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Westminster Waits

15 October 2009, From Alan Radford

The town waits certainly existed in Westminster as late as 1822, and they were elected by the Court of Burgesses of that city -_vide_ a magazine cutting of that date: "Christmas Waits - Charles Clapp, Benjamin Jackson, Denis Jelks, and Robert Prinset, were brought to Bow Street Office by O. Bond, the constable, charged with performing on several musical instruments in St. Martin's Lane, at half-past twelve o'clock this morning, by Mr. Munroe, the authorized principal Wait, appointed by the Court of Burgesses for the City and Liberty of Westminster, who alone considers himself entitled, by his appointment, to apply for Christmas boxes. He also urged that the prisoners, acting as Minstrels, came under the meaning of the Vagrant Act, alluded to in the 17th Geo. II.; however, on reference to the last Vagrant Act of the present king, the word 'minstrels' is omitted; consequently, they are no longer cognizable under that Act of Parliament; and, in addition to that, Mr. Charles Clapp, one of the prisoners, produced his indenture of having served seven years as an apprentice to the profession of a musician to Mr. Clay, who held the same appointment as Mr. Munroe does under the Court of Burgesses. The prisoners were discharged, after receiving an admonition from Mr. Halls, the sitting magistrate, not to collect Christmas boxes."

In an article, "Concerning Christmas," in _Belgravia_ (vol. 6, new series, p. 326), we read: "It may not, perhaps, be generally known that, in the year of grace 1871, 'Waits' are regularly sworn before the Court of Burgesses at Westminster, and act under the authority of a warrant, signed by the clerk, and sealed with the arms of the city and liberty; in addition to which they are bound to provide themselves with a silver badge, also bearing the arms of Westminster."

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