The History of Lincoln Waites


Saint Michael (Durer)
Saint Michael (Guido Reni)

Left: Saint Michael by Albrecht Durer (1471-1528).

Right: Saint Michael by Guido Reni (1575-1642).

The Christian church attribute the following four offices to Saint Michael:

This Christian saint, Prince of All Angels, is an archangel who was the leader of the army of God during the Lucifer uprising, casting Satan out of Paradise. He is one of only two angels named in the Bible, the other being Gabriel. Michael the Archangel is revered as the leader of the angelic army who will again conquer Satan and his armies of demons. Michael is thought of as the defender of the Church. In iconography, Michael is usually depicted wearing armour, carrying a lance or sword, in the act of slaying the great Dragon of the Apocalypse [Satan] (Revelation 12:7-9). Saint Michael, as leader of the heavenly army, was viewed as the patron of every Christian knight. Men prayed to Michael for protection in battle.

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The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels

The feast of Saint Michael [and all Angels], one of the seven archangels of Christian Scripture, is thought to have been celebrated as early as the sixth century, having been derived from the old pagan Autumn Equinox feasts. It was known, in English, as "Michaelmas".

Throughout Britain, Michaelmas marked the end of the harvest. In addition to livestock fairs, farming communities held hiring fairs where labourers could seek new employment for the winter, after harvest was over. Michaelmas was one of the Quarter Days, when rents and accounts were settled. Traditionally, a roast goose dinner was served on Michaelmas Day.

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Michaelmas Day Dinner

The Food

Medieval Dinner

This type of Corporation Dinner is documented in many cities in England. They were renowned for being very grand affairs, with vast amounts of expensive and choice foods as well as the usual copious amounts of wine and ale.

The festive meat for Michaelmas was stubble goose but I cannot help wondering whether swan may have been eaten in Lincoln too. In the early 19th century Lincoln Council paid a Swan-keeper to protect the birds, remove them from the Brayford, which was busy with boats, and free them on the delf, where they would be safe. When Charles Mettham was Swan-keeper, he was also responsible for ensuring every bird had a "cot" in stormy weather, and for buying and feeding them with oats. In 1804, "Burley &c" were paid 7s for "pinioning of Swans" to prevent them from flying away (L1/4/1/2). Another entry in 1830 tells us that James Hemswell was paid to bring Swans from Carlton. His Bill was 12 shillings (L1/4/1/4).

We know that venison was served because the Mayors' Accounts detail payments for it - money was given to Lord Scarborough's Keeper in return for venison (as late as 1831), as well as other provision suppliers, like Mr Charles Richardson of London, who was also paid on 2 Dec 1808, for Venison and Turtle - £21.6s (L1/4/1/2 and Lincoln City Rolls 80/1808-1809). The extracts below give more detail:

Lord Goderich

Lord Goderich, who sent the Turtle Soup, was Frederick George Robinson, Visount of Nocton (Lincolnshire) and Earl of Ripon. His father was the 2nd Baron Grantham. Goderich had been Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1823 to 1827 and Prime Minister from 1827 to 1828.

This picture of him is reproduced here by permission of Eleanor Goodwin, The National Library of Australia, (Jenkins, J., 19th cent. Portrait of Frederick John Robinson, Viscount Goderich and first Earl of Ripon. London: s.n., 1830?

Nocton Hall
Nocton Hall

Two views of Nocton Hall, courtesy of Peter J. Murray of Nocton Hall was the residence of Lord Goderich.

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On 3 February 1810 a bill for grapes for Michaelmas Dinner was paid. It was £3.3s - three times the half-yearly salary of one of the Waits! (ref: L1/4/1/2) In 1802 the bill for fruit had been even higher - £5.16s (Lincoln City Rolls 126/1802-1803)

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The Wine

Receipts from 1770-1771 (Lincoln City Parcels/box 75/1770-1771/1/21, 22, 80, 127, 133, 136 & 155) give us an idea of how much alcohol was consumed at such events. Payments were made to Mr Richard Thickston at the Rain Deer Inn, for wine, beer, tobacco and dinners on 29 September 1770, 6 October 1770, 8, January 1771, 28 January 1771, 5 march 1771, 3 August 1771, 14 September 1771 and 12 Dec 1771. The liquor consumed, on just one of these occasions, included: 25 bottles of Port, 3 bottles of Lisbon, Punch, Rum & Water, Brandy & Water, Ale of Porter and 66 'ordinarys'. This one bill alone amounted to £46,7s.

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The Bands of the Militia

It is clear from the Mayors' Accounts that various Militia Bands were often invited to play at the Corporation's Michaelmas Dinner in the Rein Deer Inn.

In 1781 the Band of the 62nd Regiment played (ref: L1/4/1/1 and Lincoln City Rolls 123/1780-1781). They had been sent to Lincoln to rest, following three years as prisoners in Canada after their defeat at Saratoga. In 1782, they took as their title, The Wiltshire Regiment.

In 1784 it was "the Band of Musick of the North Lincoln Regt" who played (ref: L1/4/1/1 and Lincoln City Rolls 117/1784-1785). In 1781 the 10th of Foot (North Lincoln Regiment) was linked to the County of Lincolnshire for recruiting and became the 3rd Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment after 1881.

From 1786 until 1793, the accounts simply say "the Militia Band" and "the Band of Musick" - I interpret that to mean the Band of the 10th of Foot again, as Lincoln was then their home territory (ref: L1/4/1/2 and Lincoln City Rolls 61/1786-1787, 183/1787-1788, 12/1788-1789, 50/1789-1790, 90/1789-1790, 91/1790-1791, 128/1791-1792 and 118/1793-1794). The amount the band was paid in 1788 was rather higher than the normal £1.1s - for that year's Dinner, the "Band of Music" was paid 10s.6d (ref: L1/4/1/2). This might indicate that it was a quite different band, or possibly the Waites.

In 1799 the South Lincoln Militia "Band of Musick" played (ref: L1/4/1/2). The South Lincoln Militia was the 69th Regiment (formerly the 24th) and became the 4th Battallion of the Lincolnshire Regiment after 1881. On this occasion the Corporation paid the usual £1.1s (Lincoln City Rolls 120/1799-1800).

On 1 Oct 1806 the Council paid the "Volunteer [Band] for playing on Michaelmas Day" the sum of £3.3s (L1/4/1/2 and Lincoln City Rolls 127/1806-1807). There were both Regular and Local Militia but the Volunteers were not Militia, they were Yeomanry. There were two types of volunteers - Yeoman Cavalry and Infantry. The Infantry were disbanded after the Napoleonic Wars, whilst the Cavalry continued in service into the 1830s.

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The Singers of St Peter's Church

In 1830, Lincoln Council paid "The Singers" of Saint Peters Church the sum of 10s "in lieu of a dinner" (L1/4/2). St Peter's was the Corporation's Parish Church, situated within sight of the Guildhall. Like so many of these records, the written words leave as much to guesswork, as they impart to us. Were they unable to eat dinner because they were entertaining - singing whilst the Aldermen and their guests enjoyed dinner? Perhaps. The singers are named as Close, Cooke and Dickinson (L1/4/2). Three of the Dickinson family were Waites. Could Dickinson (the Records do not specify a first name in this instant) perform as a singer and also as a Wait at the same Dinner?

Close, Cooke and Dickinson are also named as the Singers in 1831 (L1/4/2), but some of the records are contradictory and name Brooke (L1/4/1/4 - 29 Sep 1829 and 29 Sep 1830) or Brooks (L1/4/1/4 - 20 Sep 1831) instead of Cooke. In each case the singers were paid 10s "in lieu of a dinner".

The singers of St Peter's Church were also paid to attend the Michaelmas Day Dinners every year from 1789 to 1809 and in 1826, 1829, 1830, 1831 and 1832. On each occassion they were paid a few shillings more than the Militia Band. (L1/4/1/2, L1/4/1/4, Lincoln City Rolls 50/1789-1790, 90/1789-1790, 91/1790-1791, 118/1793-1794, 124/1794-1795, 119/1795-1796, 122/1796-1797, 96/1797-1798, 121/1798-1799, 120/1799-1800, 82/1800-1801, 156/1800-1801, 38/1801-1802, 126/1802-1803, 95/1803-1804, 56/1805-1806, 127/1806-1807, 27/1807-1808 and 80/1808-1809).

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The City Waites

In 1792 and 1793 some unspecified Corporation "Officers" were paid "expenses to go to the feast" of £3.2s.6d and £1.2s.6d respectively. A similar entry appears in 1776, "Officers expenses for Michaelmas Feast - £1.14s". (ref: L1/4/1/2) It is possible that these "Officers" might have been Lincoln Waites.

One entry in the Mayor's Accounts of 30 September 1801, clearly place the Waites at this celebration:

Five shillings seems quite a large sum for one man, for one event. Perhaps he was an outstanding musician, who saved the day? The entry certainly suggests that the Waites were in great need of him. It also suggests that he knew their repertoire well enough to be able to play, even if he was not a regular member of the Waites at this time.

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Today the HSBC bank stands on the site of the City Arms (Formerly the Rein Deer Inn) almost within touching distance of the Guildhall. The City of Lincoln Council rented the Rein Deer from the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral. This is where the Mayors and Sheriffs would entertain civic guests and VIPs. Traditionally, civic dinners were held at Michaelmass, as well as other important dates like the Monarch's Birthday, the accession of a new Monarch or to mark the end of one England's many Wars.

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