The History of Lincoln Waites

1400 - 1499


A Christmas Card, sent by the High Constable of Lincoln in 1908, affirms that the earliest mention of Mayorally sponsored musicians was on 21 April 1422, when the Mayor was to have livery for three minstrels at a cost of eight shillings each. You can see the card near the end of this page:


The Lincoln minstrels played in York, being quite generously paid the sum of 16d. (Chamberlain's Accounts).

12th October 1463

Thanks to Ralph Aaarken for sending me this extract:
John, Lord Howard, Baron, Knight of Stoke by Neyland:   From his "boke of dayley reckonings"
Item, govyn to a pryste that sayd ussong afor my mastyr that nyte at Lyncolne iij.d Item, govyn to waytys of Lyncolne viij.d Item, govyn to a harper there j.d.

In 1463 Howard was deputy to the Earl of Kent, commanding a force raiding the coast of France.

Who was the harper and what were his duties? What could you expect of a harper for a penny in them days?
Dr James merryweather
2 June 2011

Lord Howard also rewarded the waits of London and of Colchester at various times; also the minstrels of Polstead (civic waits? - Polstead was never a very large community, I should think). The spelling "waytys" wouldn't be unusual in the late 15th century or the first half of the 16th. Y was interchangeable with I as a vowel, and -ys/-is/-es was a common termination for a plural or a genitive singular. It's still used in plurals like "foxes" and is found in some surnames and place-names (Sandys, Pepys, Portishead).
The gift of a penny reflects the status of the harper, not what he did. 1d is the lowest gift I've come across, and in other cases it's been made to a beggar or a blind man. This doesn't say that he got as far as playing in front of Lord Howard, or that he played at all. He could have been heard (or not) by a household officer, who reported back to Howard and was authorised to make a small gift. The same goes for the Lincoln Waits: 8d isn't much between 3 or 4 musicians. As they were a known band, Howard might have sent them away with a small gift without them playing a note. (I wonder if 8d represents 2d to each of 4 men? That would suggest that Howard received them, or at least that the officer told him how many there were.)
It occurs to me that 3d isn't much for a priest who celebrated evensong, either: but he would have to say evensong anyway, whether there was anyone else there or not, and he probably got a meal out of it. I was wondering if Howard was just being tight-fisted (granted that his gifts tend to be much lower than the king's, say), but I think not.
Professor Richard Rastall
2 June 2011