The History of Lincoln Waites


Waites Salaries 1764 - 1835

pdf  70 Years of Waites Salaries 1764 - 1835 (PDF file size = 63.5kb).  Get Adobe Reader

The City Accounts Books for these years show that the usual number of Waites in Lincoln was four. This is true of the whole 70 year period, the four exceptions (in 1778, 1780, 1784 and 1835) appear to have occurred when a post was vacant for a short time (under a year in each case), whilst a new incumbent was sought. The period between 1812 and 1822, when the Waites salaries appear to have doubled, may simply be an error, or perhaps an accounting convention - for showing the full annual salaries whilst actually paying them in two halves, at 6 monthly intervals. It seems unlikely that salaries would actually have doubled, especially as no other evidence suggests this to be the case, neither is there any evidence to indicate that the number of Waites increased during this period (L1/4/1/1, L1/4/1/2, L1/4/1/3. L1/4/1/4, L1/4/2).

There are a few occassions where the accounts tell us that Selby Dickinson was handed the Waites salary (for him to re-distribute amngst his fellow Waites). Dickinson is recorded as the recipient of the salaries of all four Waites, on the following dates:

An earlier payment - on 6 April 1807 (L1/4/1/2) - was also to a "Dickenson" but the first name was not recorded in the accounts.

The fact that all the salaries were paid to Selby Dickinson seems to suggest that he held a position of responsibility amongst the Waites - perhaps as their organiser (in a financial sense, at least). It is possible that Dickinson always collected the salaries of the four Waites, but that his name was only recorded these few times. His own personal wealth and his job (in later life) as a Solicitor's Clerk may have made it easier for him to be accepted by the City Officials, than his fellow Waites.

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Some interesting Comparisons

1 Dec 1789

In 1789, Waits annual salaries were £2.2s. In December 1789 Mr Lee was paid £1.1d for reparing the City Sedan Chair (L1/4/1/2).


Wait's wages in 1799 amounted to £2.2s.1d. The additional allowances paid for Crying the four Fairs (1s per fair per man), and the Christmas bonus (2s.6d) brought this up to £2.8s.7d per year.

For comparison, also in 1799:

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Other Income: Crying the Fairs

pdf  Waites Crying the Fairs 1764 - 1835 (PDF file size = 18.8kb).  Get Adobe Reader

Their salaries were certainly not the only official payments made to Lincoln Waites by the Corporation. Between the years 1765 and 1835, for each Fair he attended, a Waite was paid an extra fee. In 1765 this amounted to 1 shilling for each man, per fair. Although this may have been a generous payment in 1765, the Waites did not enjoy an increase in these fees over the coming years. Seventy years later, in 1835, they were still receiving 1 shilling, per man per fair. This suggests that these fees had become somewhat symbolic. Perhaps men served as Waites because it was an honour to be chosen, rather than because they needed the income to survive?

Once again, Selby Dickinson is mentioned as receiving the fees from the Council, on behalf of his Waite colleagues. He is recorded as the recipient of payments on the following occassions:

The fact that the term "crying" is used could well indicate that the Waites were delivering a verbal proclamation rather than, or as well as, a musical one. This ties in with the suggestion that Lincoln Waites may have delivered the verses of "Crying Christmas", which dates from before 1564.

It is interesting to note that all the Waites on the Corporation payroll did not receive payment for Crying Four Fairs every year. It appaears that some Waites did not take part in this activity - they may have been unavailable - out of town, or ill, or perhaps just too infirm due to old age. It appears that the Council only paid their shilling a-piece to those Waites who actually turned up to deliver their proclamations.

During the earlier years covered by these accounts, other men are paid for crying the fairs as well as Lincoln Waites. These may have been the Town Cryers at the time. The one we know most about is Robert Babb. Mr Babb was paid for Crying the Fairs between 1768 and 1774 (see Waites Crying the Fairs 1764 - 1835). Babb's other jobs appear to have been quite varied, but with an emphasis on law and order:

Babb appears to have departed this life by Account Day 1788 (25 December), as the Corporation Accounts show that they paid the "Widow Babb" the sum of £1.1s alongside the other usual one-off additional payments that they customarily made to Corporation Officers at this time of year.

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Other Income: Christmas Quarter Day

It seems from the Accounts that it was the custome for all Lincoln's Corporation Officers to receive an additional payment on, or near, the Winter Quarter Day (December 25th). It appears to be something like a Christmas Bonus. The Account Books do not describe why this payment was made.

The Account Day payments for Waites remained at 10 shillings (2s.6d. for each man) for the 54 year period from 1781 to 1835 (L1/4/1/1, L1/4/1/2, L1/4/1/3 and L1/4/1/4). The records of the payments from 1822, 1824 and 1825, clearly state that they are for "4 Waits", thus re-confirming for us the number of Waites appointed during those years.

The examples below show the amounts paid to the various officials of the City:

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Other Income: Lady Day

In the City Accounts for 1804 there is one entry for an additional payment of 2s.6d. to the Waites, made on 26 March. As Lady Day was 25 March, it seems logical that this payment might be connected with some official celebration - one more fact suggests that this might have been for attendance at a banquet - the payment was made at the Rein Deer "for attendance". No further explanation is given in the Accounts and no similar payments have been discovered at this time of year (L1/4/1/2).

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Lincoln City Mayors' Account Rolls

The salaries and other payments to Waites in Lincoln's Account Rolls span a period of 124 years, from 1685 - 1809. This file also includes 4 payments made during 1817 and 1818, recorded in the Lincoln Corpration Cash Book. Please open the PDF file to see all the references.

pdf  124 Years of Waites Income 1685 - 1809 (PDF file size = 96.8kb).  Get Adobe Reader

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Waites 'Pensions'?

The money paid to Lincoln's Waites was never described as a 'Pension' in any Account Book. Their Salaries continued to be listed under the account heading of Salaries and Stipends even after 1837, and clear accounts can be found in two books entitled Orders for Payment 1845-1854 (L1/4/5/1) & 1854-1866 (L1/4/5/2).

pdf  Waites Salaries 1845 - 1858  Get Adobe Reader

It is noteworthy that these books never describe the payments as a 'Pension', but always as 'Salary'. Perhaps this may be an indication of the Corporation's intent - not to enforce retirement on these long serving and valued officers of the City, but to encourage their continued involvement in City ceremonial by continuing to keep them on the City Corporation Payroll.

In 1846, the Recorder appears to have had some trouble with the men's names - "Horne" is probably William Howe and the entries for "Howden" and "Howson" refer to John Hawson. The last payment to John Hawson was recorded on 8 February 1848 and the last payment to William Howe on 5 may 1857. The last surviving Waite on the PAyroll of Lincoln Coporation, and perhaps the last paid Waite in the whole of England, was Selby Dickinson. The Corporation's final salary payment to Dickinson was made on 3 August 1858.

Lincoln Council treated their Waits in a unique manner. In England, the custom of Mayorally sponsored Waits had died out by 1836, but in this agreement with Selby Dickinson, the City Council officially recognised him as a Wait for his lifetime - until 1858.