The History of Lincoln Waites

1800 - 1857

City of Lincoln Accounts Book, 1809 - 1834 (ref: L1/4/2)

Accounts for the period 1809 - 1834 show two payments a year were made to the Waits. These consisted of a payment of 16 shillings "for proclaiming four fairs" and a salary "due Michaelmas" each year. There are also some very interesting entries regarding the provision of clothing and hats for Lincoln's Waits.

City of Lincoln Accounts Book, 1809 - 1834 (ref: L1/4/2) - Payments

The annual salary is not a fixed amount for the whole period. Here are the amounts:


The Coronation of King George IV took place at Westminster Abbey on 19 July 1821, even though he had been King since his father's death on 29 January 1820. There was a Dinner in Lincoln to celebrate the Coronation - presided over by the Mayor, Sheriffs and Aldermen with entertainment provided by "36 musicians" (we do not know who these musicians were, but it is possible that they included the Waites). The Corporation paid for the musicians' dinner at a cost of £9.9s (L1/4/1/3).

There were probably four Waits in 1831 because there is a reference to four cloaks being bought for the Waits in that year. Further circumstantial evidence is that the annual sum of £8.8/- is equally divisible by four. In 1831 the four Waites were paid £8.8/- in salary. This same figure was paid in 1809 and for the 12 years from 1821 until 1833. The Accounts books of 1764 - 1835 confirm that four Waites were appointed in each of those years (L1/4/1/1, L1/4/1/2, L1/4/1/3, L1/4/1/4).

Soon after Henry Morris (City Wait) (ref: L1/1/1/8, 18 August 1810) left Lincoln [Morris left the town in 1810, sometime before 18 August] the Council increased Waits salaries to "four Guineas a year each from Michaelmas day next" (L1/1/1/8, 14 September 1810). Did Morris relocate because he was lured to another Band of Waits who offered more pay? Was this increase to keep the Waits happy and encourage them to stay in Lincoln?

Between 1810 and 1820 the salary continued at the rate of £16.16/-. It is tempting to imagine this difference in salary might be an indication of the number of musicians in the band of Waites at the time, although I have not found any evidence to suggest that Lincoln Waites ever numbered more than four.

The imbalance between Council expenditure and income became more and more of a problem during, and after, the Mayorality of Matthew Sewell (ref: L1/1/1/8, pages 276, 277, 279). By 26 June 1820, the real cost of maintaining the Reindeer Hotel (where the council held Civic Dinners) had also become clear. The Reindeer was making a net loss and there was no sign of improvement - even after the Council paid for a new stable block to be built (L1/1/1/8, page 383). On 18 August 1821, as part of their general effort to curb spending, the Council reduced the Waits Salaries to 8 Guineas (ref: L1/1/1/8, page 414).

The year 1834 stands out because even less salary was paid. In that year (the last in this account book) the Waits were only paid £7.7/- for their annual salary. Originally I wondered if this might be because there were fewer Waits that year, but I do not think this explains the lower payment satisfactorily. I would have expected to see a salary of £6.6/- for three Waits. Another explanation might be a reduction in the duties or the number of performances the Waites were required to undertake (although, at the time of writing this [6 September 2006], I have no evidence to support any such theory).

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City of Lincoln Accounts Book, 1809 - 1834 (ref: L1/4/2) - Clothing

It is clear from these accounts that Civic Officers were provided with new cloaks and hats once a year, every year. The minutes of 18 August 1821 mention Coats and Cloaks and Gold Lace and Silver Lace (ref: L1/1/1/8, page 414). Most of the entries relating to purchase of cloaks and hats simply use the generic term "Officers" to denote who would be wearing them, however, the following few entries are much more specific:


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In 1828, four hats were bought for Waites and in 1831, four Cloaks. This is strong evidence that there were four Waits in those two years, at least.

In 1828 Waits hats were described carefully as "Cock'd". As the hats bought for "Officers" were not described as "Cock'd" (but simply as "hats"), they may well have been of a different type entirely. As this type of hat is not mentioned anywhere else in this whole account book, I would suspect that the cocked hats bought in 1831 were again for the Waites. This gives us a mental picture of how Lincoln Waits would have looked in the 19th Century:   recognisable from afar by their uniform of distinctive livery cloak and large cocked hat.


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The Municipal Corporations Act (1835)

1835: The passing of the Municipal Corporations Act, on 9th September 1835 (ref: L1/1/1/9), required all Borough Councils, including that of Lincoln, to become far more accountable. The Act was born out of Parliament's opinion that many Borough Councils in England and Wales did not serve the needs of the whole population, were unrepresentative, were inefficient (or even. negligent) and were in urgent need of clear guidance and direction as to what their priorities should be. As well as splitting Boroughs into Electoral Wards (to make Councillors more accountable and to provide a more democratic system of Local Government), the Act required each Council to review their finances, to make savings where they could, and to focus firmly on the task of funding and undertaking improvements to Law and Order, Street Lighting, Footpaths, Roads, Bridges, Waterways, Water Supply and Sewage, etc.

In Lincoln, the election of new Councillors (now charged with the task of representing the New Wards) took place on 26 December 1835 (ref: L1/1/1/9). Their first Quarterly Meeting was held just a few days later, on 1st January 1836. The main business of that first meeting was to form sub-committees and appoint Commissioners to assess and compile reports on Law and Order, Street Lighting, Footpaths, Roads, Bridges, Waterways, Water Supply and Sewage, etc. At the same time, the City Council decided to postpone making a firm decision on the future of the various Mayor's Officers until the Financial Reports could be considered (ref: L1/1/1/9 page 10)

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The minutes go on to list each Officer in post during 1835/1836, including the four Waits, namely:

Interestingly, one of the Council's priorities appears to have been the conditions at the Guildhall (above the Stonebow), where they held their meetings. This was discussed at some length, and the (new) Council resolved to install a new stove and gas lighting as soon as possible. So at least they would be comfortable and have sufficient warmth and light for their future Council meetings (ref L1/1/1/9, 16 January 1836).

By this time, the Waits duties were wholly ceremonial and the amount of payment they received was an insignificant portion of the Council's annual expenditure. On 16 February 1836, the Finance Committee, Chaired by Alderman Edward Fowler, announced that an immediate saving of £420, 16 shillings and 4d could be made if his committee's report was acted upon. According to B Sullivan, in "The Waits Badge and Chain" (courtesy of The Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology), in 1835, Waits annual salaries amounted to a mere £2.00 a year each. This is a small sum compared with the £118 and 4 shillings that the City Council paid for the Judges' Michaelmass Dinner and Wine at the Assizes (ref: L1/1/1/9, page 51).

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B Sullivan, in "The Waits Badge and Chain", tells us that Lincoln Council went on to make a second unique decision about its Waits. "The last four Waits were granted a pension of £2.00 a year (which was equal to their wage) and allowed to keep their badges for possible future use." [Reading between the lines here, this suggests to me that they would be continuing their duties as before. The Council's decision to let the men keep their badges of Office is (perhaps) a sign that they still actually held Office, and that pensioning them off was merely a paper exercise. The Council's agreement with Selby Dickinson, in 1852, seems to support this view.]

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30 June 1830

Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence & St Andrews and Earl of Munster, is proclaimed King William IV.

In Lincoln, the proclamation was read at key points in the city and a barrel of ale was given to the people at each place by the Town Clerk.

"In the presence of Mr Mayor, and the Aldermen in their Scarlet Gowns, the Sherriffs, Common Councilmen & Chamberlains in their gowns, the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, the Mayor's Chaplain, the Masters of the Grammar School and many other Gentlemen, Citizens and Inhabitants, all on foot, preceded by the City Colours, Chief Constables, 25 constables with white Rods, and 2 Beadles with their staves - the City Music accompanied by a Band engaged for the occasion by the Corporation - Sherriffs and Mayors Officers, and followed by the staff of the North Lincolnshire Militia under the Command of Captain Kennedy and the Charity boys belonging to Christ's Hospital Lincoln - the procession ending with a very great concourse of people, testifying to their joy, with loud acclamations."

[We know that it was normal for Waites to travel to other boroughs to assist their colleagues by forming a larger, combined band for important occasions. The minute book does not indicate that it was a Militia band, so it probably wasn't, but as the band is neither named nor described, it is impossible to be sure of what it actually was.]

"The procession started at St Botolph's churchyard and progressed through The Corn Market Hill, The Stonebow, Dunstan's Lock, [Dernstall House - pictured on our "Buildings" page] County Hospital (on Drury Lane), Newport, and Eastgate and finished in Magpie Square [where Thorngate House is today].

One of the signatories (the list fills almost 2 pages in the minute book) on the original proclamation (of which Lincoln received a copy) was Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Wellington is commemorated on a lamp post on Steep Hill.

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1 July 1830

The Accountant has grouped the Waits with the man carrying the Proclamation Stool, which the Town Clerk stood on. Perhaps this might suggest that the Waits were playing a fanfare or other loud attention-grabbing music before the Town Clerk read the proclamation? It is interesting that these payments to the Waits are listed separately to the payment to "Musicians". It was a convention to term the Militia Bands "Bands of the Militia" or "Bands of Musick" in the Accounts for 1764 - 1835, so this entry for "Musicians" suggests that this may not be a Militia Band. These musicians are also paid individually, and paid a rather higher fee than the Militia Bands too, suggesting perhaps a more refined, well trained group of people - perhaps a theatre orchestra or a string orchestra playing for dancing? As is frequently the case, the written records leave us guessing.


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