the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

England: history of the pipe and tabor

18th century dance

aristocratic and upper classes dance England
French and English court culture were intertwined until 1804 when Napoleon crowned himself. So in the 18th century, when it became fashionable for French aristocrats and the nobility to glorify the 'simple' peasant lifestyle, the vogue also spread to England. Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, lead the way playing at being a rustic peasant dressed in costly clothes. As a result many village and shepherd instruments, including the pipe and tabor, were played and danced to in highly stylised fashion in the most grandiose palaces of France and England. This proved to be a good subject for satire.


“Musicians made a living by hiring themselves out through agents for balls and private functions.  At Bedford House in 1759
an agent was paid 14 guineas to supply 3 ‘violas’, a hautboy (oboe?) a pipe and tabor and two basses for a ball.”

quoted in Sheila M Nelson, “The Violin and the Viola” Dover, page 122

1710 Description of a ball at Dudley Castle
As “recounted by her grandmother in 1776: While the band kept up the spirit with harp, pipe, tabor and violin the floor rocked beneath the quick and measured steps of the gay company engaged in the dance.... that distinguished company ...consisted of the nobles of the land.  The ladies shone with glossy silks and jewels  and the gentlemen with gold and silver lace....”

as reported in the County Advertiser & Herald for Staffordshire and Worcestershire - Saturday 16 February 1884

1746 newspaper report from London 1746Stamford Mercury - Thursday 12 June 1746

Letter 76 To George Montagu, Esq. Strawberry Hill, May, 14, 1761

“Saturday morning, Arlington Street. I came to town yesterday for a party at Bedford-House, made for Princess Amelia; the garden was open....... The tables were removed, the young people began to dance to a tabor and pipe; the Princess sat down again, but to unlimited loo; we played till three”

Letters of Horace Walpole, (1717-1797) - Volume 3

1761 ball newspaper reportSeptember 1761 Newspaper report of a ball in London
1793 “Her Majesty gave a grand entertainment for a select party of the nobility at Windsor”1793Bury and Norwich Post - Wednesday 16 January 1793
painting by Lancret 1732 painting by Lancret, France 'Mlle Camargo Dancing'
1750 painting by Pesne Marianne Cochois
tile1760 Liverpool tile [item 29]
tapestrytapestry copywith male dancer Camagoprint
Victorian copyVictorian copy Camargo on fanpainted on a fan Playerplayer from Hermitage copy
middle classes dance England
The eighteenth century saw the rise of the middle class, and more leisure time for studying the arts. At home young people were
expected to play an instrument and sing, while they could demonstrate their dancing skills at the local Assemblies. [source]

1762 ‘The Vicar of Wakefield’ : a ball at home:

“after a little shoving and dragging, they at last went merrily on. 
Our music consisted of two fiddles, with a pipe and tabor.” 

by Oliver Goldsmith (1730 – 1774) [ ch 9, page 57]

1762 ball as reported in Ireland in the Dublin Courier - Wednesday 16 June 17621862

1763 as advertised in The Ipswich Journal - Saturday 23 July 1763:

“27th A Ball at the King’s Head NB the French Horn will accompany the minuets: and the tabor and pipe the Country Dances”

17691769 'Fashionable Dances' France

1730 monkey plays1730 monkey plays for dancing 1771 monkey plays1771 monkey plays for dancing
1771 dancers1771 dancers 17711771 the band
France danceFrance bandthe band

In London dances were held at theatres during the 18th century. Pipe and tabor players were hired on occasion: there is one record
at the theatre for 1749, two in 1767 and one in1768 at the Covent Garden Theatre.

Between Dec 1774 and Nov 1775 there were 59 nights when the pipe and tabor player was hired at Theatre Royal Drury Lane
for dances.

178317831783reported in the Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 10 May 1783

In Bath the pipe and tabor was added to the orchestra on ball nights.

1791 as reported in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 17 November 1791

1791 A1791 B

The Season ran from October to early June. The Upper Rooms held two balls a week, a dress ball on Monday nights and a fancy ball on Thursday nights. Fancy Balls were much more relaxed occasions. Ladies could appear in hats or make any other elegant fashion statement they pleased. The band consisted of twelve performers including the harp, tabor and pipe. 'Each performer to be allowed a sum not exceeding half a guinea on each ball night for his attendance, which money is to be taken from the subscription of the respective balls'.
[Quoted in Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 27 May 1886]

Poems were made up describing people dancing to the pipe and and tabor [cannot find my source at present - ed].

17741774 by Duclos, Paris, France

1776 'An election ball: From Mr. Inkle, At Bath, To His Wife At Glocester, With A Poetical Address To John Miller'

“But at what Time they heard the Horns echoing bellow  
The Hautboy's shrill twang, the brisk Fiddle, the mellow   
Bassoon, and the sweet-grumbling Violoncello,
At what Time they heard the Men puff and belabour
With Mouth, Stick, and Fist, the gay Pipe and the Tabor

by Christopher Anstey (1724 – 1805)

orchestraEnglish orchestra with someone playing a one-handed pipe in the left hand
Lewis Walpole Library
painting, band playing for dancingband playing for dancing, France

1777 'A familiar epistle ... addressed to the ladies'

“But if by chance a dancing rage he feels,
And trusts, rash dotard, to his ears and heels,

On On light fantastic toe the damsel tripping,
Thro' many a mazy circle nimbly flapping,
Sees Johnny every nerve and muscle strain,
To trip with equal steps, and toil in vain.
In vain his hand he makes, in vain he begs
With earnest nods, some respite for his legs
No rest he knows, 'til halting in the middle,
He damns to hell pipe, tabor, flute, and fiddle.”

by Anstey, Christopher, 1724-1805[ line 197

17781778 wedding, France
[dancing to pipe and tabor in background, left]

'personalities of social, political, literary, and artistic life took so much ......
'In this manner, and in these sets, rapidly, gaily, uncounted, and untutored, ......
a BALL, (With proper Musick accompanied with the Tabor and Pipe.) .....

The Great Dr. Burney, His Life His Travels, His Works His Family and His Friends
Vol. 1 Book by Percy A. Scholes; 1948

1778 Allegory

‘Wealth and Poverty, an allegory’ (part)
Caledonian Mercury - Saturday 08 August 1778

1795 ball ticket1795 ball ticket 17891789 ball ticket
working classes dance France

c 1766 Travels Through France And Italy By Tobias Smollett
book 4

“If the peasants in the neighbourhood of any chapel dedicated to a saint, whose day 
is to be celebrated, have a mind to make a festin, in other 
words, a fair, they apply to the commandant of Nice for a 
license, which costs them about a French crown. This being 
obtained, they assemble after service, men and women, in their 
best apparel, and dance to the musick of fiddles, and pipe and 
, or rather pipe and drum.
1790's fabric1792 fabric depicting the Fall of the Bastille 14th July 1789, Jouy-en-Josas sailors danceRecord
Toile, red, on linen: probably a quilt fragment. 18th c.
Pipe and tabor player for two male youth dancers.

Frederick R. Selch Collection of American Music History
Inventory of Series 2: Visual Materials

weddingpainting by Desourtis [detail] wedding musicianswedding musicians [detail]


another wedding1785 players at another wedding
by Descourtis [detail]
working classes dance England

1719 from: SONGS Compleat, Pleasant and Divertiv; SET TO M U S I C K

...Each bonny Lad shall with his loving Lass,
With Pipe and Tabor trip it on the Grass ;
With Chaplets gay my Jenny shall be crown'd,
And with her Loving Jockey 'Dance around : ...

By Dr. JOHN BLOW, Mr. HENRY PURCELL, and other Excellent Masters of the Town

1719 Songs Compleat, Pleasant and Divertiv ;


Come Will, run Gill,
Or dost thou list to lose thy labour ?
Kit Crowd, scrape aloud,
Tickle her Tom\ with a Pipe and a Tabor,....

.... If the Tabor do play, we thump it away,
And turn, and meet our Lasses to Kiss 'em...

SET TO M U S I C K By Dr. John Blow, Mr. Henry Purcell,
and other Excellent Masters of the Town

1780's The Shepherds Holyday1780's

THE Managers of Drury-Lane Theatre...the following little piece was written merely with a view of mani|festing such their loyalty and gratitude, to the best of monarchs

"To the pipe and tabor beat
Frolic measures with your feet.
Ev'ry gift of time employ;
Make the most of proffer'd joy.....

So may all thy sylvan train,
Dryad, nymph, and rustic faun,
To the pipe and merry strain,
Trip it o'er the russet lawn!
May no thorn or bearded grass
Hurt their footsteps as they pass"

Poems. By Robert Lloyd, A.M: (1733-1764) page 264

1783 Entertainment in a Field near Busby Street, Bethnal-Green, London:
“After Dinner there was a Ball on a Platform before the Tents,
with Violins, Tabor and Pipe, French Horns, Cymbaiines and other Music.”

Derby Mercury - Thursday 26 June 1783


“The pipe and tabor, violin and harp,
When dance and merriment occasion yield,
Cheer his glad soul; the boards resound the time;
Twin'd with the jumping lass with springing
He skims and floats, with ease, along the floor;
Graceful his step, in every feature joy; “ ....

from: The College Hero, The Gentleman's magazine, Volume 59, Part 1, May 1789

1798 poem 1798 poemBath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 30 August 1798


for other types of dance see:
the last dance of all (dance of death)
regency dancing
Victorian dance

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