the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

England: history of the pipe and tabor

Victorian (1830 - 1900)



The pipe and tabor are in decline. They are occasionally seen when country folk come to the main towns. However there is a folk memory of idyllic times in the rural past: the pipe and tabor is used to evoke this in romantic prose and poetry.


"The writer is informed by Mr. William Chappell that Hardman, a music-seller at York,
described the instruments to him fifty years ago ... adding that he had sold them, and that
country people still occasionally bought them."


1850's pipe and stick 1850's pipe and stick Victoria and Albert Museum tabortabor Victoria and Albert Museum


The Victorians started to research, redraw and publish old documents so they did not get lost:

Joseph Strutt quotes from many older documents. Illustrations from the 1838 edition include 'a cock dancing on stilts
to the pipe and tabor, a' 14th century pipe and tabor player with an animal with horns and 'a horse dancing to the pipe and tabor'.

(source: 'Sports and Pastimes of the People of England from the earliest period', original 1801, 2nd ed.1903)

1800-18341800-1834 drawing, copy of medieval taborer
© Ashmolean Museum
1845 copy of Betley Window1845 Old England.
Illustration from Old England,
A Pictorial Museum - copy of
17th century Betley Window
18451845 medieval player, copy
medieval originalc.1320-1330 original medieval psalter
France (Paris)
1847 copy of medieval manuscript1847 copy of medieval psalter from 'Le Moyen Age et La Renaissance'

18521852 page 383

18521852 page 383

18521852 page 381

18761876 by Strutt ‘Sports and Pastimes of the People of England’
15th century copy15th century tapestry copy (1838)
1892 copy1892 copy medieval manuscript
'Gregory Decretals'
1883 'Anglo-Saxon Homes' newspaper article: 1883Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser - Friday 09 November 1883
Dictionaries of all sorts were compiled before the old phrases and words were completely lost:

1854 "WAITS. The Corporation of Northampton, within the remembrance of my informant, had a band of musicians
called the corporation waits, who used to meet the judges at the entrance into the town at the time of the assizes.
They were four in number, attired in long black gowns, two playing on violins, one on the hautboy, and the other
on a whip and dub, or tabor and pipe."

"Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases" by Anne Elizabeth Baker (1854), vol II page 388

Also see 'terminology' for other dictionaries.

The pipe and tabor accompanied many daily activities:
1849 ‘Mechanics Institute Concert Lecture’1849Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 17 March 1849
1851 commentary on a painting by Frith: 1851Morning Advertiser - Thursday 21 August 1851
1852 synonomous with celebration: 'Gold Fever It’s Social Effects'1852Bristol Times and Mirror - Saturday 02 October 1852

1869 celebration: ‘Pipes and tabors sound your best’ 1869Essex Times - Wednesday 11 August 1869

pipe and tabor at aristocratic and public fetes

1840 Fete champetre at Percy Cross given by Lady Ravensworth:
‘at the latter place there was erected a triumphal arch, towering to the height of two hundred feet,
composed of rare exotics and native plants, with a prominent scroll with " Victoria and Albert.
  A rude band — the village pipe and tabor — gave additional hilarity to the festival.’
Morning Post - Saturday 27 June 1840

1844 ‘Lord Nicholson in the Field Again – Another Three Days Fete’1844Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper - Sunday 14 July 1844
1844 Splendid Public Fete: 1844Bell's Weekly Messenger - Saturday 26 October 1844
1845 1845The Era - Sunday 24 August 1845
The pipe and tabor were occasionally to be heard in the concert-hall
1841 Concert of the Alpine Singers at the Assembly Rooms:1841Norwich Mercury - Saturday 22 May 1841
1852 British Archaeological Association meeting in Lincoln:1852Stamford Mercury - Friday 27 August 1852
1856 Liverpool Philharmonic Society concert: 1856Liverpool Daily Post - Wednesday 10 December 1856
1857 ‘The one hundred and thirty-fourth meeting of the three choirs of Worcester, Hereford, and Gloucester,’ 1857Worcester Journal - Saturday 29 August 1857

Worcester Herald - Saturday 29 August 1857 reveiwed a concert in which:
...”tabor pipe, bagpipes and such-like instruments all in their turn being called into requisition:...”

1858 Morning Advertiser - Friday 02 July 1858 reviewed a play:

“The pipe and tabor is cleverly introduced for the chorus of peasants outside...”

Concert in Worcester College hall reviewed in 1860: 1860Worcester Herald - Saturday 15 September 1860

1866 Aa concert given in aid of the University College Hospital,
Gower Street, London. ‘The programme was remarkable for its novelty...1866Morning Advertiser - Wednesday 14 February 1866

1867 Reading Philharmonic Society’s Grand Concert1867Berkshire Chronicle - Saturday 21 December 1867
1876 Newark Vocal Society concert ‘The May Queen’ : 1876Newark Herald - Saturday 26 February 1876
1877 Grenadier Guards Concert at the Agricultural Hall, Snowhill, Wolverhampton;
‘Christmas Dance The Holly Bush’ with pipe and tabor accompaniment’
Wolverhampton Express and Star - Thursday 18 January 1877
1878 Concert by the Coggeshall Choral Society:
1878Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 26 April 1878
1880 criticism of the church: 1880Bolton Evening News - Saturday 25 September 1880
1880 Washpord Musical Society Concert included a ‘Part-song with pipe and tabor obbligato’ and: 1880West Somerset Free Press - Saturday 23 October 1880
1880 report on a Concert at Taunton Memorial Hall:1880Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 15 December 1880
1883 Concert at Rowbarton18813Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 13 June 1883
1885 In a newspaper review of a concert in Cutlers Hall, Sheffield it was written: 1885Sheffield Weekly Telegraph - Saturday 27 June 1885

1886 concert in London 1886Sporting Life - Saturday 13 March 1886

1897 ‘Ruth’ an oratorio sung by the Preston  Choral Society at the Public Hall. It was composed
in 1864 by George Tolhurst (1827–1877) and was the first work of its kind written in the British
colony of Victoria, Australia1897Lancashire Evening Post - Wednesday 24 March 1897
1898 Derby Choral Union gave a concert which included a pipe and tabor prelude.  The reviewer remarked:1898 newspaper cuttingDerbyshire Advertiser and Journal - Friday 25 November 1898
1899 Promenade Concert1899The Referee - Sunday 15 October 1899
It was thought that the pipe and tabor were instruments of the lower classes:

In a novel in 1836
"soon after the sound of pipe and tabor came from the servant’s hall"

Waldie's select circulating library, Volume 7


" Music, of all arts, gives the most universal pleasure, and pleases longest and oftenest. 
Infants are charmed with the melody of sounds, and old age is animated by enlivening notes.
... the English peasant delights in his pipe and tabor;"


1845 ‘criticism on Mr. Kenealv's new work  Brallaghan or the Deipnosophists’1845Cork Examiner - Friday 14 March 1845 1847 painting1847 ' The Village Merry-Making
A Hundred Years Ago'
1858 newspaper review of the New Opera House in Covent Garden of 'Marta':

“The pipe and tabor is cleverly introduced for the chorus of peasants outside...”

Morning Advertiser - Friday 02 July 1858

1862 Advertisement: 1862Illustrated London News - Saturday 23 August 1862
1883 Norfolk and Norwich Show:1883Field - Saturday 24 November 1883
1890 story 1890Ally Sloper's Half Holiday - Saturday 12 July 1890
1895 In an unfavourable review of the life works of James Bird, the Suffolk Poet, (1788-1839), these lines are quoted: 1895 unfavourable newspaper reviewEast Anglian Daily Times - Wednesday 16 October 1895
1898 Gentlewoman - Saturday 11 June 1898 newspepr cutting
1890 Rustic cartoon1890 'Rustic' newspaper satire
Street entertainers in towns were common but they earned very little:

"Whole houses are inhabited by these wretched boys, who sleep eight and nine in a bed; ...
The following are the charges made by the proprietors upon the juvenile crew:...For a dog
and monkey (the latter may be frequently seen in the street riding on the dog's back), 3s. per day.
For dancing dogs, four in number, including dresses, spinning-wheel, pipe and tabor, &c. 5s. per day...
Some of these boys, by their artlessness of manner and gesticulations, it is said, obtain six
or seven schillings a day, and some more."
Sunday, November 13, 1831 Bell's Weekly Messenger

1838story1838-9 The Poughkeepsie Casket, Volume 2
1838 Cambridge Coronation Fete1838Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette - Saturday 30 June 1838


“The street dances are always performed on a small piece of board (about three feet long and two feet wide),
placed in the middle of the road... Included in the twelve London street-dancers are six children; these are girls
from five to fifteen years of age. The fathers of these girls play the drum and pipes..."

1849-50 ‘The Morning Chronicle : Labour and Poor’ Henry Mayhew

18501850 newspaper cuttingIllustrated London News - Saturday 30 March 1850
Mr Taphouse (Oxford) quote:Rustic Sounds, and Other Studies in Literature and Natural History by Sir Francis Darwin

1858 at a Midsummer Fair: 1858Essex Herald - Tuesday 23 March 1858

1867 "At the fair ... and the lads and lasses footing it to the fife and tabor, and the people chattering in groups"

'Griffith Gaunt; or, Jealousy' by Charles Reade

1868 Race meeting Chester
“Fellows were there with monkeys and music; the pipe and tabor and the hurdy gurdy. 
Jugglers and montebanks with apes and bears.”

Liverpool Weekly Courier - Saturday 09 May 1868

1892 "In summer they have music before they go to bed. We are in a city that has always been fond of music.
The noise of crowd and pipe, tabor and cithern, is now silent in the streets. Rich men kept their own musicians."

1892 London "In the following chapters it has been my endeavor to present pictures
of the City of London..... showing the streets, the buildings, and the citizens at work
and at play....  the cheerful sound of pipe and tabor; the stage with its tumblers and its rope-dancers;.....

It is an evening in May. What means this procession? Here comes a sturdy rogue marching along valiantly,
blowing pipe and beating tabor. After him, a rabble rout of lads and young men, wearing flowers in their
caps, and bearing branches and singing lustily .... Presently the evening falls.  The noise of crowd and pipe,
and cithern, is now silent in the streets...

Everywhere singing—everywhere joy and happiness. In the streets the very prentices and their
sweethearts danced, to the pipe and tabor, those figures called the Brawl and the Canary,
and better dancing, with greater spirit and more fidelity to the steps, had I never before seen."

the pipe and tabor as a symbol for peace

1886 celebrationSt James's Gazette - Wednesday 17 February 1886

1856 - regarding the Crimea War 
fought from October 1853 to February 1856 : 1856 newspaper cuttingPreston Chronicle - Saturday 22 March 1856
18561856Morning Advertiser - Saturday 05 April 1856
1856 newspaper criticism on how the war was being carried out: 1856Sun (London) - Friday 16 May 1856
1869 in a story ‘Sybil of Tynemouth: A Tale of the Great Rebellion’1869Newcastle Chronicle - Saturday 06 February 1869
18761876Wolverhampton Express and Star - Monday 23 October 1876
1877 ‘Turkey’s Difficulties’
1877Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) - Tuesday 06 February 1877
18801880Colchester Gazette - Wednesday 22 September 1880
1883 traditional feast: 1883Eastern Evening News - Saturday 20 October 1883
Not everyone appreciated the sound of these instruments:

1830 tabor and pipe are a noisy disturbance

1830 quote

1842extract from 'Punch'Punch, Volume 3 MDCCCXLII Punch’s Comic Mythology: page 190,  Acis and  Galatea, chapter 3
1849 1849Illustrated London News - Saturday 22 December 1849
1892 comment
1857 ‘A Little Gossip About Christmas’1857 newpaper cuttingMaidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser - Saturday 26 December 1857
1857 infamy and vice: 1857East London Observer - Saturday 24 October 1857
1862 newspaper review of opera selections at the Oxford Playhouse: 1862 quote

1883 newspaper article referring to wedding music on bells rather than “indecorous choruses of pipe and tabor of old times”

Eddowes's Journal, and General Advertiser for Shropshire, and the Principality of Wales - Wednesday 23 May 1883
‘Anecdotal History of Bells, part IV Wedding Bells, by William Andrews’

1887 ‘The Flute – Interesting Lecture at Alderley Edge’1887Alderley & Wilmslow Advertiser - Friday 28 October 1887

“ Let us not, like the sour preacher, cry out upon a young man because he glorifies his body by fine raiment.
To such a jagg'd and embroidered sleeve is as bad as the sound of pipe and tabor or the sight of a playhouse. ..."

1892 'London' byWalter Besant

The decline of traditional activities was commented upon throughout Victorian times:
18491849Leamington Spa Courier - Saturday 02 June 1849

1836 "“for some few years ago, the dancing on May-day began to decline;
small sweeps were observed to congregate in twos or threes, unsupported by a
"green," with no " My Lord" to act as master of the ceremonies, and no " My Lady"
to preside over the exchequer. Even in companies where there was a green, it was an
absolute nothing — a mere sprout; and the instrumental accompaniments rarely extended
beyond the shovels and a set of Pan-pipes, better known to the many, as a mouth organ."

"Sketches by Boz: Illustrative of Every-day Life, and Every-day People, Charles Dickens page 337


"The May-day of the milkmaids is passed away -
the May-day of hawthorn, garlands, and pipe and tabor is departed"

 Punch [almanac] VI (London: Punch, 1844), page 196

18451845 decline of rustic sportsSun (London) - Monday 04 August 1845


18501850 no more pipe and tabor 1850 travelling to collect the harvest:
Newspaper report entitled 'Labour and tbe Poor
the Rural Districts' 1850 travelling to collect the harvest:

“…it is only within the last fifty years that the pipe and tabor have ceased to be in common use.”

‘A descriptive catalogue of the musical instruments recently exhibited at the Royal Military Exhibition, London, 1890 ‘...
by Royal Military Exhibition, 1890 (London)

Decline of traditional activities: many lamented the passing of the old days:

1845 poem 'The Merrie Times of Old'1845Leamington Spa Courier - Saturday 01 March 1845

Bentley's coverfrom the front cover of 'Bentley's Miscellany' 1840's illustrated by Cruikshank Bentley's cover

1850 Interview with a' musicianer' in London:

1850 quote


“Ah! those were the days of pipe and tabour, of joy and gladness, of cake and wine;
of the mirror before any of the quicksilver at the back is worn off; of the plated service
before whitening and chamois leather have been too often used, and the copper begins to show. “

1859 ‘Gaslight and Daylight’, by George Augustus Sala (1828 - 1895), ch32

1891 18541854Leamington Spa Courier - Saturday 20 May 1854

18551855 May traditions B1855 May traditions A1855 C

18571857 newspaper commentWakefield and West Riding Herald - Friday 30 October 1857
18601860 North London Record - Monday 31 December 1860
18631863West Surrey Times - Saturday 05 September 1863
1865 newspaper review; 1865Dublin Evening Post - Tuesday 07 March 1865
1865 Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette - Thursday 04 May 1865
18661866Newry Telegraph - Tuesday 13 November 1866

1874 newspaper article

“It would of course be hopeless to return to some of the ancient revelries
that ushered in Christmastide.  They have lost their meaning to us. ...
The Yule log is no longer brought in with pipe and tabor ...”

St. Neots Chronicle and Advertiser - Saturday 26 December 1874


1880 in a commentary on 'New Music' the newspaper crtiic opins: 1880South London Press - Saturday 04 December 1880
18881888In Praise of Ale: Or, Songs, Ballads, Epigrams, & Anecdotes W. T. Marchant ·  Page 121
1892 newspaper comment: 1892 newspaper cutting


"Where are the echoes that bore the strains
Each to his nearest neighbour;
And all the valleys and all the plains
Where all the nymphs and their love-sick swains
Made merry to pipe and tabor?

Where are they gone? "

The Bed-Book of Happiness by Harold Begbie (1871-1929)

1901 Letter to the Editor1901Eastern Daily Press - Thursday 17 October 1901
Vcitorian christmas Bringing in the boar's head at Christmasbringing in the boar's head at Christmas
pipe and tabor used to bring to mind the picturesque rural idyll:
Italian Garden roundelItalian garden, Kensington Palace, London 18461846Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper - Saturday 19 September 1846
"leafless trees, has a music of its own — a music that sets the spirit 
within us dancing, as surely as the sound of pipe and tabor."
1848 Poem by Richard Arnott:1848Hereford Journal - Wednesday 17 May 1848
1851 1851Overland China Mail - Friday 28 November 1851
1855 St Valentine's Day: 1855Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser - Tuesday 20 February 1855

18591859 newspaper cuttingThe Atlas - Saturday 21 May

1861 1861Durham County Advertiser - Friday 22 March 1861
1861 1861Greenock Advertiser - Saturday 03 August 1861
1857 1857Wakefield and West Riding Herald - Friday 30 October 1857
18671867Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Tuesday 16 April 1867
1869 newspaper comment concerning developing South Africa:1869Cape and Natal News - Tuesday 23 February 1869, London, England
18701870Shields Daily News - Saturday 28 May 1870
18721872Globe - Friday 05 July 1872
1872 Kingston Town Regatta 1872Surrey Comet - Saturday 24 August 1872
1873 ‘Racing at Wye’1873Daily News (London) - Friday 23 May 1873
1881 in a story called ‘The Red House in Blank Street’1881Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 30 December 1881
1884 story regarding the arcadian past by Will’O the Wisp1884Birmingham & Aston Chronicle - Saturday 14 June 1884
1884 ‘The Stratford Clergy and the MOP’ 1884Birmingham Mail - Thursday 16 October 1884
1886 poem 'Modern Arcadia by An Unemployed Poet ': 1886Forres Elgin and Nairn Gazette, Northern Review and Advertiser - Wednesday 28 April 1886
1891 ‘Arcadia in London’ entertainment at the Agricultural Hall:1891Daily News (London) - Monday 27 July 1891
1892 1892Derbyshire Courier - Saturday 28 May 1892

1895 ‘A Christmas Baedeker for London’ - a commentry on shopping 1895Pall Mall Gazette - Monday 25 November 1895

In 1895 The Stage comments on a scene in 'Happy Aradia' : 1895
18961896Truth - Thursday 24 December 1896
pipe and tabor means:


1843 May ‘when daylight lingers over garden seats and grassy banks, as in reluctance to o'erveil
the happy group, and stop the merry dance unwont to stay the pipe and tabor, bag-up the capering
fiddle, or part the sighing swain from doting maiden.
Welcome, welcome, smiling May...’
Illustrated London Life - Sunday 07 May 1843

1861 1861Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 31 December 1861

1869 Description of a painter’s new light-hearted style in an exhibition at The Royal Academy:1869Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) - Saturday 22 May 1869
1880 1880Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) - Monday 02 August 1880
1897 Jubilee celebrations 1897Isle of Wight Times - Thursday 01 July 1897
1897 1897Islington Gazette - Friday 24 December 1897
1898 Cowen’s Ode to the Passions at Leeds Musical Festival1898Daily News (London) - Monday 10 October 1898
as an expletive:
1898 Letter to the Editor:1898The Era - Saturday 22 October 1898
by the 1890's a revival had began.

1899 The Conference of the Incorporated Society of Musicians talk entitled "The Folk Music of the West of England."

“Mr. Baring-Gould related how he had, with the assistance of collaborators, collected the folk airs
of Devon and Cornwall— in cottages and taverns, and among miners, farmers, stone-breakers, hedgers,
and others. The words to many of the songs were such balderdash that they had in some cases to re-write
them; but as to the melodies, they took no liberties with them.   Some of the airs were certainly ancient
minstrel melodies that demanded the pipe and tabor as accompaniment.”

London Evening Standard - Friday 06 January 1899

1884 Newbury Art and Industrial Exhibition 1884 exhibitionReading Mercury - Saturday 27 September 1884
1891 the Russian bear from a cartoon
in Punch: Franco-Russian Alliance1891Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette
  - Thursday 24 September 1891
1891 ‘Turning the Tables; or the Bear as Leader’ 1891Sussex Agricultural Express - Tuesday 06 October 1891
18931893 newspaper cuttingSouth Wales Daily News - Saturday 30 December 1893

Review: A musical instrument exhibition at the Royal Aquarium included a pipe and tabor.
Sporting Life - Friday 14 December 1894

Music and musicians of the 18th century, a lecture by  Mr F Cunningham Woods, showed a pipe and tabor  
otherwise known as ‘ whittle and dub’  formerly belonging to an inhabitant of Hailey.
Oxfordshire Weekly News - Wednesday 14 August 1895



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