the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

tabor / drum

Drum heads, historically, were made out of calf, goat, or sheep skin. The Duke of Norfolk in the 15th century made
payments for repairing instruments - a cord for a tabor (1464) and parchment [4d to the taborets for parchment]
to repair a tabor (1481).
Accounts of the household of Thomas and Edmund, the king’s sons
11d to Martinettus the taborer, for the repairing of drums of the king’s sons and for moneys paid by him for
parchment for the covering of the said drums: London, 18 November.

In the 17th century in France, Mersenne (1636) notes that the heads should be made of sheepskin.

makers and sellers
Germany1698 Germany
[Mary Evans 01442196 ]

14th century reenactment14th century reenactment
scraping skin with a lunelarum

1532-1564 story

“ … But what harm had poor I done? cried Trudon, hiding his left eye with his kerchief, and showing his tabour cracked
on one side: … they have also broke my harmless drum. Drums indeed are commonly beaten at weddings,— and it is
fit they should; but drummers are well entertained, and never beaten… Brother, said the lame catchpole, never fret
thyself; I will make thee a present of a fine, large, old patent, which I have here in my bag, to patch up thy drum…”

‘The Horrible and Terrifying Deeds and Words of the Very Renowned Pantagruel King of the Dipsodes,
Son of the Great Giant Gargantua’ by François Rabelais, chapter 12
Great books of the Western World by Encyclopaedia Britannica, pub 1986

1625 Part of the stock of an ironmongers in Leicester was parchment, drums and tabors.
[Also see 18th century makers and sellers here]

1739 John Linn, bookbinder sold among a host of other items: 1739Newcastle Courant - Saturday 04 August 1739

17481748The Ipswich Journal - Saturday 19 March 1748
1730 - 501730-50 Germany 1730-501730-50 Germany      

18th century18th century France; making parchment source

1751 1751The Ipswich Journal - Saturday 03 August 1751
1765 1765

Also… "writing parchment, drum-heads" …etc etc

Newcastle Chronicle - Saturday 06 July 1765
1772 Newpaper advertisement: 1772Manchester Mercury - Tuesday 26 May 1772
1772 Tabors were made of anything suitable:

“Friday last the Glassmakers at Newcastle made a most droll and laughable procession.—
- Their champion and other officers were mounted on asses, …sticks and shovels in place of music,
and empty butter firkins for drums.”

Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 10 November 1772

1795 story ‘The Village Assembly’

“…two blind fidlers, and a pipe and tabor, the parchment of which had met with a fraction,
consequently emitted a most horrid report, but every body's oral nerve not being so quick as
mine, it did not appear to affect them. …”

[Ed This passage is followed by a hilarious description of some of the dancers]

'The Observant Pedestrian; or, traits of the heart: in a solitary tour from Cærnarvon to London: in two volumes,
by the author of The mystic cottager. 1795: Vol 2'

1802 Auction that included “sundry flutes and fifes and drum heads”1802Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal - Tuesday 06 July 1802
1806 1806Morning Advertiser - Saturday 15 November 1806
1807 Advertisement. Also listed are drum heads. 1807Oxford University and City Herald - Saturday 23 May 1807
18071807Chester Chronicle - Friday 03 July 1807
1809 Mr Thomas also sold drum heads and snares: 1809Hampshire Chronicle - Monday 23 January 1809
1817 London advertisement: 1817Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Saturday 27 December 1817
1818 Jamaica 1818Royal Gazette of Jamaica - Saturday 17 October 1818
1825 Toplis and Son Auction included: 1825Morning Herald (London) - Saturday 23 July 1825
1827 Sale also includes two drum heads and two sticks1827Salisbury and Winchester Journal - Monday 08 October 1827

1843 new inventions: a case heard in the Vice Chancellors’ Courts [part]:1843English Chronicle and Whitehall Evening Post - Saturday 11 November 1843

More information on this case in the Morning Herald (London) - Thursday 02 July 1846, pages 6, 7

18471847Newcastle Courant - Friday 25 June 1847
1877 1877Belfast Telegraph - Tuesday 09 January 1877
1879 1879Banbury Advertiser - Wednesday 24 December 1879
1881 1881Belfast Telegraph - Monday 27 June 1881
1881 1881Newbury Weekly News and General Advertiser - Thursday 14 July 1881
18821882Banbury Guardian - Thursday 16 February 1882 1883 1883Oxfordshire Weekly News - Wednesday 26 September 1883

1896 advert [detail] 1896Derry Journal - Monday 17 August 1896

Newspaper advertisements for sales of drum-heads continued into the twentieth century.

1890 assembling drums in France 1890



goat skinsgoat skins on both drum heads
21st century maker21st century, Leon, Spain
re-use of parchment
re-use of parchmentJoe Powell's tabor and stick.This tabor is a fairly standard C19th shallow morris tabor, constructed
from a cheese box with second-hand parchment heads.  Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Photog Phil Day

England, cases heard at The Old Bailey, London and in the newspaper:
6th September 1693
John Redshaw was arraigned for stealing a parcel of Parchment Writings, value 200 l. from one John Day
on the King's Highway , but no Evidence coming against him, he was acquitted .”

17th January 1739
"124. of London, Gent . was indicted, for that he, on the 28th of October , &c. with Force and Arms,
in the Parish of St. Dunstan in the West , did feloniously steal, &c. a certain Parchment Writing, … 
the large Pieces the Witness's Wife sold at a Turner's Shop, to make Drum-heads. …"

3rd April 1816
"372. CHARLES RICHARD HURD and RICH-ARD KILMINSTER were indicted for stealing, on the 6th of November,
one hundred pounds weight of parchment, value 5l. the property of our Lord the King .
 In the month of November last, I missed four bundles of bills and answers, and twenty three bundles of replications.
I suppose I missed from one to two hundred weight. I know the two prisoners by their being writers in the office.
They are father and son-in-law. In consequence of some information, I went to Mrs. Bridges, Drum-maker, at Hoxton,
on the last day of February. I found there a great quantity of the parchment which I had lost, made up into drums
and tambarines. I should suppose altogether I found about a hundred weight of it there. It all consisted of bills,
answers, and replications."

1816 newpaper report of a Court case in London: 1816Bell's Weekly Messenger - Sunday 17 March 1816

24th November 1834
"FREDERICK JOHN MUNTON (police-constable G 145.) On the 20th of November, at half-past six o'clock, I was on duty
in Ropemaker-street—I saw the two prisoners—Shelley had a bundle under his arm—I asked what it was—he said some
parchment which belonged to that young man, (pointing to Gray who was behind him,) and it was some that his master had given
him—my brother officer took Gray—we went to the station-house—in going along, Shelley said it was some that Gray bought of
his master, that he had given it to him to carry, and they were going to Whitecross-street, to sell it to a drum-maker"

The British Columbia Folklore Society writes in 2023:

“The parchment sides—one of which is fitted with a snare, should, we are told, be cut from an old will or testament,
because the skins upon which these were engrossed were peculiarly resonant!”

tabors / drums on ships
see here for details of pipes and tabors taken on ships for signalling and dancing. 1834Shipping and Mercantile Gazette - Tuesday 28 November 1843
taborsdifferent styles of tabor
drums with rims

11th century11th century ivory box lid, Constantinople

18th century painting18th century painting France

In Victorian times, in England, when men were demobbed from the army they often took their regimental drums with them. Many pandean pipe players are pictured playing these drums.
19thc century19th century England 19th century19th century England, side
  1964Tabor drum made in 1964 by Miss Perrott of Gloucester, England 1964close-up of drum - the shell is decorated with a beautiful old style map of Gloucestershire in colour-washed pencil under varnish.  
20142014 Basque TamborilTamboril from Castile and León, Spain tamboril Spaintamboril Spain  
20222022 Leon, Spain    
tabors / drums without rims
Bargello chess board11460-1470 Bargello chess board rim
southern Netherlands/Spain
15801580 Germany
1580 close-up
before 1500Before 1500 Flanders before 1500 1541 Mary Rose1541 Mary Rose England
14831483 painting, Spain 17th century17th century Italy, sketch
18th century France18th century France
This type of drum is popular in many parts of Occitania
(Provence, Bas Languedoc and Gascony). 
tabor strap
around neck    
13th centuryend 13th century England 1400 France1400 France mid 15th century Swedenmid 15th century Sweden 18451845 France
hanging from little finger    

before 1500Before 1500 Flanders

1515 Germany1515 Germany 1541 Holland1541 print Holland
hanging from wrist 15th century Germany15th century Germany
1540 England1540 England f.98v
1596 Germany1596 Germany 1600 England1600 England


17451745 painting England
Chile2022 Chile
Elizabthan20th century England 'Elizabethan'
hanging from forearm    
16th or 17th century16th or 17th century, glass England

woman taborer1440

unknownunknown medieval player1780's Peru
FranceFrance 15th century France15th century manuscript France Winsome Bartlettsource England 20th century
over one shoulder        
13th century Spain13th century Spain hybridc.1300 hybrid. playerc.1350 Belgium, probably Tournai 15th century Italy15th century Italy  
1666 England1666 England
woodcut ballad
17371737 France 18th century tiles18th century tiles, Portugal  
playerplayer Ecuador 2021 Japan2021 Japan    
around waist  
1412 France1412 France more on straps here
the snare
The snare is across the top drum head; sometimes there are two snares to make a louder rattle when the drum is beaten.
13401340 manuscript, England

1894 “ …An old musician assured me that in his early youth he knew a very
old gentleman who yet played the pipe and tabor ; the latter had three or four
horse-hairs stretched over the bottom which produced a soft kind of buzz..”

‘Military music : a history of wind-instrumental bands’ by Kappey, J. A.

hole in tabor / drum side
drumunknown medieval manuscript 14th century Italy14th century Italy medievalmedieval unknown
13251325 Netherlands 1425 France1425 France devil
15th century15th century France 15531553 Italy
15401540 string buffs Netherlands

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