William Bates, who died in 1778, was a prolific and, in his day, successful composer of stage music and concert songs performed in London in the 1760s and 1770s; but a scarcity of biographical information and uncertainties over his position vis-à-vis the new style introduced in the early 1760s by J. C. Bach and others have tended to disadvantage him in modern commentary. New facts about his life and background together with a recently discovered sale catalogue reveal him to have been a cultivated man of wide interests, with a sympathy for the ‘ancient’ style. His most substantial musical contribution, as regards its potential for modern revival, is a remarkable set of six concertos for strings with oboes, bassoons and horns (plus, in two concertos, trumpets and timpani) published in 1762. These concertos, related in style to contemporary overtures to stage works but making much greater use of concertante writing, form a high point in a peculiarly British tradition of concertos employing French horns. The cult of the horn in Georgian Britain that nourished this tradition is the subject of extended discussion.