himself without having to download ones which he might already have. I have not found another page on the whole internet like this one and hope that this helps out people in their own searches. It also helps me fulfill all those promises I made to show people the pictures which I have found. In any case, please visit the site and feel free to tell me what you think. If you have a page where you could provide a link I would be most appreciative and I will be adding a link on my page to the York Waits page. My knowledge in this area is still limited so any guidance you can give me would be helpful and I thank you again and look forward to a time when we can meet again.
Thank you,
Aron Garceau.

We need this, it's very exciting. We can keep you fed with material as long as you're willing to do the work, and eventually the collection can become a very important resource for research and discussion. Each pic. could have its own text, provided as it becomes available, and there are already a number of discussions in the pages of the Bagpipe Soc. journal which I'm sure you could copy and add to your site. Let's talk about it and keep it going.
I was wondering if I'd hear from you, and I'm really pleased you've pushed the boat out. You're welcome to any stuff I have, including images of all the English 2-chanter bagpipes I've found so far.
I trust Burlington is still as splendid as we remember it. We had a great time in the USA and plan to be back soon, so keep an eye (ear) out for us.
These chance meetings can be very creative!
Happy Christmas,
James Merryweather.

Lincoln Waits

Can anyone help with information re. Lincoln Waits - history etc. My students would like to research for their Drama in Community theatre history module, but have so far drawn a blank on sources.If anyone knows of books / references etc. would be very grateful for help!
A. Duncombe
Drama dept.
Bishop Grosseteste College.

Waits' Song

25th November, 2000.
I have just come across a Christmas carol entitled 'Waits' song'. Is this genuine? I mean once you’ve stripped away the Victorian harmonies, and disregarding the words to some extent? And have I already come across it and forgotten it? Or is it an example of late-Victorian "Merrie Englande" pastiche?
It comes from a book of carols that one of my Waites has borrowed for me to look at, claiming to range in age from the 5th century up to the 1880’s. The first four pages are missing, and the cover is blank, so no help there.
Chris Gutteridge.

29th November, 2000
I asked myself the same question when I discovered this! 'The moon shines bright' from 'Two Hundred Folk Carols' edited by Sir Richard R. Terry Mus.D., F.R.C.O. published London by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd, 1933. Looks like a job for incorporation in a paper I plan on waits so-called signature tunes. The tune sounds real enough.
James Merryweather.

Have just noticed that the Oxford Waits have recorded the above song on their CD 'Hey for Christmas' BEJOCD-31 - Chris.

Domain Names

Please note that as well as this site ( ) both The York Waits ( and King's Lynn Waites ( have new domain names. Both are also in the process of being completely updated. Watch this space for further news!

London Waits & Barges

Something to add to your picture of the London Waits on the Lord Mayor's barge is this song from Pills to Purge Melancholy. I include 4 pages of tune and words and the title page plus a blow-up of the relevant verse. How often do we come across the waits in the 18th c. just called The City Music or The Music? [see my note on The Waits in Samuel Pepys' Diary, below - Chris] I think we're on strong ground to reckon The Music is the waits - playing Cuckolds all arow. There is a version in Pills and it's in one of my volumes, but I can't find it. When I do I'll send a copy of that too. It's not the same as the Playford.
Also a little pic. of a typical 18th c. waits band of 3 oboes & 2 bassoons, just as in York. [see pictures]
James Merryweather 11.10.00.

Deutscher Schalmei

I've been to Bradford to reed up a "Deutscher Schalmei" I swapped for an old soprano shawm a few years ago. What it is is probably what those mid 17th C.Westminster waits are playing in the Magdalene College picture [see pictures] and as described by James Talbot in 1695, presumably from the English instrument viewpoint. (Baines. Galpin Soc. J. 1948, I 9-26). It seems to be the missing link between the shawm and the oboe, both in instrument terms and of relevance to the waits' story.
James Merryweather 13.10.00

Gilded Badges.

From: Dr Alan Radford
Sent: 07 September 2000 13:16
Subject: Leeds Waits badges
The original Leeds waits badges are silver (no trace of gilt).

The York badges show no sign of gilding either, but the records state that they were regilded from time to time.
James Merryweather 10.09.00.

The King's Lynn chains and scutcheons are thoroughly gilded, and yet there's no mention of them being gilded in the records! I wonder what (if anything) all this proves?
Chris Gutteridge 10.09.00.

New History!

I am in the process of updating the history pages on my King's Lynn Waites website, including fresh information kindly passed to me by James Cummings who is researching for his thesis on entertainers around the Wash. This is exciting stuff about early Waits especially the fourteenth century minstrel, Wait and 'vigilatori' William Wilde - including the purchase of a trumpet (or tuba, or claryon - it is refered to as all three) for him for the large sum of one mark (13shillings & fourpence). Chris Gutteridge.

Oxford Waits

The newly revived Oxford Waits have not only given a very successful first concert (see review on their website) but together with the excellent Mellstock Band they have issued their first CD. Called 'Hey for Christmas' (BEJOCD-31), it is issued by Beautiful Jo Records and consists of seasonal songs and carols from the Bodleian Library's collections of 30,000 Broadside Ballads, which are available on the internet at . It also includes a multimedia program for Windows PCs giving illustrations of the original ballads and explanations of the Bodleian collection and how to use it.
Although concentrating more on the extracurricular activities of Waits rather than their civic duties, the Oxford Waits, all of them fine musicians, are an authentically rumbustious crew, and the CD provides a thoroughly enjoyable glimpse into the world of Broadside Ballads. Ideal for those who like to start their Christmas shopping early to avoid the rush! You can get in touch with the Oxford Waits' leader, Tim Healey, by clicking  and they have their own page on the Beautiful Jo Music site at .
For details of excellent recordings of a traditional Waits shawm band, visit TheYorkWaits website.

Waits' badges

Three original badges of The Leeds Waits may be seen in the civic silver of the City of Leeds, in the display cases outside the Lord Mayor's Banqueting Chamber in Leeds Civic Hall. As I recall, they went through
a period of private ownership, but were recognised by a sharp-eyed antiquarian from the picture in Wardell's Municipal History, bought and donated back to the City.
We wear copies, made from a cast taken from one of the originals by Peter Brears when he was Director of Museums for the city. There is no indication of what they originally hung from. We wear them on scarlet ribbons because we have to use something.
Waits of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!
From: Dr Alan Radford
Leeds Waits website:

Lord Mayor of London's Barge
8 June 2000

Dear Chris, Here is the picture of the Lord Mayor of London's barge of 1805, which I spoke to you about. [see pictures page] The accompanying text doesn't say much about the event, except for mentioning that there were bands on the barges of the livery companies, as well as the Lord Mayor's barge. They may well have hired bandsmen from the various volunteer corps or militia of London, or else private bands. But in the case of the Lord Mayor's barge, the musicians must surely have been the City Waits (if they were still in existence in 1805). Presumably the ensemble would have been limited in number by the restricted space on the stern of the barge; but they still managed the standard waits' quintet (not the classical wind sextet or octet, which I mentioned when writing about the Lynn Association's band [see pictures for this band, too]). It's interesting to see that the ensemble has been augmented by a long drum/bass drum - not a very Wait-like instrument! The drummer seems to be wearing a top hat (normal headgear for many volunteer units) and scarlet coat. The costumes suggest two options to me:
a. the Waits had been augmented by a percussionist from a local military band, not having one in their usual line-up. (The precedent was already in use in the 18th century, when Handel frequently borrowed the Royal Artillery's great kettle-drums for performances).
b. The Waits were no longer in existence, and the Corporation would hire military bandsmen, dressing them for the occasion in Waits costumes, which seem to be bicorn hats and red caped coats/cloaks (similar to Beadles' outfits). The drummer would retain his regimental uniform, as playing the bass drum in a voluminous coat would be rather awkward. As far as I know, this is the last surprise that I have in my archives - but you never know!
Kind regards,
David Jackson.

[David is an expert on Military Bands and Ceremonial Costumes. He plays flugel horn in King's Lynn Town Band and pipe and tabor for King's Lynn Morris Dancers. He has been very generous in sharing the contents of his large personal archives with us.] See also Lord Mayor's Triumphs

What is a Wait?

There seems to be confusion in some circles as to what a Wait is or was.The noun Wait comes from the same root as the verb to wait (Old French waitier, to lurk and/or old German waiten, to wake). The general opinion seems to be that Waits started out as City or Town gatekeepers and night-watchmen, who were issued with, or supplied themselves with a musical instrument - usually a shawm, also known as a wait-pipe - with which to sound alarms or to signal that all was well.
By the end of the fourteenth century, they were minstrels who played for civic functions, religious services and for private functions. They also acted as night-watchmen, touring the streets, playing their instruments and calling out the hours and the weather, etc. This would seem an intolerable nuisance to present-day town dwellers, but attitudes to sleep have changed, and citizens were no doubt comforted by the knowledge that the Waits were trudging the streets in the cold and dark, ensuring that all was peaceful, whilst they were snug in bed.
Other important functions of Waits were as an alarm clock on dark winter mornings, to rouse the town; and to welcome important visitors at the town gates. They would also, for a fee, play a 'Hunts-up' outside the bedroom windows of visitors and private individuals who needed an early-morning call, and they called on wealthy visitors to the town and played outside their lodgings in the hope of remuneration.
When not required for their civic duties, Waits would often go on tour, visiting the country seats of the aristocracy, and playing in towns which lacked Waits of their own, sometimes helping out with civic ceremonies.
For their civic and watch-keeping duties, the Waits played loud, or 'haut' instruments - principally shawms, and later sackbuts, curtals, cornetts, etc. but for other occasions they played whatever was suitable - string instruments, pipes, bagpipes, etc.
The following poem, written in the latter half of the seventeenth century, gives a fair description of Waits' duties:

The publick waites who liveryes do own,
And badges of a City, or some Town,
Who are retain’d in constant Yearly pay,
Do at their solemn publick meetings play.
And up and down the Streets, and Town in cold
Dark nights, when th’Instruments they can scarce hold
They play about, and tell what hour it is,
And weather too, this Course they do not miss,
Most part of Winter, in the Nights; and when
Some generous Persons come to Town, these Men
As soon as they’re Inform’d, do then repair
Unto their Lodgings play them some fine Ayre
Or brisk new tune, such as themselues think fit,
And which they hope, with th’ Gallants fancies hit,
They cry God Bless you Sirs; again then play,
Expecting Money, e’er they go away.

(Pecunia obediunt omnia.)
Anon. c.1680

The importance of Waits is clear from the amount of money expended on them by Town Councils. Apart from their wages, they were supplied with uniforms, usually skirted coats (see The York Waits and King's Lynn Waites websites for illustrations), and with collars, which consisted of a chain with a scutcheon of the Town's arms, usually in silver; and later with silver arm-badges. These collars were very valuable, sometimes costing the equivalent of two years' wages, and some surviving examples are illustrated on our 'Cognizances' page.
Although their importance diminished in the second half of the eighteenth century, Waits continued in office in many towns until their abolition by the Corporations Act of 1835. From then onwards, at Christmas, groups of itinerant musicians or enthusiastic amateurs, often of dubious artistic merit, appropriated the title of Waits as they went about playing and singing carols, often demanding money with menaces and having pitched battles with rival bands, thus bringing the name of Waits into disrepute.
Chris Gutteridge


The following passage is from Tennevin N & Texier M (1951). Dances of France II: Provence and Alsace. London, Max Parrish & Co. p. 18.
The Germanic fife was one of the Alsatian instruments also. When brass instruments came into use the excellent brass bands which sound throughout our country came into being, to enliven all our festivities. The violin, the mouth organ and the accordion are not much in favour, finding their sphere in little fêtes and parties only. Our band musicians have a fête of their own, the Pfifferstag (Fifers’ Day), which is celebrated with brilliancy at Ribeauvillé and in other places, and dates back to 1390.
Pfifferstag might well be Fifers’ Day. Alsace is attached to Switzerland, where the fife is supposed to have been a popular military instrument. However, the authors might have misinterpreted the early use of Pfiffer in the light of modern understanding, a common practice - such as the presumption that the sackbut was played in the Holy Land 2000 plus years ago because it gets a mention in the King James Bible! If as ancient a custom as claimed, it might also be Peiffers’, Pipers’, Shawm-players’ Day or even Stadtpfeiffers’ (Waits’) Day.
Is there any clearer information available about such days around Europe?
Replies to

My guess is that this "Pfiffer" is the same word as the German/Dutch "piper", "pijper", "pfeifer". In the Netherlands the word "piper" was used for the shawm players.  For instance, in 1415 something has been written about "der stat pipers van Antwerpen", the city pipers of Antwerp. Is there any clearer information available about such days around Europe? Some time ago I have heard or seen something about meetings like this Pfifferstag in Mons/Bergen, Belgium. I will try to find more about this.
Hans Mons


People keep asking me, "How do you spell Waites?" The short answer is that I spell it Waites. The whole concept of spelling is a relatively modern invention. The accepted modern spelling of the word is Waits, and the York Waits recognise this in their title, but use the spelling Waites when referring to their historical predecessors. In the Hall Books at King's Lynn Town Hall, there are references to Waites, Waytes, Whaites, Whaytes and Waits among others, but the most popular spelling, both in Lynn and nationally, seems to have been Waites. I realise none of this clears the matter up, but I hope it explains the confusion!
Chris Gutteridge
3rd June 2001
Just to add to the confusion, I have recently been looking through the Malone Society's volume on Norfolk and Suffolk, and can add the following variations on the spelling of Waits: Weytys, Wayghtes, Wette, Wayt and Waytt. Chris.

From: Hans Mons

Last Friday I have visited the workshop of Martin Praetorius in Beedenbostel close to Celle in Germany. A beautiful area where his workshop is located in an old farmhouse. Pictures made in his workshop can found on
Next to playing his dulcians, one of the very interesting things was that Praetorius has a long term project to make contrabass dulcians after the one in Augsburg. One of the pictures I made is from the drawing of the Augsburg instrument at the wall. Unfortunately it will take quite some time before he has one ready, he didn't like to give any term for that. What probably means it will take a few years. Enjoy the pictures,

What sort of Wait?

During my research into the history of the King's Lynn Waites (see King's Lynn Waites History ), I found this entry in the Calendar of Freemen of Lynn, held at True's Yard Museum in King's Lynn:-


Jarvis Grant, Wait of the Custom House, purchased freedom.


John Craddock, Wait of the Custom House, purchased freedom.

These were not members of the Town Waites. The question is, were they musicians, or just watchmen, or what? Has anyone else met anything similar?
Chris Gutteridge.

Dear Chris,
It was interesting to read your letter concerning the 'waits' at the Custom House. I feel the term 'waits' refers to an officer called a 'waiter' or 'tide-waiter'. The 'tide-waiter' as the name implies, waited on the tide to board vessels on their first arrival to ensure that no goods were landed without duty payment. As you will see on the hand written officers' list for 1724 at Lynn Custom House, the waiter was paid £8.15s per annum. My main interest in the Custom's records relates to items on the local building. Copies of letters sent from London to Lynn can be found under the heading CUST 96 at the Record Office at Kew, where there are some Seventeenth Century books. Others; 1701-1764 and 1811 - 1914. As the London Custom House was destroyed by fire in the early Nineteenth Century, the corresponding Lynn to London documents are lost.
Somewhere I have some notes on other Customs records and when I locate them I will forward copies to you.
I enjoyed looking at your website.
Yours Sincerely, David Pitcher.

Lady Day 1724

Customer Henry Hare to officiate as Collector for his patent
salary and fees and for a Clerk



Alexander Gamble


Rc'd Surveyor from Wells to Lynn

Robert Cobbe


Waiters & Searchers

Lawrence Turner
James Giles



Phillip Hart



John Key
Francis Bateman
Richard Cook



John Lachen
Thomas Bordman


Rob. Everard
Will Taylor

each £6.5s with incidents


Jasper Bayley
Richard Raven

The Smack

Robert Day



Joseph Keats


3 Mariners



a boy



Victualing 6 men

at .... each                          total

71/2d per diem each


The Waits in Samuel Pepys' Diary

Historical references to Waits are few and far between, and the same is true in Samuel Pepys' diary. The reason may be the same in both cases: that Waits were so much a part of everyday life as to not require comment. Another reason in Pepys' case, however, may well be that the Waits were not recovered following the interregnum.

The reason that Waits rarely appear in Town Council records during the interregnum is not so much because of 'puritanical' views about music. Puritans were against music in church, but not against music as such. Oliver Cromwell enjoyed listening to his personal band of musicians as much as any other ruler of England. However, the times were 'out of joint', and much of local government was in disarray, so that non-essentials such as Waits were often the first to have their salaries stopped.

We can probably assume that during the diary period (1660-1669), many Waits were still recovering from their years in the wilderness, and may well have consisted of old men and their apprentices, with few musicians in their prime. We should probably keep this in mind when reading Pepys' sometimes disparraging comments on Waits, together with the fact that he was himself an accomplished amateur musician, singer and composer and had access to the very finest music in the land, at court, in the London churches, and in the London theatres.

In fact, Pepys only refers to Waits by name once in the diary, which leads one to wonder what other references to Waits we might discover if we widened our search to include 'Town Music' and other such phrases.

The first reference is during a trip to his country house at Brampton, near Huntingdon. On the way home to London, he spent the night at the Bear Inn in Cambridge.

15 October 1662 ......but waked very earely, and when it was time did call up Will and we rose; and Musique (with a Bandore for the Base) did give me a Levett,1 and so we got ready....

On a visit to the well on Epsom Downs, Pepys thinks he has heard the Waits, but finds he is mistaken:

27 July 1663 .... There was at a distance, under one of the trees on the common, a company got together that sung; I, at that distance, and so all the rest, being a quarter of a mile off, took them for the waytes; so I rid up to them and find them only voices - some Citizens, met by chance, that sing four or five parts excellently. I have not been more pleased with a snapp of Musique, considering the circumstances of the time and place, in all my life anything so pleasant....

When Pepys got himself invited to the Lord Mayor's Day banquet, he didn't think much of the musical entertainment. It would appear that he was expecting the City of London Waits, but they didn't perform.

29th October 1663 .... I expected Musique, but there was none; but only trumpets and drums, which displeased me.

At Christmas in 1666 Pepys is awoken by the King's Trumpets, expecting payment - something which we normally associate with Waits, and which gave rise to the term "Christmas Waits".

27 December 1666 Up, and called up by the King's Trumpets, which cost me 10s.

A period of five years elapses before Pepys mentions the Cambridge Waits again, on another visit to Cambridge (he never mentions the London or Westminster Waits), but they have not improved. This time he is staying at The Rose.

9 October 1667 Up, and got ready and eat our breakfast and then took coach; and the poor, as they did yesterday, did stand at the coach to have something given them, as they do to all great persons, and I did give them something; and the town musique did also come and play; but Lord, what sad music they made - however, I was pleased with them, being all of us in very good humour....

On the same visit, whilst staying at Brampton, Pepys records a visit from Huntingdon Waits, who obviously thought the three mile walk each way worth the effort for the chance of extracting a gratuity from him.

11 October 1667 ..... But before we went out, the Huntington music came to me and played, and it was better then that of Cambridge.

In June of the next year, Pepys and his wife went on holiday to the West country. Only his rough notes survive from this trip. On Saturday, 13th June 1668 he was in Bath, experiencing the hot springs:

Carried back wrap in a sheet and in a chair2 home and there one after another thus carried (I staying above two hours in the water) home to bed sweating for an hour and by and by comes music to play to me extraordinary good as ever I heard at Landon almost anywhere _________ } 0-5-0

On Monday, 15th June they came to Marlborough and stayed at The Hart:

.....  My wife pleased with all this evening reading of Mustapha3 to me till supper and then to supper and had music whose innocence pleased me and I did give them________________    0-3-0

On Tuesday, 16th June, they dined at Newbery:
....and music which a song of the old Courtier of Q. Eliz. and how he was changed upon the coming in of the King did please me mightily and I did cause WH to write it out4 ________________ 0-3-6

They spent that night in Reading, and on the next morning, 17th June, they were given a huntsup, but Pepys was less than impressed:

Music the worst have had came to our chamber door but calling us by wrong names we gave them nothing

In the Autumn of the same year, Pepys records the following piece of gossip about the King's and the court's debaucheries whilst on a progress in East Anglia:

23 October 1668 .....How the King and these gentlemen did make the fiddlers of Thetford, this last progress, to sing them all the bawdy songs they could think of. ....

1 LEVETT: reveille, reveille music. (known to Waits as 'A Hunts-up')
2 a Bath Chair.
3 Mustapha; a tragedy by the Earl of Orrery
4 'The Queen's Old Courtier' (and other titles) sung on a single note. It was not the old courtier but his son who in James I's time was 'changed' (i.e. came to typify a new style in manners and morals). See C.M.Simpson, Brit. broadside ballad, pp. 591+.
Chris Gutteridge
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