The Lads of Kent Boys’ Brass Band – training for the forces and touring in Edwardian England

Originally known as the Brompton Boys’ Institute Band, from the New Brompton Orphanage in Kent, its proprietor Henry Allen developed the band from its formation in 1896 into a touring set of brass ensembles – the “Lads of Kent” that raised money for the bands and the home and also provided skills for the boys to prepare them for careers in the army and navy. They were very popular in their time, but towards the end of the band’s existence serious questions were raised about the well-being of the boys under Allen’s care. See the following article for more details on the “Lads of Kent” 1896-1914.

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The Curtain Falls – the end of St Hilda’s Band

In December 1937, James Southern, band manager of the famous St Hilda’s Professional Band, announced it would be disbanding. In an article he outlined the history of the band from its earliest days in South Shields attached to the local colliery to its outstanding successes in the 1920’s, subsequently turning professional and its decline in the 1930’s. I have illustrated his “swan song” with various pictures of the band through the years.

The full, illustrated, article can be found here:

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Police band cartoons

In 1937 Charles Ingles, of the Metropolitan Police Central Band, was invited to produce some cartoons for the Musical Progress and Mail magazine. He delivered a dozen pictures which were then published each month. Although they clearly represent military band members, the subjects could easily be seen as members of a brass band.

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Inverness – a look at its brass bands from the 1840’s to 1936

Brass bands have been very thin on the ground in the highlands of Scotland, indeed Inverness-shire has only seen two bands at Fort William and one at Tarbert, outside Inverness itself. The current Highland Brass, which was formed in 2013 is a welcome addition to the area which had not seen a brass band since World War 2. [See:]

Here are a few details of the Inverness brass bands. Not much is known about them and even fewer pictures exist.

Inverness Amateur Brass Band

Founded in November 1858 by C.H. Morine and still active in 1866. Morine solicited the people of Inverness for subscriptions, with over 120 people pledging over £80 in lots of 1 guinea, half guinea and other amounts. Instruments costing £65 were bought from Mr Williams, of Cheapside, London. The original band consisted of 13 performers – four cornopeans, two sax tenors, tenor and bass trombone, ophicleide, contre-bass, bass drum, cymbals and triangle. The bandmaster of the 12th Highland Regiment, stationed at Fort George, was engaged to provide the first few lessons.

Their first public engagement was at the Northern Meeting Rooms on Thursday 31st March 1859. An open air concert was held on the Ness Islands on Monday 30th May 1859, followed by several similar concerts when the weather was favourable. The band advertised for an Eb cornet player in July 1859, stating “None but an expert player, and one who can play tolerably at sight, need apply. A small salary will be given.” In January 1860 the band played at the Northern Meeting Rooms in a “grand evening concert”, a regular venue for their performances. Together with many other organisations and officials, the band performed at the ceremonial “cutting of the first turf” for the new Inverness & Ross-shire railway line in March 1861.

A concert at Ness Islands on Monday 17th June 1861 consisted of: quickstep – March to the Battlefield; My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose; Selection from Sonnambula (Bellini); Glentore Quadrilles (Scotch); Ellen Polka (Morine); quickstep – Robin Hood; selection – Boatie Rows and Lass o’ Gowrie; strathspey – Duchess of Gordon; Hark! The Song of Jubilee (Wade); selection – Norma (Bellini); Dunachton Quadrilles (Morine); Abbotsford Polka (Jones); quickstep – Hoky, Poky & Hazeldell;  quickstep – Pretty Poll (Morine); and reel – Cawdor Fair.

In 1863 the instruments and music were handed over into the keeping of Mr W. Ferguson, hatter, and the members of the band took over its running, instead of the town council. Conductor A. Wernthal in 1865. It probably disbanded in the late 1860’s, perhaps helped on its way by the formation of the two volunteer bands in the town.

Inverness Artillery Brass Band

Active in 1860. Still active in 1886. The band of the 1st Inverness-shire Artillery Volunteers

Inverness Artillery Volunteers with their brass band

Inverness Brass Band (1)

Active from pre-1850, conductor Mr Mcgillivray in 1852. Disbanded some time prior to 1858 when a successor band was formed

Inverness Brass Band (2)

See: Inverness Amateur Brass Band above

Inverness Highland Rifle Volunteers Brass Band

Active in the early 1860’s. Secretary William Ferguson, and Richard Turnbull was a member in 1864. Bandmaster S. Sanderson in 1886. Still active in 1887. The band of the 1st Inverness-shire Rifle Volunteers

Inverness-shire Rifles Volunteers Band, 1870’s

Inverness Mechanics Brass Band

Founded in September 1859, bandmaster Mr Morine. Still active in 1860. Probably did not last long as it was in competition with the Amateur Brass Band. 

Inverness Town Band

Founded in April 1904, conductor Harry T. Tuff, with £300 donated by Andrew Carnegie. Still active in 1922. Performed at the Highland Gathering in Inverness in 1903. Skibo Castle annual fete in July 1914. Secretary & treasurer, G. Smith Laing, and bandmaster, Harry T. Tuff in 1907, when the band rehearsed at Meal Market Close, High Street, Inverness. Disbanded during WW1.

Inverness Silver Band


The band was formed in 1920, appealing for more instruments and uniforms in 1921. Its first public appearance was at the Great Musical Fete in the Northern Meeting Rooms, together with choirs of 700 voices. It became free of debt in 1922, and held its first AGM in 1923. The founding Secretary, Mr A Ross, a railway worker, retired in May 1924. William Grant, the bandmaster, resigned in August 1924.

A new bandmaster, Mr G. Scotland, was appointed followed, in June 1925, by a crisis when “Numbers of the committee take little personal interest. No effort to recruit young musicians. A good band is sorely needed in Inverness. The first consideration is a good bandmaster. Those who know about the Silver Band will not tell us what is wrong. There is something far wrong with the band which cannot keep its own engagements.”

At the 1927 AGM, George Smith Laing was in the chair. “Last year was the most successful since the band’s inauguration. 40 appearances. In 4 cases the band was paid. 10 members under tuition. Compliments to Bandmaster MacConnachie.”


Performances included the Aird & Strathglass Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Society’s Show in July 1924; the Tain Tennis Club bazaar and fancy fair in August 1924; leading a procession of 200 Oddfellows delegates at their conference in Inverness in May 1925; at a garden party at Balmacaan House, conducted by R.H. MacConnachie; the cutting of the first sod of the £100,000 extension to the Northern Infirmary in Inverness in November 1927; at the garden party at Cawdor Castle in July 1929, which attracted over a thousand tenants, employees and tradesmen of the estate; at the Rememberance service at Cavell Gardens, Inverness in November 1934 (and serveral preceding years); and at the Forres & District Horticultural Show in August 1936. The band’s conductor was Mr Rieves in 1932, Mr Rae in 1934, Will Grieve in 1935. Folded in 1936, and the instruments were loaned to the Inverness District Asylum.

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The cornet madam and the trombonist actress

What do a brothel madam in New Orleans and a comic actress in Paris have in common? Not a lot you’d think, but they were both accomplished brass players.

agAntonia Gonzales duetted on her cornet with Tony Jackson and Jelly Roll Morton, and also performed in the nude for her clients.



Marguerite Dufay was a trombonist who made her mdname mainly on the Parisian vaudeville and revue theatre stage and was immortalised by a famous lithograph of herself playing the trombone, by Louis Anquetin, in 1899. These were just two of the many female brass soloists who have entertained audiences around the world over the last 200 years.

An overview of their respective careers in given in the paper below.

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The Douglas Colliery Prize Silver Band North Tour – July 1929

The Douglas Colliery was sited at Rigside on the banks of Douglas Water in Lanarkshire. The band was active from 1883 through to the late 1950’s. Its conductor was Mr Paterson in 1886. Secretary W.W. Muir, treasurer John Hunter in 1904.

It was originally known as Rigside Brass Band, and as Douglas Colliery Brass Band from 1900. Later it was also known as Douglas Water [Colliery] Brass Band.


Douglas Colliery Silver Band – 1923

In 1901 the band was reconstituted, buying a new set of instruments costing £220, with uniforms and other instruments bringing the total up to £280. By April 1904 £217 had been paid off, and a bazaar was organised to raise funds to clear the deficit, which it managed quite handsomely – making a total of £210.

It successfully promoted a contest at Lanark Racecourse on 15 July 1901, at which six bands competed (Cleland – 1st, Bo’ness & Carriden – 2nd, Milnwood – 3rd, Broxburn – 3rd, Coltness, and Quarter), with over 3,000 people in attendance. It followed this with a second contest in July 1902 at Burghland Park, Lanark, which attracted eight bands, and once again in 1903.


Douglas Colliery Silver Band – 1928

It undertook a “North Tour” in July 1929 to Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Morayshire, Nairnshire, and Invernesshire under the baton of resident conductor James Davidson.

The full itinerary of their tour, which included many concerts was:

Saturday 13th July – Leave Douglas Water at 11am, arrive at 2.30pm Gourock House, Gourock. Afternoon performance at 3. Evening at 7. Special Tea arranged for Band at Gourock House at 9pm. Charge per man 2/2d. Leave Gourock at 10pm, arrive at Huntly on Sunday between 8 and 9am. Breakfast arranged on arrival.

Sunday 14th July – Leave Huntly at 2.15pm, arrive Keith at 2.45pm. Keith to Nairn 1¾ hours.

Monday 15th July – Leave Huntly at 1.45pm, arrive Turriff at 2.30pm. Turriff to Macduff ½ hour. Macduff to Banff only a few minutes. Tea at 5pm, Potter’s Bakery, Banff.

Tuesday 16th July – Leave Huntly at 10.30am, arrive Dingwall at 2.30pm. Dingwall to Beauly ½ hour. Beauly to Inverness ½ hour. Tea at 5.30pm, La Scala Picture House, Inverness.

Wednesday 17th July – Leave Huntly 1.30pm, arrive Portsoy at 2.30pm. Portsoy to Buckie ¾ hour. Buckie to Lossiemouth 1 hour. Tea at 5pm, St Andrew’s Hotel, Buckie.

Thursday 18th July – Leave Huntly at 12.30pm, arrive Grantown at 2.30pm. Grantown to Nairn 1¼ hours. Tea at 5.30pm, Victoria Hotel Café, Nairn.

Friday 19th July – Huntly to Rothes 1¾ hours. Leave Huntly at 1.15pm. Rothes to Dufftown ½ hour. Dufftown to Huntly ¾ hour.

Saturday 20th July – Leave Huntly at 1pm, arrive Elgin at 2.30pm. Elgin to Forres ½ hour. Forres to Inverness 1 hour 20 minutes. Tea at 6pm, La Scala Picture House, Inverness.

Bus to be at Hotel door ¼ hour before starting out each day so as to allow time for start of each performance.


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Original Music for Brass Band Contests

Prior to 1913 music for brass band had consisted largely of arrangements of classical or popular music. Although there had been a long tradition of composers (usually bandmasters) writing original marches and light music, there certainly had been no original music used in the major contests. This changed when Percy Fletcher’s Labour and Love was written and used in the National Brass Band Championships at the Crystal Palace in 1913. This broke the ice and many composers over the following years were inspired, commissioned or otherwise persuaded to write for brass bands.

lalThe adoption of original works in the contest arena was somewhat slow to begin with but gained momentum through the 1920s and 1930s. A number of key composers led the way and the list of the major works used in these early years of original test pieces shows whom we have to thank for rich variety of original works we enjoy today. Here is a list of the composers and their original works for major contests from 1913 until WW2.

Granville Bantock
Oriental Rhapsody (1930)
Prometheus Unbound (1933)

Hubert Bath
Freedom (1922)
Honour and Glory (1931)

Arthur Bliss
Kenilworth (1936)

Edward Elgar
Severn Suite (1930)

Percy Fletcher
Labour and Love (1913)
An Epic Symphony (1926)

Henry Geehl
Oliver Cromwell (1923)
On the Cornish Coast (1924)
Robin Hood (1936)

Gustav Holst
A Moorside Suite (1928)

Herbert Howells
Pageantry (1934)

John Ireland
A Downland Suite (1932)
Comedy Overture (1934)

Cyril Jenkins
Coriolanus (1914)
Life Divine (1921)
Victory (1929)
Zamora (1929)

Thomas Keighley
Macbeth (1925)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1926)
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1927)
Lorenzo (1928)
The Crusaders (1932)
A Northern Rhapsody (1935)

Haydn Morris
Springtime (1931)

J. Weston Nicholl
The Viking (1923)

Denis Wright
Joan of Arc (1925)
Hanover (1926)
The White Rider (1927)
Tintagel (1930)
Princess Nada (1933)
Thalassa (The Sea) (1933)
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The Iles and Mortimer Medals

jiThe Iles Medal is named after John Henry Iles (1871-1951) who was the founder of the National Brass Band Championships in 1900 – an extraordinary and flamboyant entrepreneur who virtually controlled the brass band movement for the first half of the 19th century. He was responsible for enlisting leading composers of the day to write music for brass bands – including Elgar, Bliss, Holst and Howells. He also was at one time the owner and editor-in-chief of the British Bandsman and was Master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1932-1933.

The Iles Medal is awarded by the Worshipful Company of Musicians for significant contributions to the brass band movement. Recipients of the medal since its first award in 1948 are:

1948 – Arthur O. Pearce
1949 – Fred Mortimer
1950 – Herbert Benett
1951 – No award
1952 – George Hawkins
1953 – Harry Mortimer, CBE
1954 – Eric Ball, OBE
1955 – Stanley Boddington, MBE
1956 – Denis Wright, OBE
1957 – Frank Wright, MBE
1958 – Thomas J. Powell
1959 – Alex Mortimer
1960 – Drake Rimmer
1961 – George Hespe
1962 – Rex Mortimer
1963 – William Wood
1964 – Walter Hargreaves
1965 – Leonard Lamb
1966 – Edward C. Buttress
1967 – Geoffrey Brand
1968 – Thomas F. Atkinson
1969 – William Scholes
1970 – George Thompson, MBE
1971 – Albert Coupe, MBE
1972 – No award
1973 – Trevor Walmsley
1974 – Albert Chappell
1975 – Col. Bernard Adams (S.A.)
1976 – Roy Newsome
1977 – James Scott
1978 – Kenneth Dennison
1979 – Geoffrey Whitham
1980 – John R. Carr
1981 – Edwin J. Williams
1982 – Denis Carr
1983 – David Read
1984 – Ieuan Morgan, MBE
1985 – Dennis Masters
1986 – Richard Evans
1987 – John Berryman
1988 – Derek Broadbent
1989 – James Shepherd
1990 – Norman Ashcroft
1991 – Peter Wilson
1992 – Bram Gay
1993 – Elgar Howarth
1994 – Peter Parkes
1995 – Howard Snell
1996 – James Watson and Margaret Mortimer
1997 – James Williams (S.A.)
1998 – Edward Gregson
1999 – David King
2000 – Philip Sparke
2001 – Allan Withington
2002 – Gary Cutt
2003 – Bramwell Tovey
2004 – Philip Wilby
2005 – Paul Hindmarsh
2006 – James Gourlay
2007 – Robert Childs and Nicholas Childs
2008 – Peter Roberts
2009 – Peter Graham
2010 – Stephen Cobb and Martin Mortimer
2011 – Frank Renton
2012 – Stan Kitchen
2013 – Phillip McCann
2014 – John McCabe
2015 – Goff Richards
2016 – Russell Gray
2017 – Martin Ellerby
2018 – Trevor Caffull
2019 – Ray Farr
2020 – Ian Porthouse

hmThe Mortimer Medal is named after Harry Mortimer, cornet player and conductor extraordinary, and was endowed at the instigation of Mrs Margaret Mortimer, in memory of her late husband. It is awarded by the Worshipful Company of Musicians to recognise outstanding achievements in the youth bands scene. Recipients are:

1995 – Nigel Boddice
1996 – Leighton Rich
1997 – Gordon Evans, MBE
1998 – Christopher Wormald
1999 – Lynda Nicholson
2000 – Derek Greenwood
2001 – Colin Duxbury
2002 – Betty Anderson
2003 – Philip McCann
2004 – Paul Fensom
2005 – Alun F Williams
2006 – Paul Cosh
2007 – Gary Walczak
2008 – Alan Pope
2009 – Marie Smith
2010 – Brian Taylor
2011 – Michael Robertson
2012 – Mark Bousie
2013 – Chris Jeans
2014 – Helen Marshall
2015 – Lee Rigg
2016 – Samantha Harrison
2017 – Anna Hughes-Willilams
2018 – Gwyn Evans
2019 – Brad Turnbull
2020 – Bramwell Tovey

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What did the Champions look like? – 50 years of National Brass Band Champions


The Thousand Guineas Trophy

Pictures of brass bands had been made since the early days of photography, with most being formal staged portraits of the band in formed rows. There were some more casual pictures taken as well as some of the bands “in action” at various events. The advent of the picture postcard and its growth in popularity during the 1890’s and early 1900’s led to many bands not only having their photograph taken to commemorate a particular event (usually a contest win), but also to have postcards produced which could be sold or given away as promotional or souvenir items.

The National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain were established in 1900, and I have put together a collection of the formal photographs of the National Champions over the first 50 years of the contest. There are some gaps (even allowing for the years that the contest did not take place, during the world wars), and hopefully relevant and appropriate images can be found to fill them.

Here is a picture of the first champion band of the new era, Denton Original in 1900. The full paper can be found at


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A pioneer of brass in the East – Sir Robert Hart’s Chinese brass band

rh1 vanity fair 1894

Robert Hart – Vanity Fair, 1894

Sir Robert Hart was Inspector-General of the Imperial Maritime Customs Service in China from 1863 until 1908, and he was a significant British figure in recent Chinese history. His work encompassed much beyond the assessment of customs revenue, to the extent that he once joked that he might as well be titled ‘Inspector General of Everything’. Hart was a great lover of music, playing the violin himself, often performing at soirées and parties.

In the late 1880’s he discovered one of his staff was a bandmaster which reminded him of the pleasures that ensemble music could give. Out of his own pocket he purchased a set of brass instruments from Europe and gathered a dozen or so Chinese boys and young men to start to learn to play them. Within a year they were sufficiently capable to start performing and eight of them began training others. The players all had different trades including a barber, a shoemaker and a tailor, and were provided with uniforms, though these were of a more oriental fashion rather than the military style usually adopted by European bands. The band was led by the Portuguese bandmasters J. Costa and later, from 1896 to 1908, E.E. Encarnacao.

rhp04 1902

The band in 1902, with E.E. Encarnacao on the right

The band performed regularly at balls, dances, garden parties and other official events, becoming well known throughout China. The garden parties, in particular, were regular events, every Wednesday during the spring and autumn seasons, held in the Inspector General’s own garden, with invited guests and other Peking residents enjoying the music.
This band is notable for being the first civilian brass band consisting of Chinese musicians, starting an appetite for more European music and a trend for the creation of more bands in a similar style.

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The band in 1906, with Sir Robert Hart and E.E. Encarnacao on the left

There are reports of some of the young musicians in Hart’s band later being poached by leading Qing officials as their own bands were beginning to be established at the start of the twentieth century. Some of the bandsmen were also proficient on stringed instruments which they used at times for indoor concerts. It was also known as the Peking Boys’ Brass Band.

In a postscript to a letter in April 1890, Hart remarks:

“Keep your eye open if you hear of a good Brass-instrument man, who would make a good Postal-clerk and good Bandmaster (playing First Cornet himself), let me know. Qualifications necessary: Good tempered, patient, painstaking, able to transpose and re-arrange music for his men, good cornet player, good at simple arithmetic, handwriting, sober and economical.”

rhp02 1907

The band performing in 1907

Hart’s daughter, Mabel Milburne Hart, on her first visit to China in 1905, wrote:

“… My Father’s Chinese Band was playing a stirring march in the Courtyard as we entered – It consists of about 20 Chinamen who are trained by a Portuguese and play brass band instruments out of doors and stringed indoors. They play as well as almost any band I’ve ever heard, and are splendid at Dance Music. There is a huge hall in the house with a splendid floor made especially for dancing. We are going to have a Diplomatic Dinner on Thursday with a dance to follow…”

rhp01 1907

The band in 1907, with E.E. Encarnacao on the left and Sir Robert Hart on the right


Sir Robert Hart, 1908

A commemorative event – “Remembering Sir Robert Hart” was held in February 2013 at Bisham. Part of the proceedings consisted of the Waltham St Lawrence Band playing a concert of music including some of the pieces that Hart’s Chinese band had played in the early 1900’s.

A substantial collection of personal and official papers of Sir Robert Hart is held by Queen’s University Belfast in their Manuscript Collection (MS 15) which includes a large number of programmes from the band’s performances. Various digitised items from the collection are available online – see:

On a final note, Keith Robinson, a retired music teacher with an interest in Chinese language and music, is currently researching a book on Hart’s Chinese Brass Band, which will cover the work of Sir Robert Hart and his band in far greater detail than this brief overview.

Here are a selection of concert programmes that the band performed from an early one from 1889 to their final concert on 18 April 1908.

rh 18890220

20 February 1889

rh 18920829

29 August 1892

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10 February 1904

rh 19070209

9 February 1907

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4 December 1907

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Final concert 18 April 1908

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