The History of Lincoln Waites


13 May 1756

"Proposed and agreed that John Smith [might this be the Smith that was mentioned in 1740?][Two years later, in 1758, John Smith died] and John Ashley be elected two of the Waits of this City in the Room of William Wigley [William Wigley or Wiggsley first became a Wait in 1719, and then again from 1755 to 1756] who has resigned and of Benjamin Johnson (now One of the Waits of this City)[Benjamin Johnson first became a Wait in 1742] who is now Ordered to be and he is hereby discharged from being a Waite any longer by Reason of his not being fit for the Place and that the said Benjamin Johnson be in Consideration of his necessitous Circumstances Five Pounds and five Shillings by this City upon Account of his being so discharged upon his delivering up of the Silver Badge to Mr Mayor. And it is further proposed and agreed that the salary of the Waites be augmented from Thirty Shillings a Year to Forty Shillings a Year Each Provided they go the Watch four nights in the Week from Michaelmas to Ladyday." (ref: L1/1/1/7, p366)

This passage does seem to connect our Waits (Civic Musicians) with the Watch (a Security Force, much like Policemen). What it clearly does NOT do, is state whether the Waits played their music during their four nights watch, or whether they simply undertook these law and order duties in addition to playing music at OTHER times.

Perhaps the Council found it difficult to locate people willing to commit themselves to the duties of the night watch? The Waits may have been singled out because, in their predominantly ceremonial roles, they were Council Employees whose time was not fully occupied. Or perhaps they had some previous experience of working in a security role? I doubt whether they all fulfilled the age-group specified for the Watch though (see below). Musicians can ply their trade at almost any age and Waits often took apprentices who were nothing more than young boys. Other Waites continued in Office for years - until they had no choice but to retire due to old age and poor health. These young boys and old men are unlikely to be the City's first choice as men fit to undertake policing.

The passage below (from the previous year) gives a picture of how the watch was organised.

30 Dec 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 sollicited 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 and Close if the Gentlemen of those 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."

"Proposed and Agreed that Eight able and honest Men not under thirty or above sixty years of age, patrole the Town 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. (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. That they be continued during their good Behaviour for as long as they are able. And that a years Salary as shall hereafter be agreed on and settled by a Committee be paid them Quarterly by the Mayor for the Time being." (ref: L1/1/1/7, p361)

John Ashley

John Ashley (the younger) had served a three year apprenticeship to Thomas Flint, Brush Manufacturer. John's father (John Ashley the elder) was also a Brushmaker. Under the terms of the apprenticeship, in return for his three years of training, John had to take on any domestic tasks that may be "reasonably required". Listed tasks include grooming his master's horse, cleaning shoes and cleaning knives. John received a wage of £5 a week and was provided with "Meat, Drink, Cloathes, Washing and Lodging" (ref: MISC DEP 483/1)

St Martin's Parish Register states that John Ashley married Eunice Cooper on 29 May 1832 at St Martin's Church. The ceremony was conducted by Geo. D Kent, Curate. (ref: MISC DEP 483/2)

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