The Waits of Lincolnshire


  • James Stokes University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point



Most research into Lincolnshire dramatic records has focused on religious drama in the city of Lincoln and selected other towns and villages, but considerable information also survives about civic-sponsored entertainments of other kinds, including the sponsorship of waits by Lincoln and six other substantial towns. Drawing on records in Lincolnshire and elsewhere, this article describes what can be known about the Lincolnshire waits: the nature of civic sponsorship that supported them; the identify of the waits; their numbers and responsibilities; their patterns of travel and performance; their status in the towns; and something of their repertoire. The article demonstrates that the waits were an important element in the fabric of sponsored entertainments in Lincolnshire, that they had a more complex performance life than might be thought; and that they and their performances seem to have thrived, unlike many other forms and entertainers, right through the Puritan takeover of town governance and the Civil War. The article argues that while recognized as having been skilled musicians, the waits have not been sufficiently appreciated as professional, respected, companies; that they seem to have been an institution associated with the growth and development of certain important towns; that they were found to be valuable by both reform-minded and traditional officials alike; that they provide useful insights concerning the nature and purpose of civic sponsorship and of the considerable networking that occurred among companies of waits. Their presence is an essential element in the emerging picture of early drama and music in Lincolnshire.