The History of Lincoln Waites

1700 - 1799

14 May 1712

"Ordered that the City Waites salary be confirmed during pleasure" (L1/1/1/7, page 16). Is it significant that the council did not fix the amount of the Waites' salaries during the meeting?

3 November 1725

"A notice of a vacancy for two Waits to be given in the 'Stamford Mercury'." (Chamberlains Rolls)

The Minute book is phrased slightly differently: "Proposed and ordered that whereas there are a vacancy of Two Waits in this city that notice be given in the Stamford Mercury of the same" (ref: L1/1/1/7, page 113). It reads almost as if Lincoln had not any Waites? We know that one , George Green, had lately retired. But the other one or more...? In any case, the Council soon filled their vacancies.

The Stamford Mercury was the only regular Newspaper in Lincolnshire at that time. Established in 1695, the (Rutland and ) Stamford Mercury is the oldest newspaper in Britain.

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14 June 1727

After his Majesty King George II (previously Prince George, Prince of Wales) was proclaimed King, "Mr Mayor, the Aldermen and the rest of the Body of this City and severall Gentlemen and others went to the Guildhall where wine Ale and Biskitt was provided at the City's charge, to drink his Majesty and the Royall family's healths and the night concluded with bonfires Drums beating Bells ringing Musick playing and severall other Expressions of Joy." (ref: L1/1/1/7, page 128)

10 October 1727

"Proposed and Ordered that a Treat be provided as Mr Mayor shall think fitt at the Town Hall upon the Eleventh Instant being the day of King George the Second Coronation for the Mayor Aldermen and Common Counsellmen of this City and Such Gentlemen as Mr Mayor Shall invite and that the upper and lower conduits run wine for the Mayor Aldermen Common Counsellmen and the rest of the Gentlemen to drink the Healths of their Majesties and the Royal family And it is also advised that a Hodgshead of [approximately 54 gallons] Ale be given to the common people to drink their Majesties health at the Bonfire" (L1/1/1/7, page 133). The minute book continues to say that the Mayor, Aldermen and Common Councilmen would all wear their Gowns on this day, when they would "visit the several conduits".

9 December 1727

"At this common counsel it is now ordered that the Waits Salary of £1.10s each be continued for one year longer" (L1/1/1/7, page 134). I take this to mean that the salary will remain the same for a further year and not that they were to be paid for only one more year.

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It appears that Lincoln was again in need of a Wait, and that no suitable man could be found. As in 1725 (above) the Council decided to advertise the position: "Paid for an advertisement for a Waite – 2s.6d" (Lincoln City Rolls 62/1736-1737).

11 February 1748

"An entertainment or Treat be provided in Such manner as the Mayor shall think fitt at the Guildhall of this City of Lincoln upon Saturday the Eleventh day of this Instant February being the Day appointed for proclaiming the Peace between his present Majesty King George the Second, King of Great Britain and the Kings of France and Spain and other Potentates to which Treat Mr Mayor is to invite the Aldermen, Sherriffs and Common Council Men, the Clergy, Gentry, and Such other Persons as shall be adjudged proper to drink the Health of his Majesty and all the Royal Family. And it is Ordered that an Hogshead of Ale be given to the Populace to drink the aforesaid Healths at the Bonfire intended to be made on this Occasion And that the charge attending the above Particulars be defrayed by this City And that Mr Mayor do lay down the Money and the Same be allowed him in his Accounts."

"And it is further Ordered that the Form of the Procession in the Proclaiming of the Peace be as follows -

(ref: L1/1/17, page 312.)

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2 November 1755

Although the City's "Proposals for a nightly watch to be maintained by subscription" are recorded in City Accounts (Chamberlains Rolls) in November 1755, the notion of a subscription (almost a tax) to pay for policing only finds it way into the Council's Minute Book in December of that year.

30 December 1755

"As there's nothing more necessary or in several Respects useful to every Person that has any Property to loose than a well regulated Watch and the Laws in Being are in this Respect somewhat defective therein We have thought proper to referr this Affair to a Committee the sense of which and the Common Council in General is to Sett on Foot an annual Subscription for every Householder to be solicited to enter into according to their own Will and good Wishes they may entertain for the Publick and to include in this Regulation Subject to the following proposals - "

"The Bail [the Bailgate area] and Close [Minster Yard and the streets surrounding the Cathedral] if the Gentlemen of these Liberties think proper and any surplus that may arise after the Establishment of the above Purpose, the same shall be applied to the use of the Publick in General for preserving good Order and Decency in the streets." (ref: L1/1/1/7 p361)

The concentration of security in the Bail and Close is predictable. These were the areas of the City with the wealthiest inhabitants. Those Gentlemen could afford to contribute more towards policing than mere tradesmen, and they also had more to lose.

"For a Nightly Watch"

"Proposed and Agreed that Eight able and honest Men not under thirty or above sixty years of age, patrole the Town [I doubt whether they would have been able to stick strictly to this age range. Birthdays were not usually celebrated by common people and as the Church only recorded dates of baptism, not dates of birth, people were often unsure of their exact dates of birth.] and call the Hour from Ten of the Clock to Seven in the Morning in Winter - And from Eleven of the Clock to four in the Morning in Summer, that they their stands alternately from Eight Lodges which shall be provided for them." [This is likely to be a purely policing role, as their is no evidence of any musical accompaniment to these patrols.]

"Viz: in the Parishes of St Peter at Goats, St Benedict, St Swithin, St Peter at Arches and St Martin. One Each, and in the Bail and Close three."

"That the Watchmen be Subject to the Direction of the City and be provided with WatchCoats, Halberts and Lanthorns every three Years. [They would be in geat need of those lanterns. Taking on the role of keeping the peace - one man per Parish - would have been quite a challenge, and footpads or robbers would have easily slipped by under cover of darkness.] That they be continued during their good Behaviour for as long as they are able. [As long as they are able? Does this mean as long as they remain fit and well? Or until they reach 60 years old? Or something else?] And that a years Salary as shall hereafter be agreed on and settled by a Committee be paid them Quarterly by the mayor form the Time being." (ref: L1/1/1/7 p361)

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13 May 1756

"The salary of the Waits to be 42s a year each instead of 30s, provided they go the watch four nights in the week from Michaelmass to Lady Day." (Chamberlains Rolls).

So, for at least four nights of the week, the watch (as described above (1755)) was taken by the Waits. Certainly, if they had played musical instruments at various points during their night patrols (as is sometimes suggested), any wrong-doers would hear them approaching and run away. However, in most of Lincoln, one man took one Parish to patrol. This leaves him holding a lantern and a halbard, whilst also playing tunes on a shawm. This is impossible for normal people with only two arms. Even if our musical Waits were assigned to the Bail and Close, there is no evidence that the three Watchmen stayed together during their patrols, so the same argument applies.

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1758/9 - Victory for Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick

The Lincoln Corporation paid "For a Treat on the Success of Prince Ferdinand over the French Army - £7.17s.6d, And to the Ringers 10s.6d, Drummer 5s and Waites 5s on the same occasion" (Lincoln City Rolls 19/1758-1759). This appears to be a reference to the Battle of Minden.

31 Oct 1760

"This Day in the afternoon his Majesty King George the third was proclaimed King in eight several places within this City, (viz.) Upon the Green in the Parish of Saint Botolph, against the Corn Market Hill, at the StoneBow, at Dunston Lock [what is now The Cardinal's Hat and Dernstall House], before the Bail Gates, in Newport, in Eastgate, and upon the Thornbridge [the bridge was in Magpie Square], by the Town Clerk, the Cryer repeating every sentence in a loud Voice; In the Presence of Mr Mayor and the Aldermen in their Gowns, the Sheriffs, Common CouncilMen and Chaomberlains in their Gowns, The Right Honorable Lord Monson and Thomas Wishcott Esquire (Representative for the County) And many other Gentlemen, Citizens and Inhabitants, all on Horseback; preceded by - the City Colours, Twenty Constables and two Beadles with white Rods [the Sherriff also employed part-time constables to guard the Judge's carriage as he travelled through Lincoln to the Assizes; They were called 'Javelin Men' because of the long white spear-like poles they carried], And two French Horns, on foot; The City Musick, Sheriffs' and Mayor's Officers on Horseback; And followed by three hundred of the Lincolnshire Militia with Major Glover at their Head (who made a fine appearance); The Procession ending with a very great Concourse of People testifying their Joy with loud Proclamations: In pursuance of a letter and proclamation sent down to Mr Mayor from the Privy Council."

Even after much discussion with leading researchers in this subject, we still cannot reach a final conclusion as to why the French Horns were listed separately in the records of the procession of 1760. It is almost as if they are somehow set apart from the main "The City Musick". One possible reason may be that they were fulfilling the role of fanfare trumpeters, another that their tuning prevented them from playing along with "The City Musick", yet another that they played alternately with "The City Musick" (which may have been the Waits or another oboe and bassoon band - perhaps Militia?) in order to allow each other some recovery time between tunes.

"After his Majesty was proclaimed as aforesaid, Mr Mayor, the Aldermen and the rest of the Body of this City, and many other Gentlemen went to the ReinDeer Inn, where an Elegant Entertainment was provided at the City's Expense. With Wine and other Liquors to drink his Majesty's and the Royal Family's Healths, and Ale was given to the Populace; The Evening concluded with Bonfires, Illuminations, Ringing of Bells, Variety of other musick and every other usual Demonstration of Joy." (ref: L1/1/1/7, p423)

It would have been an awful bother to transport barrels of ale around to "the populace" during this procession. I would take the view that the ale was probably available at each stopping place. The Falcon Inn adjoined the Stonebow, at Dunstan Lock was the Cardinal's Hat (a 16th century Inn, named after Cardinal Wolsey, one time Bishop of Lincoln) and The Green Dragon (which started life as a 16th century Merchant's House) stood in Magpie Square. All of these establishments would of course have a plentiful supply of ale, which the Town Clerk need only purchase, rather than going to the trouble of transporting it there.

The day of proclamation of George III as Briatin's new monarch was also celebrated in Lincoln: "To the Waits upon the proclamation of his Present Majesty King George III – 10s.6d, to the City Drums 5s & to the Ringers 10s.6d in money & 5s in Ale, For carrying the Flag – 1s, For Ale to the soldiers and City Officers - £3.7s, to 8 companies of the Militia for firing upon the King’s Birthday - £8.8s and to the Ringers, Constables, Waits, waiters flagcarryers, Doorkeepers &c. on account of the Coronation, in all - £5.6d" (Lincoln City Rolls 17/1760-1761).

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2 Jun 1762

"Proposed and agreed that the Mayor & Aldermen &c. of this City do meet at the ReinDeer Inn, upon the King's Birth Day [George III] now next ensuing, to drink his Majesty's Health with Loyalty & Freedom at their own private Expences." (ref: L1/1/1/7, p444)


In 1710 George Udall's Corporation pension had been 2s.6d a week (amounting to £6.6s a year). By 1765, Lincoln Waits' were paid £2.8s.6d each (£2.2s wages each, 4s for crying four fairs a year, and a Christmas bonus of 10s between them - L1/4/1/1). If Udall needed an annual pension of £6.6s in 1710, would a Waits' annual salary of £2.8s.6d, in 1765 (55 years later and a little over one third of Udall's pension), be enough to live on without a Wait following some other trade as his main occupation?

18 March 1786

Some of the Waites may have augmented their incomes by playing instruments in Church. The following entry from the City Chamberlains Rolls show there was certainly a need for musicians: "£4.00 granted in addition to £6.00 already granted to be distributed by the Minister and Church Wardens of St Peter-at-Arches among such people who shall sing or perform upon any musical instrument in that Church during Divine Service on the Lord's Day." (Chamberlains Rolls, 18 March 1786)

This is echoed in the Council Minutes of the same date: "Proposed and Ordered that the further yearly sum of four pounds be added and paid be the Mayor of this City for the Time being out of the City Stock in addition to the sum of Six pounds already granted to be distributed amongst such persons who shall be employed by the Minster and Churchwardens of the Parish of Saint Peter at Arches to sing or perform upon any musical instrument during divine Service in that Church on the Lords day." (ref: L1/1/1/7, p695)

12 Dec 1793

Eventually, the Church and the City Council found a solution to their problem - the Council agreed to give 100 Guineas towards the purchase of an Organ for Saint Peter's Church. The remainder of the money was to be raised through "private subscription". Furthermore, the Council decided to "allow 12 Guineas a year as a Salary to the Organist and for tuning and keeping the same in Repair" (ref: L1/1/1/7, p804). So if Lincoln's Waits had played in Church to accompany the choir, their performances would have come to an abrupt end when the Church replaced the band with a pipe-organ.

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"Paid Peter Smith for distributing Hand Bills at April Fair as a caution against Pick Pockets and Swindlers - 2s.6d" (Lincoln City Rolls 96/1797-1798).

13 March 1798

In an attempt to reduce Corporation expenditure, in 1798, the finance committee report recommended that the amounts spent on ceremonial clothing be capped as follows:

If their recommendations, were acted upon (recommendations which also included abolishing the Leet Juries and discontinuing allowances for the Sherriffs Holy Rood Day Dinners) the committee predicted a saving of £260 per year. (ref: L1/1/1/7 p868)

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