The Crystal Palace and bands

The Crystal Palace – a wonder of south London from 1854 until it burned to the ground in 1936. It had been constructed in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851, then relocated to Sydenham in 1854. Brass bands had been part of its history from the first national contest in 1860 until its demise – performing in the National Brass Band Championships and various other musical festivals and events over the years.

There are many pictures of the Palace and grounds, and a few of bands attending the contests there, usually pictured outside by one of the platform stages or the steps. There are very few, however, of bands actually performing at the Crystal Palace. Here are some images, giving a flavour of what it might have been like to compete there.

Does anyone have any Crystal Palace related stories (from their band, its ex-members or family), or pictures?


I can’t be sure, but this young girl inspecting the tuba is possibly Joan Anderson of Feltham, whose father was in the Staines United Temperance Band, of which she was the mascot. Here she is pictured a few years later, aged 7, again at the Crystal Palace.


An article in the Illustrated London News, of 8 October 1910, describes the 1910 contest and illustrates the position of the adjudicators:

Blind Justice – Isolated Powers
Judges screened from the bands during the judging at the National Brass Band Festival at the Crystal Palace.
The eleventh National Brass Band festival drew nearly 200 bands to the Crystal Palace on Saturday of last week, and the judges had an extremely busy time deciding the merits of the competitors. The contests took place in various parts of the Palace. That for the One Thousand Guinea Challenge Trophy was held in the concert room. It is here illustrated. The judges sat in the gallery, with a curtain hung before them in such a way that, while they could not see which particular band was performing, they could hear perfectly; then they were, to all intents and purposes, blindfolded as regards their attitude towards the competitors. The Grand Trophy, which carries with it the Championship of Great Britain and the Colonies, was won by the band of Foden’s Motor-Wagon Works. Irwell Springs were second, Spenser’s Steel Works third. Our drawing shows the concert hall, as it were, in section, that the reader may see how both judges and band were placed.


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