The Bath Chamberlain Accounts show notes of payments for Waits liveries, though there are also notes of payments to the Bristol Waits for appearing at the time during the visits of certain lords to the city of Bath. It is not clear whether the payment for liveries was to the Bristol Waits or whether Bath had its own by that time. The Bristol Waits were certainly busy because there are records of them also being paid to perform in Bridgwater and Wells at about the same time.
In Edward Ward’s book, ‘A Step to the Bath’ is a mention, “In the morning we were
saluted by the whole fraternity of cat-
Beau Nash, as city Master of Ceremonies, had given orders that visitors were to be greeted with a peal of the Abbey bells, and then at their lodgings by the City waits. Apparently the bell ringers were to be paid half a guinea for their efforts, and the waits half a crown.
The Bath Council Minutes for March 26 record, “Agreed that the City Waits, now established
by this Corporation, whose business is to attend the Corporation on all occasions
shall have 4 guineas p.ann. for their trouble.”
This was most likely for their role in playing during the procession for the annual Mayor-
“And music’s a thing I shall truly revere
Since the city musicians so tickle my ear:
For when we arrived here at Bath t’other day,
They came to our lodgings on purpose to play.”
“I scarce was arriv’d when the fiddlers all came,
And bawl’d out aloud, as by instinct, my name;
Surpris’d at the meaning, I roar’d out to know,
While the sweat stood like peas on my deep-
Why such noise and disturbance was making below?”
“The customs that particularly relate to the Strangers be welcoming with them to
the city, first by a Peal of the Abbey Bells and, in the next place, by the Voice
and Musick of the City Waits ... the Waits seldom miss their fee of a Crown, Half-
“This fray being with difficulty suppressed, by the intervention of our own footman
and the cook-
By now the Waits had acquired an unsavoury reputation and an attempt was made to disband them, as noted below.
The Bath Chronicle records on December 15, “ORDERS have been sent by authority to
the Musicians, or City Waits to desist from playing at Lodging-
The Bath Chronicle records on November 10, “Cautions to the Company visiting Bath.
… It is further requested that no money be given to those persons who play at the
This shows a motley band of musicians greeting the arrival of a stage-
The Minutes of the Standing Committee of the Charter Trustees for May 12 record, “BATH CITY WAITS Councillor Gilchrist recommended reviving the tradition of having about six musicians performing on civic occasions. The group would make no charge but would be included in any hospitality when they were playing and the Mayor would buy a round of drinks when s/he attended one practice session a year. The group would play English traditional music, be called ‘Bath City Jubilee Waits’, and membership would be open to all musicians who were willing to attend rehearsals. The Mayor would be invited to become their Patron. It was resolved that the Mayor should become Patron of Bath City Jubilee Waits and the musicians would be invited to perform on approximately three suitable occasions each year and given at least four weeks’ notice of each event.”
Trevor Fawcett, ‘Voices of 18th Century Bath’, Ruton Press, 1995
Trevor Fawcett, ‘Bath Entertain’d’, Ruton Press, 1998
Lewis Melville, ‘Bath Under Beau Nash’, 1907
University of Toronto, ‘Records of Early English Drama (Somerset)’, 1996
John Wroughton, ‘Stuart Bath’, Lansdown Press, 2004
Dr Michael Rowe, of the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, for tracking down the Rowlandson picture.
The Town Waits website (www.townwaits.org.uk) has some information which has been used in the compilation of the above material including the pictures.