The History of Lincoln Waites

The Dickinson Family

There is evidence of more than one of the Dickinson family was a Wait. There are also other connections with Lincoln City Council, but I have yet to establish the relationship between all the Dickinsons.

It is clear that the three brothers, Selby, Charles and Joseph's Father was James Dickinson, and that Selby had one daughter, Sarah, but no sons. Edward Dickinson was also a Wait but we don't know his family relationship with the others yet.

31 May 1768

The first time the Dickinson name appears in the Minute Books is on 31 May 1768, when a Mr Dickinson (no first name is recorded) is considered, but not chosen as a Wait:

Sometime before this, one of the Dickinson's was a Council member: "[Received?] of Mr Knight and Mr Dickinson when choosen Comon Counsillmen [blank]" (Lincoln City Rolls 102/1718-1719).

13 Dec 1768

Then, curiously, the next time Dickinson is mentioned, the title "Junior" is appended to his name. Is this the same man, or perhaps his son?

Later in the same year, the corporation paid "Mr Hattersley for Dickensons (the Waits) Hat – 10s" and "for Dickensons (the Waits) Cloak – £3.12s" (Lincoln City Rolls 140/1768-1769).

1 Feb 1770 - Edward Dickinson

We can be clear about which of the Dickinson family became a wait in 1770, because, at last, a first name is recorded in the Minute Book:

Edward Dickinson's name then appears again, a number of times, as one of the "Jury to Enquire the price of Corn" in 1777 (L1/1/1/7, p592), 1778 (L1/1/1/7, p604 and p612), 1779 (L1/1/1/7, p626) and 1780 (L1/1/1/7, p637).

Edward's name first appears in the Minute Book, on 8 June 1769, when the Council grant him a lease:

"Proposed that a lease be granted to Edward Dickinson for a small piece of waste Ground lying on the West side of Pottergate near Greecings Staiths [an area of land SW of the Cathedral and W of the Medieval Bishops Palace, stretching downhill towards Lindum Terrace] abutting upon a Garden of Daniel Smith..." (Greecings Staiths is today called Grecian Stairs. This area may have been considered to be "waste ground" because of the steep incline, but also because this area included the Medieval 'city ditch' which was an open sewer taking waste water from the Bishops Palace, down the hill.)

The conditions of the lease suggest that those old open sewers were still very much in use, stating that: "...he will scour cleanse and constantly keep in Repair the common sewers running from North to South thro' the said piece of Ground" (ref: L1/1/1/7, p521).

It seems that Edward Dickinson held this land until his death: "Received of the Executors of Edward Dickenson for a Piece of Ground near Greecings Staiths whereon several tenements are built - £5 [rent?]" (Lincoln City Rolls 39/1783-1784).

27 March 1771

Then, in 1771, suddenly we have James Dickinson named: "Received of the Right Worshipful Inõ Willson Esqr. Mayor of the Citty of Lincoln the sum of four pounds four shillings for half a years salary for the Wates of the said Citty due at Lady Day last past pd. [signed or marked by] Geo. Crathorn, W Roberts, James Dickinson and Inõ Farrow." (Lincoln City Parcels/box 75/1770-1771/1/94)

18 Mar 1773

In 1773, we are again left wondering which Dickinson the recorder is referring to, as his first name has been omitted once more:

5 December 1799 - James Dickinson

In 1799 the Minutes again refer to James as a Wait, but only to say he has recently departed this life. This means that if James served as a wait continuously, he put in at least 28 years in Office (1771 - 1799). James' successor was another Dickinson - could this be Selby Dickinson, or someone else?

Earlier, in 1734 (L1/1/1/7 p199), 1740 (L1/1/1/7 p251) and in (L1/1/1/7 p284) James Dickinson had been a member of the "Jury for the Price of Corn", just as Edward had been.

Earlier still, it seems that James had not always been in favour with the Council and that sometimes his actions had caused them considerable concern. In 1711 he was summoned to appear before the Common Councill to explain why he had removed all the roof tiles from the farm house that he rented from the City (L1/1/1/7, p7). Then the recorder minutes "Ordered that Mr Dickinson doe tyle his house at Canwick forthwith which he holds of this City by Lease (L1/1/1/7, p7). And eleven years later James is in trouble again for allowing the farm buildings to fall into ruin: "Proposed and Ordered that Mr James Dickinson of Canwick Putt the ffarms which he held by Lease from the City of Lincoln into good repair" (L1/1/1/7, p87).


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1712 - John S Dickinson

I cannot say whether John was ever a Wait, but I think it is unlikely, because he was already busy with Council business, in fact, he seems to be of a higher social standing than Waits. Although he was never successfully elected, John stood for Sherriff in 1736 (L1/1/1/7, p213), 1738 (L1/1/1/7, p233) and 1739 (L1/1/1/7, p240). Prior to that, John had been a Common Council Man since 1712 (L1/1/1/7, p19).

According to the Rolls of Sacrament (Lincoln City Rolls and Parcels/Box 14/188) John Dickinson was a Bodys [Bodice] maker in 1719.


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1 September 1829 - William Dickinson

In 1826 and 1827, William was paid by the Council to repair the "permanent pens in the Sheep and Pig market" (L1/4/2, L1/4/1/4).

Like James, William found it difficult to make a profit out of farming. By 1 September 1829, he had fallen behind with the rent to such a degree that the council were on the verge of collecting the money by calling in his sureties: "Resolved that the Sureties of William Dickinson , the farmer of the Tolls, be called upon for the immediate payment of his arrears of Toll rent" (ref: L1/1/1/8, p660).

However, in April 1830, after hearing his explanation of the financial difficulties he was in, the Council agreed to lower his rent: "A deduction of 15 per Centum be made from the gross amount of three years rent of Mr William Dickinson, farmer of the Tolls under his lease, in consideration of the loss he has sustained by farming the Tolls under such Lease." £36 allowed. (ref: L1/1/1/8 p677).

William Dickinson offered to take the "Pennage of Cattle for one year at £120 rent" in 1830, but his fortune did not turn and by 24 July 1833 things were no better: "William Dickinson, the farmer of the Market Pens", applied for an abatement of the £20 arrears of rent he owed (L1/1/1/8). His rental agreement for the Sheep Pens was a further £120 per year (L1/4/2).


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Joseph Dickinson

Joseph Dickinson was listed amongst the "Merchants, Sloop Owners and others interested in the Navigation of the River Fossdyke". The Fossdyke had become shallow with silt, between Lincoln and Torksey, and held scarcely 2 feet of water. The traders and watermen of Lincoln got together to petition the Council to ask them to pay for deepening the Fossdyke (L1/1/1/8 p543 and p544).

A Joseph Dickinson who died on 3 February 1821, aged 64, was buried in the cemetary of the St Martin's Church, in St Martin's Square (MI. Lincoln - St Martin, No.57).

A second Joseph Dickinson of St Martin's Street, Lincoln was buried on 9 September 1861, in the same cemetary, before the church was demolished and rebuilt on West Parade. Joseph was 55 when he died (St Martin's Parish Records, Microfiche 15 6 015 03A).


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Today, the Dickinson waits badge, dated 1710, forms part of the Civic Insignia, and is worn by the Deputy Mayor.

Selby Dickinson was one of Lincoln's last Waits and possibly one of the last Official Waits in Great Britain.


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