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 - folk customs



1787 poem ‘The DEATH of ROSAMUND’1787'Select beauties of ancient English poetry'. With remarks by Henry Headley, A.B. 1787: Vol 1

1742 “the 1st of May is a Day of Diversion among the Tradesmen, there is piping and dancing;”

Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London, Trial account, 9th September 1742, t17420909-4

dancing around the maypole


" In the year 1708 there did come a great company
of Broad Brims for to stop the May Dance about the
pole at Sinnington, and others acting by concert did
the like at Helmsley, Kirby Moorside and Slingsby,
....whilst yet the may Queen was not yet
come but when those with flute and drum and dancers
came near to crown the Queen the Broad Brims did
pray and sing psalms and would not give way ..."

The account is taken by Calvert from one Nares book.

1749, Letter from Strawberry Hill, May 3; Walpole wrote:
" The next day what was called 'a jubilee-masquerade in the Venetian manner' at Ranelagh: it had nothing
Venetian about it . . .When you entered you found the whole garden filled with masks and spread with tents
which remained all night very commodely. In one quarter was a Maypole dressed with garlands, and people
dancing round it to a tabour and pipe and rustic music, all masked ..... "

quoted in 'Chelsea: The Hospital', Old and New London: Volume 5 (1878)

1758 VIRGIL's Tomb. NAPLES 1741 by Joseph Trapp 

 “…No more the Maypole's verdant height around
To Valour's games th' ambitions youth advance;
No merry bells and tabors' sprightlier sound
Wake the loud carol, and the sportive dance….”

In Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764. 'A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands'. Vol. IVLondon: 1763 [1st ed. 1758].

17591759 Ranelagh Gardens, London (after Antonio Canaletto ) 17591759 player, from a different print
1761 1761Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 14 December 1898

1762 Maypole dancing

“ The children welcomed him with their shrill shouts, the damsels with songs of praise, and the young men,
with the pipe and tabor, marched before him to the May-pole, which was bedecked with flowers and bloom.
There the rural dance began.”

‘The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves’ by Tobias Smollett; chapter 3

1768 poem ‘The Country Parish Clerk.’

“…Nor is He Foe to Mirth, but oft at Eve,
When Youths and Maidens dance upon the Green,
Or round the Maypole, where at Season due,
Suspended high the flow'ry Garland's seen,
Then whilst with nimble Steps the Ground They beat,
Whilst merrily the Pipe and Tabor sound, :…”

'Poems of Various Kinds. Viz. Satires, tales, pastorals, elegiac and other pieces.' by John Robinson.

1769 poem: 'The milk maid's garland.'
“.. The ribbons wreathe the May-pole round,
The tabor beats à pleasing sound.  
The festive youths advance ;
Around the pole how brisk they move,
Each strives, to win the fair one's love,
With song or sprightly dance….”

'May Day-a poem. In four parts'

1785 Maypole dancing 1785Trifles in Verse - Volume 3 - Page 82 by John Marjoribanks
c1770 fabricc1770 fabric print c1770c1770 fabric print player
17741774 copy Betley window for a book illustration
17841784 satire 17841784 Prince of Wales is
playing the pipe and tabor
17931793 England, sketch 1793 player1793 player  
choosing the May Queen

1769 poem 'The Order of choosing the May Queen.’

“…Here ends the Sage, the rural throng,
With one accord applaud his song,
Then hailed their youthful Queen;
Again the pipe and tabor sound,
The fair returns with honour crown'd ;
Thus ends the happy scene,…”

‘M AY- DAY-a poem. In four parts'

1771 ' Poetical Pieces - May' : 1771Town and Country Magazine, or Universal Repository of Knowledge, Instruction, and Entertainment 1771-05: Vol 3

“The place of our retreat …… The whole neighbourhood came out to meet their minister,drest in their finest
cloathes, and preceded by a pipe and tabor.  A feast was also provided” …“often the blind piper would pay us a visit”

‘The Vicar of Wakefield’ by Oliver Goldsmith ch 4, page 26

1766 wedding procession1766 wedding procession in Richmond

1784 story, wedding procession

“…the very pleasing view of the brides— their bridegrooms — and the other young men and maidens
of the parish, They were just returned from church, and were accompanied by some young girls,
who was strewing flowers on the path before them, with a pipe and tabor preceding them…”

'The history of Lord Belford, and Miss Sophia Woodley. In a series of letters. ... 1784: Vol 3'

plough Monday
Plough Monday
1720’s - 'Dixton Harvesters', a painting in Cheltenham Art Gallery showing how the harvest was gathered.
The pipe and tabor player accompanied all the different activities.
[Ed. The painting has poor lighting and is high up on the wall so difficult to photograph]
Dixton Harvesterspart of the painting  
dancingdancing scythingscything
gathering haygathering hay   leading a lineleading a line of workers
Rapper sword dancers
In 1788 a group of sword dancers from the north, Cumbria, came to London and performed at the Pantheon theatre.
They were accompanied by a 'fidler'. This is a term occasionally used for a pipe and tabor player [see 'terminology'].


In 1772 a music book was written in which descriptions of the pipe and tabor were given. Although the instruments
were used for rustic music they were also played in the concert-hall.

militia marching
1761 “his Majesty reviewed the Dorsetshire Militia in Hyde Park;”1761Derby Mercury - Friday 30 October 1761
for more on the 18th century see:
ceramic ape players
morris dance
people ceramics
street entertainers


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