the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

England: history of the pipe and tabor

the 16th century

In the 16th century neither terminology nor spelling were fixed. So a pipe and tabor player could be, for example,
a mynstrell, a musician, a drummer, a pyper, taber and piper, tabret, taberette or a fidler. It is impossible to know now
which of some of these are taborers or players of other instruments as seen in contemporary images.

“Northumberland retained a taboret, a luter, and a rebec player. Similarly, Oxford retained a taboret,
a luter, and a fiddle player. Katherine of Aragon's minstrels included a taboret, piper, and rebec player.”

‘Patrons and performance : early Tudor household revels’ by Westfall, Suzanne R 1990

tabret playerssource
c.1500 wood panel, Lancaster
15001500 calligraphy book
1520-301520-30 pattern book East Anglia
1520-301520-30 pattern book, East Anglia player 1523 illustrated alphabet
1520 misericord
1520-24 stone carving alphabet16th century alphabet book
pub. London 1886
16th century angel1526 angel roof, St Wendreda, Cambridgeshire
1533 triumphal arch1533 sketch for
triumphal arch
16th centuryBeverley Minster
15381538 biblical sketch    
pipe and beater recovered from the Mary Rose which sank in 1545
Mary Rose Pipepipe from the Mary Rose
19821982 Mary Rose pipe on stamp exhibitionMary Rose exhibition
1540-41 1540-41 psalter f98v
1540-411540-41 with the other musicians
1547 From an Inventory of the Guarderobes, etc. of the instruments of Henry VIII:
“Item. A Pipe for a Taberde in a Case of blacke leather.”
1552 The indictment of eighteen minstrels at Chester included three taborers, eight fiddlers and eight pipers.
15501550-75 'Boke of Astronomy and off Philosophye' fol 031v  
1560-801560-80 Biblical painting
1550-1621 stained glass  
1599 pamphlet illustration
1580's and 1611
book illustration
end 16th centuryend 16th century alphabet book  f. 19 

'"The picture here set down,
/Within this letter T,
/Aright doth shew the form and shape
/ Of Tharlton unto thee"

John Scottowe (d. 1607),
calligrapher and schoolmaster,
writing master of Norwich

Some of the entertainments which took place during the reign of Henry VIII were described
by Richard Gibson in the Revels Accounts:

1510 Accounts of Revels
 pageant prepared called "the Golldyn Arber in the Archeyerd of Plesyer."  The costumes included:
  “For Cornish's and the minstrel's garments, for 40 "fassys" 3 yds. 46½ yards green satin
for another gown for Cornish, for 3 taborets, &c”

a pageant called the 'Ryche Mount'… “ The lords, the six minstrels on the mount, the men at arms,
the tambourines [Ed. presumably taborers] and the rebecks kept their dresses…
Number of persons in the revel 6 minstrels on the mount, and 4 for the dance.”

Christmas Day, a mumming in which the King himself took part.  Lists of costumes included:
“4 blue and white damask coats and bonnets for "drumbyllslads;" [drummers of large drums, originating in Switzerland]
crimson and green satin for the taborets and rebecks.”

for  "the story of Troylous and Pandor rychly inparylled”...“To the taborets, 2 jackets of the store.”

'Revels', in ‘Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 2, 1515-1518’

1512 a taborer kept by a noble household: ‘The Regulations and Establishment of the Household of Henry Algernon Percy’
The 5th Earl of Northumberland's Household Book:

ITEM Mynstralls in Houshold iij Viz . A Taberett A Luyte and A Rebecc = iij .”

Page 45
“Mynſtralls iij Viz . A Taberett a Luyte and a Rebecc .”

Page 46 and 48
ALLWAYS PROVIDITT the Wagies accustommyde of my Lordes Hous that every Person belongynge
to every rowme accustomed in the foresaid roull shall have by Yere after this forme followynge if they be
payde by th'assignemente of the Hous ,…Every Mynstrall if he be Taberet iiij . Every Luyte and Rebecc
xxxiijs . iiijd . and to be payd in Housholde if they have it nott by Patentt or Warraunt

Page 343/344 (Payments made to minstrels for other household duties for the family):
AL MANER OF REWARDIS Customably usede to be Yeven by my Lorde to his Lordshipis
SERVAUNTS As the Consideracion WHY more playnly hereafter followith ,
“ITEM My Lorde usith and accustomyth to gyf yerly when his Lordschipp is at home to his Mynstraills
that be daly in his Houshold as his Tabret Lute ande Rebek upon New-Yeres-Day in the mornynge
when they doo play at my Lordis Chambre doure for his Lordschipe and my Lady xxs. Viz. xiijs. iiijd,
for my Lorde and vjs. viiijd. for my Lady if sche be at my Lords fyndynge and not at hir owen And for
playing at my Lordis sone and heir Chaumbre doure the Lord Percy ijs. And for playinge at the Chaumbre
doures of my Lords Yonger Sonnes my Yonge Maisters after viijd. the pece for every of them [xxiijs. Iiijd”


1516 Herriard, Hampshire; St Mary's Churchwardens' Accounts:

"Item to William Curges for iij yerys pypyng"

1517-18 Ely Priory, Cambridgeshire; Treasurer's Accounts

“Given to entertainers of the lord king on the feast of the translation of St Ethelred the virgin by custom, 10s.
  Given (to be divided) among others, pipers, at that time, 4s.....
Given to pipers of the lord king, 3s 4d...”

1523 "This is expenses and charges and money paid unto my master, anno 14."
 "To Watte Taberer, 10d."

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 3, 1519-1523

1526 Southampton, Hampshire; Steward's Accounts:

“Item payd to my lord talbotes mynstrell for a Reward     xx d.”

“In the year 1526 the king's band of musicians was constituted as follows: 15 trumpets, 3 lutes, 3 rebecks ,
3 taborets, 1 harp, 2 viols, 10 sackbuts, a fife, and 4 drumslades.”
The Story of Minstrelsy by EDMONDSTOUNE DUNCAN 1907

In Parish Records many men are termed 'mynstrell', 'miussicion', 'musycion,' 'Musytion,' ' musitionn,' without
naming the instrument they played. For example:
"Richard Streache, one of the Waits of London, pensioned  on January 29th 1555 by the City, because he had
“become  very weake syckelye and ympotente.”
Corporation of London Record Office, Repertory 13, fo1.255~1

1555 A civic code in Beverley, aimed at the "part-time" musician, forbids any "miller, shepherd, or husbandman
playing on pipe or other instrument should perform without authority at any wedding or merry-making, outside his own parish."

the renaissance wind band and wind ensemble, by David Whitwell, 1983

1561 York, an ordinance was passed concerning the non-resident minstrel, specifying that "no manner of foreigner"
be allowed to practice any form of minstrelsy, singing or playing upon any instrument within any parish within this city
or franchise thereof upon any church holidays or dedication days hallowed or kept within the same parish, any
brotherhood's or freeman's dinner or dinners."

the renaissance wind band and wind ensemble, by David Whitwell, 1983

1563 Bramley, Hampshire; St James' Churchwardens' Accounts:

“Item to Crofte the mynstrell     ij s.”

After King Henry VIII’s reformation people could be tried as heretics for not attending church.

1576/7 Leverington, Cambridgeshire; Diocesan Court Proceedings: “The office of the lord (judge) against
Richard Cobbe, the minstrel ...”
“notatur yat he was absent from service the xxth & xxvijth of maye last, & coulde alledge noe iuste cause of excuse….
 That one of those dayes he was furthe at a brydall in Marshland …”

1580 Southampton, Hampshire; Mayor's Accounts:
"Lyveries for officers as followeth the ixth day of December 1580"

"Henry the Minstrell j yeardes ij quarters"

1584 alumni of Oxford University lists the son of:

“ John of Salvinton, a common fidler born 16 Dec. 1584”

Alumni Oxonienses 1500-1714. Originally published by University of Oxford, Oxford, 1891.

1585 “the fagge-end of an old man’s old will, who gave a good somme of mony to a Red-fac’d Ale-drinker,
who plaid upon a Pipe and Tabor, which was this:

“To make your Pipe and Tabor keepe their sound,
And dye your Crimson tincture more profound,
There growes no better medicine on the ground
Than Aleano (if it may be found)
To buy which drug I give a hundred pound.”

in 'Drinke and Welcome' quoted in Th'e Curiosities of Ale & Beer: An Entertaining History', by John Bickerdyke 1889

1587 a French musician compiled a list of the events he had played in. This included in 1587, 'la nuit de Saint-Julien'
as part of a grand noise of instruments playing together including 'flûtes à neuf trous' [recorder]
as well as a three-holed pipe and tabor.

1620 list compiled by Michel Henry

House Book records in York:

“And to bringe from evrye parishe A drume and A fife"
1596 [similar]
1598 [similar]
1600 House Book
"Item that everye constables be ther in his best apparell without cloke and gowne with constables staves painted
to attend for wiflers as they shalbe placed and bringe ther parishoners with them and from everye parishe A drome
and A fife
or suche  like upon paine of xx s of every parishe to be forfeited by the constables,
york this xxiij1*1 daie of lune, 1600. "

[There are many notes of sums being paid to 'minstrels', but the records give no hint of what instruments they played.]

1597 "John Bouset, or Possetis was a master at jests and clownish tricks… He often carried a pipe and sometimes,
like other English clowns, a drum. He raised a laugh by looks and actions without speaking a word…”

mentioned by Mangold ‘Markschiffs Nachen’ (1597)
from ‘The Elizabethan jig and related song drama’ by Baskervill, Charles Read

1602 Sutton, Cambridgeshire,  Diocesan Court Proceedings:

“Spence a minstrell that being a piper draweth the youth of Sutton to ill order on the Sabaoth dayes, & being
admonished by the Minister he would doe yt in spite of him. On which day he appeared and the lord (judge)
enjoined him to do penance in the church of Sutton…”

flute and drum duo
At the same time as the pipe and tabor played by one person was in use, the duo of flute player and drummer
was also used in armies in Europe. In the 1400s the Swiss military used flute and drum as a means of communication
and to help their soldiers on long marches. Their presence on the battlefield and playing for court entertainments
can be documented from around 1470, The Germans adopted this military music.

1489 Fife and Drum
“4 June 1489 at the banquet for the baptism of Antoine, the eldest of the sons of René II of Lorraine,
music was performed by "tambours, fifres et trompettes".

1450-14751450-1475 Germany page 36r 14801480 Bern, Switzerland 1492 an “entry in the Privy Purse expenses of Henry VII,
who, in 1492, gave to
"2 Sweches grete taborers" the sum of £2.
- foreign labour imported by either royalty or nobility”
14961496 Germany 2r
15301530 Germany
15581558 Italy
fife and drum

“amongst the musicians of Henry VIII at his death was " Olyver Fyfer" who played the Fife …The Fife seems to have
been brought into use shortly before 1530, when the drummers and the fifers were procured from the Continent for
the King's Band. In 1539 we find the citizens of London mustering with Drums and Fifes ; and George Ferrers, who,
as Lord of Misrule at the Christmas festivities of Edward VI, had to give directions for the necessary preparations, writes :
" I have provided one to plaie upon a Kettell Drom with his boye,
and a nother Drome with a fyffe which must be apparelled like turkes garments."

Again, in 1557, when an army was dispatched to S. Quentin, in France, a " drumme and phife " at is. each per diem were
attached to the train of artillery. The shrill notes of the instrument, however, were not appreciated by all, and doubts were
raised as to whether the soldiers' attention might not be distracted "by the aire of a whistle" from the signals given by
the Drum; so in the reign of James II it was banished from the army,”

quoted in 'Old English instruments of music, their history and character' by Galpin, Francis W. 1910


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