The village of Grimesthorpe, near Sheffield, had a number of brass bands, the main Grimesthorpe Brass Band being reasonably successful on the contest stage from the 1890’s to WW1. This band should not be confused with the more famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band (near Barnsley) which was formed in 1917.
The Grimesthorpe Brass Band was active from the mid-1860s to the 1930s. Mr Frith played euphonium in 1902 (see him with his medals below). The conductor was Joseph Brookes in 1895 to 1898, and George H. Mercer from 1899 to the 1930’s. The band’s last known contest appearance was in December 1936, at the Sheffield Victoria Hall, but it appears that it did not survive much longer, and certainly did not resume after WW2.
In addition to the village band there also was the Grimesthorpe Free Church Brass Band – founded around 1889, active through into the 1890’s; Grimesthorpe Reform Brass Band – active in 1891 to 1894 (contemporary with the Grimesthorpe Brass Band); and Grimesthorpe United Methodist Brass Band – active in 1890 and through the 1890’s (also known as Grimesthorpe Temperance Brass Band or Grimesthorpe Wesleyan Band). There was also a Grimesthorpe Concertina Band during the 1890’s.
During the 19th century, many travelling entertainment shows criss-crossed the country as they thrilled audiences with their various acts. Circuses, menageries, waxworks and minstrel shows usually had a band attached to them to provide exciting music, drawing in the punters and emphasising the acts themselves. In addition to these bands, other static entertainment venues also engaged professional bands to supply musical entertainment to their clientele – these included pleasure gardens, theatres and museums.
The make up of the bands varied considerably – some were only a few players, usually brass (to make the most noise), others reached numbers of up to twenty. The larger and more established bands were of sufficient quality and ability to deliver complex operatic and classical pieces as well as the “traditional” show music of marches, polkas and waltzes that were associated with such bands. Sadly, at the lower end of the quality spectrum, circus bands tended to get a bad name due to the poor quality of the music of some of them.
The paper below looks at how circus and menageries bands entertained their audiences, and also lists other professional bands that were associated with entertainment venues – e.g. waxworks, pleasure gardens.
The St John of God Hospital at Scorton, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, closed in 2002. It had been founded in 1880, by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God, to care for the “unwanted”, known then as cripples and incurables, later being designated for the old and infirm. It looked after a large number of wounded soldiers returned from WW1. A brass band was established there, consisting of staff members and patients, and was active during the 1920’s.
This is just one of around 100 such hospital and asylum bands in the UK, which were set up to provide education, recreation and distraction sometimes, for the patients and inmates. In earlier days some were also used to raise funds for the institution – particularly when youngsters were involved. Orphanage and industrial home bands were similar kinds of musical groups.
Some time in the future (he says, avoiding being distracted by it at present!) I will get around to looking in more depth at them.
A few years ago, on a trip to Bath, I visited the local record office to view any documents on brass bands. A receipt for the hire of oil lamps and an account sheet for a charitable concert led me to the Bath Post Office Band and, although there was little else in the archive of relevance, it allowed me to dig further into the story of this band. Over the years there have been some 50 or so bands associated with the British Post Office – from Aberdeen to Exeter. The Bath Post Office Band existed for about 40 years from the early 1890’s, endorsed and supported by the local postmaster, and consisting of his employees. This paper below gives some details of the band and lists the other postal bands that have entertained their communities.
Recently I came across a cabinet card photograph of a young-looking cornet player. No name was attached to the card, merely the details of the photographer – F.W. Vidler (manager) – the London Photographic Co. Ltd., 48 Langler Road, Kensal Rise, London. The rear of the card mentioned “patronised by Her Majesty the Queen”, which indicated that it was probably produced before 1902 (when Edward VII was crowned). The cornetist was posing with his cornet and a display of medals won in competition. Enlarging the image of his beribboned medal, it was clear that that medal was one of those awarded at the National Brass Band Championships at the Crystal Palace. This further restricted the date to 1900 or 1901.
By a process of elimination, and investigating various newspaper and genealogy sources, it became clear that the photograph was of Anthony Yorath, principal cornet of the Arael Griffin Temperance Band at Abertillery. When they competed in the first National Championship Contest in 1900, he was the first recipient of a gold medal for best cornet soloist.
First known in 1895, conducted by George Ross. Also known as Aston Anvil Brass Band and, in the 1930’s, as Anston [United] Silver Band. After WW2 it was conducted in turn by Robert Ross (1949-1950), Maldwyn Lewis (1951-1953). It disbanded some time before summer 1954. However it seems to have been revived, as S.A. Marsh (latterly of Aston Parish Band) was appointed bandmaster of Anston Silver Band in spring 1955. A later conductor was K. Ray (1963-1966).
Members c.1910, shown here in the photo, are: W. Stacey (cornet), T. Turgoose (cornet), H. Waring (cornet), T. Chambers (cornet), H. Barton (cornet), D. Cooper (bass drum), H. Dixon (baritone), G. Plant (baritone), H. Lidget (euphonium), H. Turner (tenor horn), A. Storey (tenor horn), B. Clarke (trombone), G. Goodall (trombone), H. Turner (trombone), W. Mirfin (cornet & conductor), H. Brammer (Eb bass), G. Swift (Eb bass), and T. Riley (BBb bass).
Royal Tunbridge Wells has had a number of bands over the years. The Tunbridge Wells Brass Band was active from the 1840s to the 1900s – probably folded during WW1. The Tunbridge Wells Electric Temperance Brass Band (a.k.a. Tunbridge Wells Temperance Band) was founded in 1896 and continued into the 1900’s – their conductor was A.J. Richardson in 1901, and a concert at the Grosvenor Recreation Ground on 4 June 1903 was: Brass Band Annual, Arcadia, Love’s Serenade, Queen of the Earth, Mountaineer, Our Sports, Gems of Columbia, and Narcissus. The Tunbridge Wells Fire Brigade Band was active from 1903 into WW1 – 1916 at least. Following WW1 the Tunbridge Wells British Legion Band was active in the 1920’s and 1930’s; the Tunbridge Wells Town Brass Band in the 1920’s, and the Tunbridge Wells Home Guard Band in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
In 1895 the Tunbridge Wells Town Council bemoaned the fact that the Recreation Ground paths were in a bad condition, with children picking up the stones and throwing them around. It was hoped that the new Corporation Band, in the 1896 season, would attract many more visitors there, thousands rather than hundreds. Residents were unhappy with the other ‘bands’ in the town and the suggested Corporation Band would be engaged for four months in the summer. Subscriptions were opened for a central band fund. Bandmaster Matthew Marks (of the Royal Marines, Portsmouth, and Miller’s Band, Southsea) was engaged at 5 guineas per week, who then, presumably, recruited the Band’s players for the 1896 season starting on 1 June, the final concert of which was on Saturday 3 October.
At this time the band was known as the “Borough Band”. In August 1898 the band gave a benefit concert in aid of the local hospitals in the Spa Hotel grounds, in ‘tropical weather’, which was a ‘real musical treat’. The programme included the band pieces: march “Unter dem Siegebanner”, selection “Carmen”, “Incidental Music to Shakespeare’s Henry VIII”, ballet music “Faust”, “Lead Kindly Light”, overture “Lutzspiel”, and overture “Zampa”. One of the band’s concerts, in July 1899 at The Grove, occupied all 550 chairs available, and the committee decided to purchase more chairs as the concerts were showing a profit.
During 1900 the concerts were often advertised as “Grand Illuminated Vocal and Instrumental Concerts” due to the recent installation of electrical lighting.
A sacred concert on Sunday 27 July 1902, at Mount Sion Grove, for the benefit of the hospital funds, was: grand march “Cornelius” (Mendelssohn), selection “Redemption” (Gounod), evening hymn “O Gladsome Light” from “The Golden Legend” (Sullivan), cornet solo “The Chorister” (Sullivan), “Coronation March, Henry VIII” (Edward German), selection “Calvary” (Spohr), meditation “Ave Maria” (Gounod), trombone solo “Prayer from Moses in Egypt” (Rossini), and “Hallelujah Chorus” (Handel).
The concert details for August 1902 can be seen in the extracts from the band’s “Official Programme” below. The penultimate concert of Mr Marks’ seventh season took place on Friday 26 September 1902, at The Grove, until 9 o’ clock, when the bandsmen adjourned to the Clarendon Hotel where a supper of soup, fish, and joints awaited them. The final concert was on the following day at the Pantiles.
For the following year, 1903, the Council decided that the “Corporation Band” would be orchestral in nature, and Mr Marks and his bandsmen would not be re-engaged.
Matthew Marks was born on 19 February 1853 at Aldbury, Herts, and enlisted in the Royal Marines at Portsmouth on 19 September 1879. By 1891 he was a Band Sergeant, had married Mary Owen in 1883, with whom he had three children, Edith, Rosamund and Edward. Leaving the Royal Marines before 1896, he established himself as a professional bandmaster of “Municipal and Volunteer Bands”. In 1901 the family was living at 42 Kenilworth Road, Willesden. In the 1911 census the family all lived at 41 Hamilton Road, Dudden Hill, Willesden. By this time Edith was a dressmake, Rosamonde a milliner, and Edward an office boy at a theatre ticket office. Matthew was reported as being a naval pensioner and bandmaster. At some point he re-engaged with the army, eventually being discharged on 1 October 1917, as no longer physically fit for war service, with a separation allowance being issued. He had received the Royal Naval Long Service Good Conduct medal, and the Territorial Long Service & Efficiency medal, and was a member of the National Orchestral Association.
Around 1860, when the army Volunteer Force was established in Britain, a number of the rifle and artillery companies raised brass bands (and drum & fife bands) to accompany their parades. At the same time, the Police Force was starting to form brass bands among some of its divisions, firstly in London and gradually spreading to other major cities. 75 such bands are known to have existed over the last 160 years, with nine constabulary bands still being active today (Covid notwithstanding!).
The British police forces have been protecting the population for over 200 years. Some of them have also been entertaining audiences through their brass and concert bands.
The following paper gives some details of this corner of the brass band world.
As an unofficial temporary archivist for brass band material (i.e. until a National Brass Band Archive is re-established), I was approached by Gordon Stanley to safeguard some photos of his grandfather’s band that he no longer had room for. We had hoped to meet up during his recent visit to the northern shires, but this trip was cancelled. Sadly, last week, I had to travel to Devon for my uncle’s funeral, but managed to meet up with Gordon en route as we passed by on the M5.
His grandfather, William Henry Stanley, conducted the Maidenhead Town Silver Band in the 1920s and 1930s, with his father also playing in the band. Before WW1 W.H. Stanley served with the 58th Battery, Royal Artillery in his 20’s later playing bugle with the 1st Berkshire Rifle Volunteers (G Company, Maidenhead) Bugle & Fife Band.
The Maidenhead Town Silver Band was founded in summer 1876 as Maidenhead Brass Band (the third of that name since 1855). It was active through to the 1930’s. Conductor was W.J. Harris in 1893-1896, L.P. Connor in 1899, J. Busby in 1900-1903, William Henry Stanley in 1925-1932. Later known as Maidenhead Town Band. In 1893 the officers were: president, J.F. Simpson; treasurer, W. Gibbons; secretary, J.C. Smith. Henry William Janes was a member at the time of his death in March 1904.
Eynesbury & St Neots Brass Band had three incarnations.
The first was certainly active in 1862 and lasted until around 1870.
A successor band was formed in 1875, with its first public concert on Monday 17th April 1876 at the Corn Exchange, St Neots. The conductor at this concert was Mr Embury, and later in 1876 it was Mr Parry, with Mr Ferris taking the baton in 1892.
The third band was founded (or possibly revived) in 1905 and lasted through to WW2. Horace Catmull was the bandmaster in 1932-1938, during which time the band entered a number of contests.