the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

England: history of the pipe and tabor

Victorian dancing (1830 - 1900)

Many references to a folk memory of the past include mention of the pipe and tabor. People of all classes still danced to the instruments and referred to them in general conversation.

It is difficult to find images of a tabourer playing for dancing in Victorian times. There are written references, particularly with reference to 'the olden times' and also images with maypole dancing (here).

1830's dance macabra1830's dance macabre  

1830 story

“...apology for her declining to join the coranto, or to figure in a galliard, when the merry sound of
pipe and tabor
set every light foot a dancing in the hall….The merry-making at Fitz-ford was not
confined alone to the banqueting-hall of its master. The kitchen was filled with the guests of the
servants…[Those that were not] young enough to dance to tabor and pipe with those who had
set-to in the full enjoyment of that exercise in the kitchen…”


18321832Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 11 July 1832

1832 ‘A Grand Fete at Knypersley Hall, Congleton, Cheshire’
“ six o’clock there was dancing on the green to the pipe and tabor

Morning Post - Monday 23 July 1832


“…Ye may trace them in the hall of song,
By the lamp’s high flaming light,
Where pipe and tabour their notes prolong,
And jewels are sparkling bright.
In the show of beauty, mirth and pride,
As down the mazy dance they glide ;…”

The Jesuit or Catholic Sentinel 1834-09-20: Vol 5 Iss 38

18361836Morning Post - Monday 12 September 1836

1836 story - Greenwich Fair “…The grandest and most numerously-frequented booth
in the whole fair, however, is 'The Crown and Anchor' - a temporary ball-room …
There is a raised orchestra, and the place is boarded all the way down, in patches,
just wide enough for a country dance. There is no master of the ceremonies in this
artificial Eden - all is primitive, unreserved, and unstudied. The dust is blinding, the
heat insupportable, the company somewhat noisy…The noise of these various instruments,
the orchestra, the shouting, the 'scratchers,' and the dancing, is perfectly bewildering.
The dancing, itself, beggars description - every figure lasts about an hour, and the ladies
bounce up and down the middle, with a degree of spirit which is quite indescribable.
As to the gentlemen, they stamp their feet against the ground, every time 'hands four round'
begins, go down the middle and up again...and whirl their partners round, nothing loth,
scrambling and falling, and embracing, and knocking up against the other couples, until
they are fairly tired out, and can move no longer. The same scene is repeated again and
again (slightly varied by an occasional 'row') until a late hour at night…” 

Charles Dickens, 'Sketches by Boz', 1836

1850 Greenwich Fair musicians 19th century
1837 1837Morning Post - Wednesday 04 October 1837
1838 essay

“…how much more rational would it be, for example, for evening amusements to commence in the evening,
and terminate at midnight, instead of large assemblages of people meeting in the dead of night, and revelling
to the sound of the pipe and tabour till morning; but fashion is all powerful…”

'London as it is : being a series of observations on the health, habits, and amusements of the people' by Royal College of Physicians of London

1838 satire 'A Charity Ball'
(pandean pipes and drum in the band) 1838

1838 description of a painting:

“In the foreground is a double terminal figure of: Sylvanus and Pan, round which young men and women are dancing to the music of a rural pipe and tabor. Behind them are oxen with a load of corn, and other characteristic marks of the season of the year….”

The Penny Magazine 1838-03-10: Vol 7 Iss 381

18381838 book illustration;
playing for man with bells
1840s 1840s
1840s piano music cover "‘The old English country dances: as performed at the court & nobilities balls’ London
1840 at Bishop Burton a fete champetre at the Upper Hall – to celebrate the birth of an heiress to the young Queen1840York Herald - Saturday 12 December 1840
1840 Letter to the Editor:1840Hampshire Advertiser - Saturday 25 January 1840
1841 poem ‘A Copy of Satirical Verses’1841Bucks Gazette - Saturday 29 May 1841
1841 1841New Court Gazette - Saturday 27 February 1841
1841 poem 'The Indispensibles' 1841Morning Advertiser - Saturday 11 September 1841
1842 a ball: 1842Cheltenham Looker-On - Saturday 29 October 1842
1843 Annual Christmas Ball at the Court House given by Mrs Dean1843Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser - Saturday 23 December 1843
1844 Mainham Fair1844Nottingham and Newark Mercury - Friday 20 September 1844
1845 description of a new quadrille at The Princess’s Concert Rooms called ‘At Home’:1845Morning Advertiser - Tuesday 27 May 1845
1845 ‘Rodenhurst or the Church and the Manor’1845Morning Chronicle - Monday 06 January 1845
1846 description of a painting showing the rural idyll - ‘The Village Green' by H M Anthony: 1846Birmingham Journal - Saturday 08 August 1846
[ed. I have not been able to locate this painting]

'Haste bring us the wine cup'
by Charlotte Bronti

“Haste bring us the wine cup
& let it be full
Fully fill it to the brim up
't will make e'en the dull
Set his feet a-dancing
Twinkling & glancing
While the tabor the pipe & the lute
The thundering drum & the flute
Are ringing around
Hark the merry sound!...”

date unknown

1846 poem

“…And lovely groups are seen upon a lawn,
With pipe and tabor dancing merrily,
And crowns of Bacchus lofty brows adorn,—
Who would not sigh amidst that throng to be?...”

‘Pleasures of homes : Domestic scenes and affections circle round the hearth’
by Farquharson, Stuart

1846 1846Morning Advertiser - Friday 25 December 1846
18471847 'An English Merry-Making, a Hundred Years Ago': playing for dancers
1847painting detail © Victoria and Albert Museum
1847 story 1847Nights of the round table: or, Stories of aunt Jane by Christian Isobel Johnstone page 42
1849 Spalding Statute Fair1849Stamford Mercury - Friday 11 May 1849
1849 Letter to the Editor - Sabbath Desecration1849Western Times - Saturday 15 December 1849

1849-50 about street dancers:

“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. The most popular dances are the Sailor's Hornpipe - in and out of fetters -
the Lancashire Clog dance, the Highland Ring, and a comic medley dance.  ..... 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...There is no female above 20 dancing in the streets of London. "

‘The Morning Chronicle : Labour and Poor’ Henry Mayhew who observed, documented and described the state of working people
in London for a series of articles in a newspaper, the Morning Chronicle, that were later compiled into book form.

1850 another street dancer 1850Illustrated London News - Saturday 30 March 1850

1859 at  nine o'clock in the evening:
“a fife and tabour announce the advent of a little dancing boy and girl, with a careworn mother,
in the street below. I look from my window, and see the little painted people capering in their
spangles and fleshings and short calico drawers.”

‘Twice Round the Clock, or The Hours of the Day and Night in London’, by George Augustus Sala   

1850 from the olden days - Queen Elizabeth's Visit to Arthur Lord Grey de Wilton at Whaddon, Bucks:

1850Lady's Newspaper and Pictorial Times - Saturday 15 June 1850

1850 poem

“…An interval from toil and hard distress,
To which the poor are doom’d by just decree.
Though now they dance to merry pipe and tabor,
To-morrow they return to grief and labour….”

'The happy man's shirt, and the magic cap, imitated from the Italian.' by Collier, John Payne.

1851 Christmas rules for servants in town and country from 70 years ago: 1851Worcester Journal - Thursday 25 December 1851
1852 report on amateur theatricals at Bath Theatre - ‘A Wonderful Woman’: 1852Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 15 January 1852
1852 Bowood Fete, Wiltshire 1852Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette - Thursday 26 August 1852
1852 poem ‘Lines’ by Isabel C.1852Chester Chronicle - Saturday 20 March 1852
1852 story 'The Bells of Saint Bruno' by Jonathon Freke Slingsby1852Portsmouth Times and Naval Gazette - Saturday 03 January 1852
1853 essay

“…In the evening, if ye have any gentility, ye will provide card tables and give a dance; two fiddlers will be much
better than one, and a pipe and tabour ye will have, of course. Ye can charge the musicians to house expences,
under any article you think proper ; or at the worst, set them down as sondries….”

'HOW TO KEEP CHRISTMAS' by A LOVER OF FUN. ‘The cruet stand, select pieces of prose and poetry’ by  C. Gough

1853 letter to the newspaper with rules on how to conduct oneself at a dance: 1853Isle of Wight Observer - Saturday 03 December 1853
1854 article concerning the Church of England and payments: 'The Proposed New Church Rate'18541854Liverpool Albion - Monday 24 April 1854
1854 the old fashioned country dance: 1854Leamington Spa Courier - Saturday 20 May 1854
1855 The Epilogue spoken at the meeting of the Philo Thespian Society ended with these words:1855Saunders's News-Letter - Saturday 07 July 1855

18571857.... How the peasant maidens would come tripping on the scenes and lure the men
tenderly to the dance!  Where are the Pipe and tabour that I have seen in many pictures;’

Wakefield and West Riding Herald - Friday 30 October 1857

1858 dancing to tabor and pipe in the past: 1858Northampton Mercury - Saturday 07 August 1858

between 1790 and 1884between 1790 and 1884 this image was used many times in different circumstances.
This copy celebrates an Italian balloonist from the 1790's.
18581858 card invitation to a ball.
The same image was published in a magazine in 1884.
1858 part of a speech made at a harvest home: 1858Grantham Journal - Saturday 28 August 1858
1858 a Christmas message in Exeter: 1858Western Times - Saturday 25 December 1858

1860 "Frightful Infant Mortality - The world with pipe, tabor and dance move on unmindful of calamities
which if simutaneously thrust upon it would make society stand appalled..."

Wiltshire Independent - Thursday 18 October 1860


“He had got onto the flat roof of the wash-house ... for the purpose of listening to the wild music
made by the merry pipe, tabor and mouth-organ as the night-dancers near pursued their orgies
with more than usual noise...”

Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser - Saturday 09 March 1861

1862 ‘Ringing out the Old and Ringing in the New Year’

1862Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury - Saturday 27 December 1862

1862 satirical poem ‘MUSICAL CYNICS OF LONDON.’
“…Throughout the week may busy critics labour,
Or play the fool, or dance to pipe and tabor ;
Invent, or lie, or laud, or fawn, or flatter ;
Write up the greatest dolt, or dunce — ^no matter ;…”

'Musical Cynics of London: A Satire (sketch the First)' by George Linley

1863 ‘The Foresters’ Fete’ in Holland Park, London
1863West London Observer - Saturday 04 July 1863

1863 they danced at Frant Harvest Home 1863Surrey Gazette - Tuesday 22 September 1863
1863 to celebrate the wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII),
and Princess Alexandra of Denmark (later Queen Alexandra) at Bearley, Warwickshire:1863Birmingham Daily Gazette - Monday 16 March 1863

1863 comment regarding the same wedding celebrations in Dorset:
pipe and tabor would have matched the dark rafters better
[than the fiddle and tambourine that were actually there] .....”

Dorset County Chronicle - Thursday 19 March 1863

1864 poem 1864Western Times - Friday 15 January 1864

1865 poem 'Harvest Song' by J J Lane: 1865West Middlesex Herald - Saturday 09 September 1865

1867 a story that gives a romantic picture of the olden days:

“...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

1867 ‘Original Lines upon Old Fashioned Times’1867Chichester Express and West Sussex Journal - Tuesday 31 December 1867
1869 ‘A  Case of Conscience’1869Ulster Gazette - Friday 09 April 1869
1869 1869King George's Middy by William Gilbert page 293
1870 New Year ball 1870Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) - Monday 03 January 1870
1873 definition - the rural idyll 1873Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) - Tuesday 15 July 1873

1873 (Dizzy is Disraeli)1873Western Times - Monday 17 March 1873

1876 story ‘The Covenanter’s Marriage Day’1876Longford Journal - Saturday 09 September 1876
1879 Evenley Gala, Northamptonshire1879Bicester Advertiser - Friday 30 May 1879
1881 story 1881Wakefield and West Riding Herald - Saturday 20 August 1881
1882 Royal Academy Exhibition, description of a painting 'in the olden times' 1882Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 29 April 1882
1883 Comment on a painting exhibition in London1883Dublin Daily Express - Tuesday 08 May 1883
1883 play:' Blue Beard, Or, The Hazard of the Dye: A Burlesque in Three Acts' by Francis Cowley Burnand, page 101883
1884 story: at the harvest home 1884'Hartland Forest and Roseteague' by Bray, Mrs. (Anna Eliza)
1886 poem 1886Ben Brierley's Journal - Saturday 04 September 1886

1887 poem ‘Christmas time is coming’

“Come lads and lassies let us sing,
Christmas time is coming,
Mistletoe and laurel bring,
Watch the mummers mumming;
Let us dance a merry round,
To the pipe and tabor's sound,
Joy shall in each heart be found.
For Christmas time is coming…”

‘Pictures in the fire and other thoughts : in rhyme and verse’
by Dalziel, George, 1815-1902; Kohler Collection of British Poetry

1887 'The Winter's Tale' at Theatre Royal Nottingham1887Pall Mall Gazette - Monday 25 April 1887

1888 'On Receiving a Copy of Mr. Austin Dobson's " Old World Idylls " by James Russell Lowell Page 27

“…Down vistas long of clipt charmille
Watteau as Pierrot leads the reel;
Tabor and pipe the dancers guide
As I read on….”

1888 Ball in Devon as part of the ‘annual exhibition of the Devon County Agricultural Association’1888North Devon Journal - Thursday 14 June 1888
1888 Christmas masquerade ball 1888The Referee - Sunday 30 December 1888
1889 Albert Hall Floral Fete 1889St James's Gazette - Wednesday 29 May 1889
1889 in a poetry competition 1889Weekly Dispatch (London) - Sunday 05 May 1889
1889 Rose Festival song at Whitelands College annual event 1889Chelsea News and General Advertiser - Saturday 29 June 1889
1890 story 1890‘Armorel of Lyonnesse’ by Walter Besant in Harper's Bazaar 1890-02-08: Vol 23 Iss 6

18911891 three taborers playing for the farandole

1892 ‘The Haymakers song’ said to be 16th century in origin.1892Newcastle Chronicle - Saturday 02 July 1892

1894 comment on a painting at the The Royal National Exhibition:1894Northern Whig - Tuesday 08 May 1894

[ed. The painting is here but I cannot see a tabourer in it]

1894 Poem: 'Pipe and Tabor'

“A PURITAN, severe and staid,
To meeting-house would go,
Fell in with a merry dancing maid,
Nimble of heel and toe.
She was lively as a butterfly,
She was lovely as a flower ;
But Brother Smite-em-hip-and-thigh
Passed on with visage sour.
" Avaunt ! Avoid ! Alack-a-day !
Beshrew me, worthy neighbour,
They dally down a red -hot way.
That dance to pipe and tabor…."

in ‘Songs sung and unsung’ by Boulton, Harold, Sir,

1897 lecture by Sir Walter Besant1897Hampstead & Highgate Express - Saturday 27 February 1897
1897 talk ‘May and its Associations’1897Bristol Times and Mirror - Monday 03 May 1897
1898 Christmas Entertainments at the Garrick Theatre - Cinderella1898The People - Sunday 02 January 1898
1898 Lambeth District Teacher’s Association meeting at Peckham Public Hall. 
The Barry Orchestra played ‘Rustic Suite’ and the newspaper commented: 1898South London Mail - Saturday 21 May 1898
Also see:
double pipes
morris dance
pandean pipes
'piper' - Regency and Victorian terminology
street entertainers
'tabber / taberer'
'whittle and dub'
Cecil Sharp, morris pipe and tabor
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