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Bristol Waits


Bristol Waits played for Edward Stafford the Duke of Buckingham at Thornbury Castle in 1507-08 (earliest record of their existence) and again in 1521-22.


Item to the iij. Wayts of the Towne at Seynt George is tide vis viijd at Midsomer for theyr waytyng upon the Meyer xxs at Mighelmas iijs and iij. gownys conteyning xii. yards at iiijs the yard xlviijs iijli xvijs viijd.

From: 'Chapter 2: Origin of the town dues', Bristol Town Duties: A collection of original and interesting documents [etc.] (1828), pp. 43-83.
URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=108164&strquery=wayts

1548, 1550

Some interesting details of musical apprenticeships from the mid-16th century, from Ruth Goodman's book "How to be a Tudor":
Thomas Rancock of Bristol took on William Drowry in 1548, and the indenture specified that at the end of his apprenticeship William would be provided with a viol, a loud shawm and a still shawm.
In 1550 Rancock took on a second apprentice, John Rome, with the stipulation that upon completion he would be provided with a viol, a loud shawm, a still shawm and a rebec.


In 1562, a Chelmsford dramatic production employed the Bristol Waits.
[Whitwell Essays]


Bristol Corporation Accounts, Guild Account and Apprentices: Mayor's Audits, Bristol 1574-6

24 Mar: Item paid to the iiij waytes for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
23 Jun: Item paid to the iiij waytes for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
18-29 Sep: Item paid for the Rent of the iiij waytes house for this yere xxvj s. viij d.
28 Sep: Item paid to the iiij waytes for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
24 Dec: Item paid to the iiij waytes for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
24 Mar: Item paid to the iiij waytes for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
23 Jun: Item paid to the iiij waytes for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
28 Sep: Item paid to the iiij waites for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
24 Dec: Item to the 4 waytes for their ffee j li vj s. viij d.
24 Mar: Item paid to the iiij waytes for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
23 Jun: Item paid to the iiij waites for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
28 Sep: Item paid to the iiij waites for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.
24 Dec: Item paid to the iiij waytes for their ffee xxvj s. viij d.

[Hence the four waits were being paid £5 6s 8d per annum, and occasionally more. These payments continued through the reign of Elizabeth I and beyond.]


St James Churchwardens' Accounts 1580-81
payd to the wayghtes of harforde for mvsycke at the last Cownpt dyner ij s.
[Looks like the Hereford Waits were doing a bit of moonlighting.]


Wiredrawers and Pinmakers Accounts 1584-85:
16 Nov 1584-5: Item payd to the waytes on the queenes holy day xij d.
29 Jul 1590-2: mor paid to the waytes at owr dynner ij s. vj d.
Jun-Jul 1590-2: Item to the wayts xvj d.
Item to the wayts [swearing in of Guild Master Rychard Hart j s.]


St James Churchwardens' Accounts 1584-85
8 Dec: Item payd vnyo the waytes at Christmas for a Carolle ij s. vj d.


In Bristol the Waits do not appear to have employed wood-wind instruments, always giving preference to brass. In 1585, when a Spanish invasion of England was threatened, the militia marched to the sound of drums and fifes; but it is thought likely that the Waits were merged in the military music.

That Waits' music was appreciated and encouraged three centuries ago is evident from an entry dated 1611 in the records, concerning the purchase of a new Saggbutt for the Waits at a cost of £4, which, allowing for the difference in the value of money, would probably represent the price of a very good instrument.

Eight years later, in 1619, the Corporation engaged "a fifth man to play with the other musitions of the City, on the saggebutt, to make up a fifth part."

It is somewhat difficult to distinguish in the City Annals, between the bona-fide Waits and the other bands and musicians who evidently had a large share in the civic rejoicings; but they were undoubtedly a distinct and important guild of their own in days when every Bristolian belonged to one guild or another.

Four silver badges and chains were purchased for the Waits in 1683. The chains, as they now exist, preserved in the Council House, are doubtless of that date; but the dimidiated rose and pomegranate of Queen Mary on the superimposed shields warrant the supposition that they date from the middle of the sixteenth century.

The Bristol Waits were disbanded in 1686, but they appear again in 1700, when we find them officiating at public ceremonies and engaged as serenaders.

In 1715 two, at any rate, of the sackbuts appear to have been replaced by silver trumpets at a cost of £21 17s. 6d., and these instruments are still played on.

The Civic waits held their position in Bristol until 1835, when the passing of the Municipal Reform Act, and the economies thereby effected, brought their harmonious career to an end.

[Hadland (1915) "The Waits"]


Apprenticeship Indentures 1593-1615

William Johnson musician is admytted into the liberties of this Cittie for that he was prentice to James Sergantes a burgesse butt because he served butt parte of his terme master mayor Commaunded him to be made a burgess: iij s. iiij d.

Iohannes wood filius Bartholomei wood de dunstar in Comitatu somerset posuit se apprenticium Ihepheri Hilliard de Civitate Bristoll musition et Eleanore vxori eius pro novem annis solvendo in fine annorum x s. et iiij s. vj d. pro libertate Bristoll Cum duplici apparatu &c

Willelmus wattes filius Iosephi wattes nuper de Glastenbury in comitatu Somerset defuncti posuit se apprenticium Nicholao Holden de Civitate Bristoll Trumpeter et Matilde vxori eius pro termino Septem Annorum solvendo ad finem Annorum predictorum vnum Anglice Trumpet x s. et iiij s. vj d. pro libertate Bristoll cum duplici apparatu &c

Iacobus Iacobbes filius Cornelij Iacobbes nuper de Civitate Bristoll defuncti posuit se apprenticium Henrico Godden de Civitate Bristoll predicta musicion et Alicie vxori eius pro termino Decem Annorum solvendo in fine Annorum predictorum vnum Instrumentum et Vj s. viij d. et iiij s. vj d. pro libertate Bristoll cum duplici apparatu &c

Robertus wilson filius Nicholai wilson nuper de Civitate Bristoll defuncti posuit se apprenticium willelmo Iohnson De Civitate predicta Musytion et Matilde vxori eius pro termino Septem Annorum solvendo in fine Annorum predictorum vnum Instrumentum et iiij s. vj d. pro libertate Bristoll cum duplici apparatu &cl

Elizabetha Phillippes filia Anthonij Phillippes nuper de parochia predicta defuncti posuit se apprenticiam Willelmo Iohnson dicte Civitatis musicion et margarete vxori eius pro termino duodecim Annorum solvendo in fine Annorum predictorum duplicem apparatum &c

Riccardus Hutt fillius Henrici Hutt de wedgburie in Comitatu Staffordie posuit se Apprenticium ffrancisco Hiwood de Ciuitate Bristoll Musicion et Eme vxori eius pro termino septem annorum soluendo in fine Annorum predictorum singularem apparatum &c and also one Insterment that he Can play best &c

Robertus Saunders filius Willelmi Saunders nuper de Baselicke in Comitatu monmoth husbandman defuncti posuit se appnticium Isacco Bryne de Civitate Bristoll Instrumentmaker ey Sibellae vxori eius pro termino decem Annorum solvendo in fine Annorum predictorum xv s. cum duplici apparatu &c

1582-3: Iohannes yorke apprenticed to Patricio wise, musition

1584-5 Wilhelmus Carter appreticed to Rogero Iames, Ciuitate Bristoll musition
Roger James had been admitted to the liberties of the City in 1578-9

1587-8 Iohannes Brewer apprenticed to Galfrido Hellier, Civitate Bristollie musicioner

1588-9 Samuel Crancke apprenticed to Galfrido Hellier, Civitate Bristoll Musyconer

1591-2 Iacobus Parris apprenticed to Galfrido Hellyer, Civitate predicta Musyconer

1591-2 Iohannes Bannton apprenticed to Willelmo Lawrence, Civitate musition

1593-5 Iohannes wood apprenticed to Ihepheri Hilliard, Civitate Bristoll musition. Transferred to apprenticeship with Henry Laurence, musicion in 1597

1595-7 Iacobus Iacobbes apprenticed to Henrico Godden, Civitate Bristoll predicta musicion

1595-7 Robertus wilson apprenticed to willelmo Iohnson, Civitate predicta Musytion.
    In 1593-5 William Johnson had himself been admitted to the liberties of the City
    In 1604-5 this Robert Wilson received the liberty of the City.

1597-8 Elizabetha Phillippes apprenticed to Willelmo Iohnson, Civitatis musicion

1601-2 Ricardus Hutt apprenticed to ffrancisco Hiwood, Ciuitate Bristoll Musicion

1608-9 Iohannes Powell (son of Iohannes Powell [snr], Ciuitate Bristoll Musicion) apprenticed to Willelmo Iohnson, Civitate Musicion

Hence we can identify nine or ten Bristol Waits members over a twenty-seven year period:
    Patrick Wise ?
    Roger James
    Wilfred Hellier
    William Lawrence
    Geoffrey Hilliard
    Henry Lawrence
    Henry Godden
    William Johnson
    Francis Highwood
    John Powell snr.

and their apprentices:
    John York
    William Carter
    John Brewer
    Samuel Cranke
    Jacob Parris
    John Banton
    John Wood
    Jacob Jacobs
    Robert Wilson
    Elizabeth Phillips
    Richard Hutt
    John Powell jr.


As quoted in Christopher Marsh's book, "Music and Society in Early Modern England"
(Cambridge University Press, 2013. ISBN 1107610249, 9781107610248.)

BRISTOL 1603 : The waits played for the proclamation of the accession of King James I.


6 October: Roberte Willson musicion is admitted into the liberties of this Cittye for that he was the Apprentice of William Iohnson musicion
[see apprentice indentures] iij s. iiij d.


Bristol Waits performed in Carlisle over Christmas 1614-15.


John Friedrich Dinglestadt was paid as a Bristol wait in 1720-21.
[H D Johnstone (2008) Claver Morris, an early eighteenth century English physician and amateur musician extraordinaire.]


An interesting oddity relating to waits in Bristol:

Guild of Guardians honour young musicians (Release date: Mon, 25 June 2012)

Six young Bristol musicians will be honoured today (Monday 25 June) for their contribution to the good name of the city through 'City Waits' awards from the Guild of Guardians of Bristol.

The 'City Waits' are £750 bursaries awarded annually for outstanding music making in the city. The name dates back to medieval times when Bristol employed four minstrels to provide entertainment on key state or civil occasions.

Four special £400 awards from the Guild of Guardians are being made this year to help young musicians gain extra training or meet exam fees. Two City Waits awards of £750 in recognition of a very high standard of musicianship. Many previous City Waits recipients have gone on to become professional musicians.

The awards are administered by Bristol's Arts and Music Service and will be made at the Mansion House by the Lord Mayor of Bristol Cllr Peter Main.

He said: "I am proud to honour these outstanding musicians, it is right that we celebrate their incredible talent"

1. The Guild of Guardians is a registered charity that aims to improve the quality of civic life in Bristol. It works in partnership with the council to support and enhance the Mansion House and Office of Lord Mayor.
2. The "City Waits" awards are thought to be named after an instrument that was an early form of an oboe.
3. The recipients of the awards are:
Guild of Guardian awards:
Demi Hartry, a 13 year old vocalist from Henbury Secondary School. She is in the school choir and the Big Idea Theatre School.
Thea Berry, who plays the French Horn for the Bristol Schools Symphonic Brass Ensemble and the Bristol Schools Philharmonia. She attends the North Bristol Sixth Form Centre at Cotham School.
Carlos Rogriguez, a 12 year old violist from Cotham School. He plays with many school groups and the Bristol Schools Philharmonia.
Tegwen Hammersley, a 12 year old harpist from Cotham School. She plays with the Bristol Schools Philharmonia.
City Waits awards:
Charlie Woof-Byrne is a 15 year old student with Bristol Cathedral Choir School who specialises in the violin and piano. He plays in a wide range of ensembles and orchestras in Bristol and has performed as a soloist at the Colston Hall and St George's.
Mathew Horn attends Brinsham Green School and is a student with the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department. He plays the French horn and has a scholarship at the Guidhall School of Music and Drama starting in September to help him peruse a career as a professional musician.

(Source: Bristol City Council - http://www.bristol.gov.uk/press/children-and-young-people/guild-guardians-honour-young-musicians)

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