Heathfield Silver Band

A new book by Mark Learey has just been published, covering the history of Heathfield Silver Band, in Sussex. Mark first contacted me a couple of years ago during his research for the book, and I hope it will find some interested readers out there.

Blowing up the High Street – The Story of Heathfield Silver Band. ISBN: 978-1399910446. Available to order online from www.blowingupthehighstreet.com.

“… is a must-read for all local history enthusiasts and anyone with a keen interest in the amateur brass band scene. It explores the story of a rural community band in a fresh and engaging way, fusing social and oral history through the vivid and often amusing memories of bandmembers past and present. The book aims to be detailed and yet accessible. There are chapters covering each decade, thematic essays, short biographies, stories and poems, and a rich selection of photographs from the Band’s history. There is also a foreword by Philip Harper, musical director of the world famous Cory Band. Blowing up the High Street provides a unique case study into traditional brass banding in Sussex.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Scanned documents

I have started to add a number of scanned/digitised documents, in PDF format, to the IBEW archive. Additional items will be added in the future. The documents include some band histories, vintage contest and concert programmes, catalogues, etc.

If anyone has similar documents/scans, I would be happy to add them to the online archive – just let me know at gavin@ibew.co.uk.

The documents can be viewed/downloaded at http://www.ibew.co.uk/misc104.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Daisy Squelch – cornet soloist and music hall star 

Agnes Mary Squelch (familiarly known as Daisy) was taught to play the cornet by the Black Dyke cornetist, John Paley at the age of 14. Having mastered the instrument, Daisy went on to become a well-known soloist on the concert stage, eventually moving to the music halls, where she excelled in various productions, touring the country from 1909 to 1922.

Daisy Squelch, 1906

The PDF article, linked below, outlines Daisy’s musical life from her first steps in local cornet competitions, to becoming a guest soloist with some of the countries’ best bands, to performing solos at the Royal Albert Hall for the National Brass Band Championships, and to her career as a music hall and variety musician.

PDF: https://www.academia.edu/61545972/Daisy_Squelch_1885_1965_cornet_soloist_and_music_hall_star

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And now for something completely different….

This blog normally focuses on the history of brass and similar “brassy” ensembles over the last 200 years. Many “works” bands existed during this time and some of the most famous brass bands of the past owed much of their success to their industrial or commercial patrons. A few still survive, though the sponsorship and patronage elements are very different these days.

Aside from the brass and military/concert bands, other forms of musical groups occasionally were formed by or in commercial companies. These included drum and fife bands, concertina bands, choirs and, even more rarely, banjo bands.

This example is the Manchester Corporation Tramways Banjo, Guitar and Mandolin Orchestra from the 1930’s. They broadcast on the Regional Northern Radio Programme in January 1933, January 1935, and August 1935, conducted by Arthur F. Hill. It was formed in 1932 by Arthur Hill, and by 1938 it was known as the Birchfield Banjo Mandoline and Guitar Orchestra, but still mainly composed of Corporation employees. It is presumed to have disbanded during WW2.

Manchester Corporation Tramways Banjo, Guitar and Mandolin Orchestra, c. 1934

During this time the Manchester Corporation also supported two brass bands, based at the Hyde and Birchfields depots. Two earlier brass bands were also sponsored by the Manchester Corporation in the 1890’s and early 1900’s – at the Holt Town and Water Street depots. Sadly there are no known photographs of any of these four bands.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Battersea Band Mystery

Ten years ago, I remarked on two images of the Bolton Borough Prize Band which had a phantom player (see: https://ibewbrass.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/a-bolton-band-mystery/)

A similar question arises with the two photographs of the Battersea Borough Prize Band. One contains the image of a child (a girl perhaps?) leaning on the bass drum. In the second picture she has been removed. She was probably the daughter of one of the players, who insisted on being in the photo. At some point the Band decided that her presence detracted from the formal nature of the picture and obtained a “clean” version.

Not much is known about the Band – certainly none of the players’ names have been found, so the identity of the child is even more unknown. The Band was active in the early 1890’s through to the 1920’s. It bought a new set of Besson instruments, costing £295, in October 1904, with conductor Tom Morgan and secretary F.W. Baker (who also took the photograph). So, perhaps, this was the occasion of the photo session?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Deanston Brass Band

Two photographs of Deanston Works Brass Band in Perthshire. The first c. 1860, the second c. 1910. The band was formed in May 1853. Its first conductor was Mr Watts, the manager of the Adelphi Cotton Mill in Deanston, where most, if not all, of the band were employed.

Deanston Brass Band c. 1860

The mill was the first in Britain to produce its own coins and paper money for issue to its workers, which was designed to overcome a shortage of currency in circulation at the time (the late 1700’s). In 1858, a young boy named Daniel McDonald, who was a drummer in the band, lost an arm in an accident at the mill where he worked. It was also known as Doune Brass Band by local people.

Deanston Brass Band c. 1910

The band was active through to WW1. After the mill closed the building was converted into a whisky distillery, in 1966.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sterling music

The city of Sterling in Illinois supported a number of brass bands in the latter half of the 19th century. Some faded in and out of existence, one lasted, in various guises, to the present day. This PDF article, linked below, looks at the bands, players and activities in the city of Sterling and its twin across the river, Rock Falls.

Keystone Sixth Regiment Band

PDF – Sterling music – the bands that provided music in a typical small Illinois town, 1864-1910

Sterling and Rock Falls, 1872

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Scottish Catholic Band from 1881

This photograph is of an unknown band, dated 1881, which consisted of 24 players – 7 cornets, 1 flute, 1 piccolo, 1 clarinet, 2 tenor saxhorns, 1 bass saxhorn, 2 tenor trombones, 2 bass trombones, 1 euphonium, 1 bombardon, 1 double bass, 1 bass drum, 1 side drum, cymbals, and triangle.

The bandsmen’s names are written on the photograph, but many are incomplete or indistinct. The best interpretation of them is, from left:

Father Cownall, M. McMullen, T. Walsh, ? Spillane, D. Haggerty, L. Dalton, W. Hearne, Father Butler, G. Kelly, D. Molony, H. Ashton, ?, ? Bassett, W. Spillane, W.H. Donnell, J .Wrafter, W. O’Leary, J. Whitaker, J. Shillier, H. Kennedy, ?, ? Bernard, F. Stephenson, V. Doyle, Father O’Reilly

There were a good number of catholic bands in and around the Glasgow area in the 1880’s and 1890’s many associated with the immigrants from Ireland. Attempts so far to pin down the specific band, in relation to the named individuals, have not resulted in anything at all helpful.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Victorian Rock Bands

For all percussionists out there – here is an example of a Victorian Rock Band.


This is actually the Till Family Rock Band, who built large xylophone-type instruments with slabs of hornfel rock from the Lake District. These were one of a succession of lithophone playing groups over the Victoria era, the first being the Richardson Family’s Monstre Rock Band. Joseph Richardson spent 13 years creating the instrument which made its debut in 1840, and they toured with their performances for 10 years or so, even appearing before Queen Victoria twice. The Till Family were much later, in the 1880’s and made their way, on tour, from the Lake District, around the UK and eventually to the USA where they settled in New Jersey.

Richardson Family Monstre Rock Band c. 1845

For more details, see Dr A.M. Till’s webpage: https://www.michaeltill.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Easy Way to Play Brass Instruments

The Easy Way to Play Brass Instruments was a series of articles that appeared in Brass Band News. They were collected and published a 40 page booklet in 1918, subtitled ‘A scientific method for young and old players’.

Jesse Rupert Manley (1905-1976), who features on the frontispiece, is the son of Jesse Manley (1862-1933) the famous conductor (mainly with Aberdare Town Band) and adjudicator.

Jesse Manley, senior, in 1893

An 8MB PDF scan of the booklet is available as a download here:

The Easy Way to Play Brass Instruments

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment