Richard Taylor (1867-1943) – bandmaster and trainer

Richard Taylor was a bandmaster and band trainer in the north-east of England. Having had a successful musical career in the UK he emigrated with his family to Australia in 1926 to establish a further series of musical endeavours. Thanks to his grandson and family members in Australia we have some insight to his life.

He became bandmaster of Kirkham Brass Band at the age of 17 and went on to lead various bands in the north and east of England. Namely Harrogate Temperance, Ashington Silver Model, Barrington Colliery for thirty two years, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, Blyth, Newbiggin, and Dudley PM. He played before royalty and with and against some of the finest bands in England and became one of the most prominent conductors in the brass band movement.

He emigrated to Australia with his family in 1926 and established a new musical career there.

More details can be found in the following paper:

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Alton Towers – 1930’s, not a rollercoaster in sight

Alton Towers – before it became a theme park. After the Earl of Shrewsbury died in 1921, the Countess eventually sold the estate to some businessmen who kept the gardens open and parts of the house, for visitors. Band concerts were popular during the 1930’s until WW2 when the house was requisitioned by the War Office.

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Wheatley Hill Colliery Band – the case of the altered photograph

There are two photographs of the band in 1910. In the first, with the band posed for a usual formal picture, there is a man, not in uniform, sitting on the right of the conductor.

In the second photograph, which was clearly taken just before or just after the first – looking at the various minor differences in gaze or posture of some of the band – his face has been replaced by that of another man. The original person could have been the colliery agent, John Henry Bacon Forster (1870-1950) who was later to become Chairman of South Durham Iron & Steel Co Ltd and Deputy Lieutenant of Durham.

The two faces

We can only surmise why this person’s face was replaced by another. There does not appear to be any reason in the historical record (so far) which indicates a rift in the colliery or the band to cause this – the agent Forster was still in place until at least 1919 when he moved on to bigger and better positions. Perhaps it was a means to add a new band member to the image without removing an existing player? Perhaps the original image was damaged and this was an attempt to “fix” the photograph?

The man sat to the left of the conductor is Matthew Barrass (1862-1933), the mine manager from 1902 to the 1920’s when he became the mine’s agent (or senior manager). The conductor at this time was probably E. Chapman.

Wheatley Hill in 1898

The colliery operated almost exactly 100 years, the mine being opened in 1869 and the pit finally closing in 1968. Situated between Thornley and Shotton in County Durham, the modern village is largely located to the south-west of where the pit was. Wheatley Hill Colliery had its share of troubles. A flooding incident in 1871 left 5 miners dead, and a local revolt, following a wider industrial dispute about pay reductions in 1874, led to miners being evicted from their houses.

Wheatley Hill Colliery Band in the 1890’s

Wheatley Hill Colliery Band was formed in the early 1890’s. Their conductor was M. Charlton in 1894 when they entered their first contest at Newcastle. Robert Walker was the bandmaster in the 1920’s and he received an ebony and silver baton from the Wheatley Hill Workman’s Social Club in 1922. Subsequent conductors included William Straughan (1931-1934), Richard Walker (1935-1936), W. Forrest (1939-1952), W.F. Buckley (1953-1954), Harold Strong (1955-1960), N. Buck (1960-1961), J. Rutter (1961-1965), and Derek Scollard (1966-1968).

Wheatley Hill Colliery Band in the 1920’s

There is an account of two incidents involving the band’s drum – the first being in the early 1900’s when the band was playing away somewhere, and some of the bandsmen had too much to drink and the drummer and his drum got separated. The drum landed up at Thornley Police Station for the night. On the second occasion, the band went to the Durham Miner’ Gala and the drummer lost his drumsticks. As the band could not begin its march home without a drummer, someone suggested using a beer bottle, so thanks to a beer bottle the band played its way out of Durham City and back home.

Wheatley Hill Colliery Band in 1932 at the Durham Miners’ Gala

In 1919, Edward Kitto, the Wheatley Hill bandmaster, wrote accepting the invitation for the band to play in the procession on Peace Day; he promised the loan of his mother’s copper tea urn and requested that the band should not be placed near the pit ponies in the procession as they had injured some of the band two years previously.

Wheatley Hill Colliery Band in the 1940’s

The band folded shortly after the closure of the pit in 1968.

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Scunthorpe Borough Boys’ Juvenile Band

Scunthorpe Borough Boys’ Juvenile Band 1945

The Scunthorpe Borough Boys’ Juvenile Band was formed in May 1944 following a meeting between William Richards and Mr. D.J.K. Quibell, M.P., where it was agreed to establish a junior band in the town. Instruments were provided by the generosity of the directors of Sir Lindsay Parkinson & Co., a large civil engineering company – one of whose later projects was to build the country’s first motorway, the Preston Bypass.

The band was conducted by William Richards, who had a long record of brass band experience with bands such as Mansfield Colliery Band, Crookhall Band, South Elmsall Band, and the Scunthorpe British Legion Band. It was originally hoped that this band would eventually result in a senior Scunthorpe Borough Band  – but that did not happen (at least not in the way that was proposed). Officers of the band at its formation were: Mr. Webster (Assistant Secretary), Councillor Hutchinson (Treasurer), D.J.K. Quibell, M.P. (President), and Councillor Ablett (Secretary).

The band had hoped to enter a contest at Leicester in 1945, but this did not come about. In early 1946 W.H. Kendall took over the conductorship of the band. He was also the conductor of the Scunthorpe Borough Band – which had originally been the Scunthorpe Defence Band, formed during WW2 with players from the various local civil defence organisations. The boys’ band, by default, then became the “Junior Borough Band.”

Trevor Leaning (aged 12 in 1947) was one of their solo cornet players. G. Ursell became conductor of the band in early 1948, and it was still performing in 1949, though there was no news of it after that time.

The band had folded by early 1951 when the instruments were sold to the new St Hugh’s School Brass Band in Scunthorpe.

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Hammersmith Borough Band

About nine years ago I was contacted by Heather Campbell, who wanted some information about her Grandfather, A.E. Ashcroft, who had been the Musical Director of the Hammersmith Borough Band. After my recent piece on Home Guard brass bands, I was reminded of her story, as Hammersmith Borough Band had served with the Home Guard during WW2. The band went through several manifestations between 1927 and the late 1970’s, which I have tried to document with the available information and photographs, some of which were kindly provided by Heather.

Hammersmith Borough Band, 1947


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Elworth Silver Band (Cheshire)

This was founded in 1900 following the failure of the Sandbach Volunteer Band to return to Elworth as part of the celebrations for the Relief of Mafeking in May 1900. A grand parade was organised, led by one of Foden’s new steam traction engines, with the Sandbach Volunteer Band. This left Elworth, processed into Sandbach via Wheelock, picking up the Wheelock Temperance Band en route. The return parade to Elworth for a grand reception and bonfire, after the speeches at Sandbach, was sadly lacking in music. A local publican in Sandbach had offered free beer to the bandsmen. The Wheelock bandsmen were offended and went home, and the Sandbach Volunteers were scattered in various states of inebriation around the hotel. Thus it was that Elworth decided to form their own band, to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Initial subscribers to the new band included Edwin Foden of the nearby motor works.
The band was rapidly established under the baton of S. Charlesworth, with the bandsmen being awarded a straw hat when they achieved an acceptable level of proficiency – this becoming their “uniform”.

It flourished over the next two years until June 1902, when during the planning for the Coronation of Edward VII, there were arguments about the fees the band should to charge the village to play at the festivities, the bandsmen wanting a fee of £4 – the committee and village deeming this to be disloyal and dishonourable. Eventually the engagement was put out to tender, excluding the Elworth Band, the job being awarded to the London & North West Carriage Works Band from Crewe for a fee of £8. The Elworth Band did play on the day, at Sandbach, but this was their last engagement, being dissolved by the committee in July 1902, with the instruments being sold off.

Elworth Silver Band – June 1902

This photograph of the Elworth Silver Band shows: Back row – J. Davies, E.R. Foden, E. Venables, S. Charlesworth, H. Davies, E. Charlesworth, V. Pass. Middle row – C. Cross (driver), W. Peers, T. Hough, J. Mellor, G. Faulkner, G. Mason. Front row – A. Workman, G. Jones, J. Boulton, W. Edmonds, F. Wakefield, T. Mitchell, E. Spooner, S.P. Twemlow, H. Burgess, J.E. Cowap, W. Foden, E. Plant, Edwin Foden, and W. Arrowsmith.

Their story having ended, all was not lost as Edwin Foden realised he had an opportunity too good not to grasp. He offered to establish a new band under his name, he recalled the players and conductor of the Elworth Band, outfitting them with new instruments and uniforms – and Fodens Motor Works Band was born.

Some further information about the Elworth Band can be found in these books about Fodens Band:

Burgess, D. – By Royal Command: The Story of Fodens Motor Works Band – Fodens, 1977
Fodens Band – The History of Fodens Motor Works Band – Fodens, 1936
Littlemore, Allan – The Fodens Band: 100 Years of Excellence – Peak Press, 1999

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Which Rothwell Band?

This image of the “Rothwell Band” is undated and comes from a Christmas greetings card sent from Tom and Bet to “Aunt and Uncle”. The photograph itself only measures 1″ x 1½”, and had to be enlarged considerably, showing the band probably at a contest with their name board.

Rothwell Temperance Band were founded in 1881 when a number of members of the Rothwell Model Band (or Old Band) frin became abstainers from drink and eight of them broke away to form their own band. Once they had a good number of members (certainly by 1883) they managed to acquire a set of “lancers” uniforms which was the start of their uniform outfits thenceforth. As the Temperance Band’s first contest was in 1884, they would have been in their uniforms.

This picture could be of the Temperance band in 1881 or 1882, or it could be the Rothwell Model Band. There are no indications to date in the card nor in the photograph, but the type of card and clothing worn seems to indicate between the 1880’s and very early 1900’s. Given the likelihood of it being a contest location, and the lack of uniforms, it is probably the Rothwell Model Band (active from the 1850’s and known to have competed from as early as 1873, in addition to their appearance at Enderby Jackson’s 1857 Hull contest). There was also a Rothwell Haigh Brass Band active in the 1870’s and 1880’s.

However – there is another Rothwell with a banding tradition, that of Rothwell in Northamptonshire, near Kettering. There was the Rothwell Albion Band (Active in 1864, conductor J. Whiteman in 1879-1884 – still active until the late 1950’s); Rothwell Saxhorn Band (1860’s); Rothwell Chapel Brass Band (1860’s); Rothwell Congregational Mission Brass Band (1890’s); Rothwell Mission Brass Band (associated with the local Wesleyans, 1890’s); Rothwell Town Brass Band (founded in 1886 and still active in the early 1900’s); and Rothwell Volunteers Brass Band (associated with the 1st Northamptonshire Rifles N Company, based at Kettering – active in the early 1900’s).

So, the number of possible contenders are more than at first thought. Both Rothwell Albion and Rothwell Town competed during the 1880’s and 1890’s, so it could be either of those. I have not seen pictures of any of the Rothwell (Northants) bands, so cannot compare the people therein.

Which Rothwell Band is this? Well, at the moment we can’t identify it, but who knows in the future?

Rothwell Model? Band
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Pictures of Youth – a look at some early views of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain

The National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain was founded in 1952, following two earlier massed children’s concerts arranged in 1947 and 1950, both of which were conducted by Denis Wright who went on to become the first Music Advisor of the Band.

The Band, for children aged 14 to 19, usually holds two residential courses each year, at Easter and in the early summer holidays, during which there is intensive musical tuition from leading instrumentalists and guest conductors.

The paper below shows the group photographs from a number of the early courses, from 1957 to 1962. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has similar pictures from other years of the NYBBGB courses.
NYBB Easter course 1959, Birmingham, conductor Harry Mortimer

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Fighting at home – the brass bands that became part of the civil defence war effort on the home front during WW2

During the Second World War various civil defence forces were established, in particular the Home Guard. Many of these had brass bands associated with them, with members partially or entirely from local bands. This paper below gives details of more than 150 such bands that supported the Home Guard and other forces during parades, various military engagements, and also entertained the local population.

Hartlepool Home Guard Brass Band
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Hambledon Brass Band (Hampshire) – a tale of three bands, cricket origins, and Peter Warlock

Some years ago, I received the Attendance Book for the Hambledon Brass Band, which covers the period from the beginning of 1920 through to September 1925. A mark is made against each member’s name for each rehearsal together with the occasional annotation or additional information. As a historical record, if one were to analyse the attendance records, I am sure you could make reach interesting conclusions, but (at least at the present) life is too short for that!

The following paper examines the three brass bands that existed in Hambledon, of which the second one, chronologically, is the main focus, and uncovers a surprising link with the “cradle of cricket” and the composer Peter Warlock.

The digitised Attendance Book is appended to the paper.

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