The Two Most Common Ways of
Communicating Events During the Renaissance
Town Crier and the Town Wait
crier is the better known of the two
but the town Wait generally had more
responsibilities than the town Crier.
Their duties were
similar in that they were tasked with
communicating with the masses.
The typical depiction
of the town crier ringing his bell
and calling "Hear Ye" "Hear Ye" is
actually fairly accurate.
Although criers were
also known to shout "Oyez" instead
of the "Hear Ye".
After ringing his
hand bell and calling attention to
himself, he would then in a very loud
voice make his announcement. These
announcements could be anything from
changes in the law, deaths of affluent
people or the most hated announcement,
Most of the "news"
type of things delivered by the Town
Crier was not good. As a matter of
fact, the announcements of things
like tax hikes sometimes led to the
town crier being attacked. The phrase
"don't shoot the messenger" comes
Attacks were so common
that the town crier was sometimes granted
"royal protection". This meant that
any attack on the town crier was considered
treason for which the punishment could
result in death.
The town wait was
tasked with communicating with the
masses just like the town crier, however,
the town wait used non-verbal communications
This non-verbal communications
was typically done through the use
of various musical instruments. Because
they used mostly wind types of instruments,
town waits were sometimes referred
to a 'pipers'.
If a town was large
or particularly affluent then the town
usually employed more than one town
wait. Some employed so many that the
waits were referred to as a minstrel
Where the town crier's
job was to announce 'news' types of
items, the town wait was tasked with
more mundane things like announcing
or calling the hours. The responsibilities
of the town wait was not the same in
all towns. The towns changed the waits
responsibilities as they wanted.
Some waits were required
to play different tunes to announce
different types of religious activities
or services. This along with announcing
the hours too.
We have all seen on
television or movies where a visitor
entering the town was preceded by a
person, or persons, playing the flute
as they walked in to town. Well that's
was the town wait. One of their jobs
was to announce visitors to the town.
As dawn approached,
the town wait would also sing to assist
the townspeople in waking and preparing
to go to work or to a religious ceremony.
At a time in history
when most people were illiterate and
without clocks, the combination of
the town crier and the town wait was
an effective way to communicating with