What happened to the sackbuts and cornetts at Canterbury Cathedral

In an earlier blog post ‘Cornetts and sackbuts in Canterbury Cathedral at the Restoration‘, I told the story of the re-appointment in 1660 of the four sackbut and cornett players at Canterbury Cathedral after the long break in cathedral music during the Parliamentary Interregnum. Entries for their salaries in the Treasurers’ Books for the 1660s show that the Cathedral’s revived wind band did not last long. As each man died, no successor was appointed. By 1670 they were all dead. The Treasurers’ Books continued to have a heading each year for the ‘Stipendia tibicinum’ (salaries of the wind players) with a budget, but each year the budget was unused. By the eighteenth century, the budget allocation was no longer made and the tibicines were forgotten.

The players may have passed on, but their instruments seem to have survived in the cathedral vestry and can be traced in the Cathedral Inventories1 for a further hundred years. In 1662, the inventory lists

In the vestry
Fowre greate chests with two old carpets lying over the same chests and another small piece of the same.

No mention is made of the contents of the four great chests. However, the inventory for 1689 records

In the Vestry
fiue greate chests with two old carpetts lying on two of them, in one of them three small viols in another two sackbuts and three cornetts.

The inventory of 1735 suggests that these instruments were still there:

In the Vestry
Some old musical instruments.

This is confirmed in 1752:

In the Vestry
Two large chests. In one of these chests are contain’d only 2 brass sackbuts, not us’d for a great number of years past, the body of an old bass viol without strings, & such like trumpery.

One wonders whether ‘such like trumpery’ suggests that the cornetts also survived in 1752. The subsequent fate of these instruments remains unclear.

  1. The Canterbury Cathedral pre-1800 inventories can be consulted in the Cathedral Archives at reference ‘CCA DCc-inventories.
    They have been published in J Wickham Legg and W. H. St. John Hope, Inventories of Christchurch Canterbury, Westminster: 1902.

An earlier version of this blog appeared in Southern Early Music Forum Newsletter, March 2020, p. 5.

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