www.townwaits.org.uk / History Index / Grantham

Grantham Waits

Alan Radford - 27 Nov 2013

Three sightings of the Grantham Waits through the mists of time:

From Spalding churchwardens' records, mid-16th century:
Quote found on Rootsweb:

"After the Dissolution, when it was decided that all the churches within the monastery were to be destroyed, funds were urgently needed for restoring and enlarging the church of St. Mary and St. Nicholas and converting it into the parish church. The following curious record made by Maurice Johnson two hundred years ago, tells how funds were raised for that purpose in Henry the Eighth's time.

"In the old acts of the churchwardens of the Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin St. Mary, in Spalding, there are, amongst others, very large acts of some plays, which were exhibited here in the Gore against the Great Gate of the Priory, one of which, uncertain as to time, wanting date, in three long paper rolls appears to have been very costly and magnificent."

"All Lincolnshire and many great towns and much quality in the neighbouring counties, being invited to it by special messengers by billets of baines. From about thirty of the towns there were spectators present. It was contributed to by Lord Willoughby, the Lady Fitzwilliam, the Champion Dymocke, the Lady Kyme, Mr. Mann of Bolingbroke, the Lord Bishop of Peterborough (John Chambers 1541-56), and the City of Peterborough, and the Burghers of Boston and Stamford, from all of which many were present."

"It seems from the articles of expense such as arms, drums, and much minstrelsy, besides the Grantham Waits, to have been a manly performance and sort of Tournament or representation of the War in Heaven and battle between St. Michael and the Devils, with the machinery of heaven and hell, much gunpowder was used in it and bows and staves, headed with iron, and it seems to have been performed on horseback. There are large allowances for horsemeal and shoeing horses. It was composed and ordered by Mayster Howsun, an ingenious priest, and the guests who were foreigners and nobility of the corporations, were treated by the town with comfitts and other cakes, and with malmsey wine and claret wine."

"The inhabitants had allotments of so many first places measured out about the scene of action and paid largely for the same to accomodate their families and foreign [visiting] friends. It seems to me, by all I can discover, to have been towards the latter end of King Henry the Eighth's reign, and to have last three days in action, besides the rehearsals which are mentioned, and for which, to have it accurate, the players were fed likewise."

"The principal performer was one Edgoose, who I presume played the Archangel. There is particular mention made of three tormentors with staves tipped with iron. Much carving and painting, and the place seems to have been parted off with great poles and cables and much cordage was used about it."

The Musical Patronage of the English Aristocracy circa 1590-1640
Lynn Mary Hulse, Ph D Thesis, King's College, London (1992):

"The Grantham Waits were employed at Belvoir [Castle] in 1607-8 and 1637-8 and were paid £3.00 on each occasion."

Continuity and Change: The town, people and administration of Nottingham between c.1400 and c.1600.
Judith Anne Mills, Ph D Thesis, University of Nottingham (2010):

"Payment to Grantham Waits 6p." (Nottingham Corporation Records, 20 Aug 1572).

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