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Briercliffe Prize Brass Band (1854-1936)
Disbanded After Eighty Years - Briercliffe Brass Band's Proud Record - BURNLEY EXPRESS AND NEWS - 17-10-1936
The Briercliffe Brass Band, one of the oldest musical organisations in Lancashire, has ceased to exist. Formed over 80 years ago, the band had a fine record, having been served by some of the finest musicians in the country, but during the past few months, the members have found it increasingly difficult to carry on, finding, like their local bands, that engagements are very few, and the cost of carrying on such an organisation too great for the income.
A few weeks ago the instruments were disposed of, much to the regret of those who have been endeavouring to save the band from extinction and many of the villagers who have taken a keen interest in its activities, and a local link with one with one of the most notable periods of band music in the country has been severed.
Formed in the year 1854, when Briercliffe was only a scattered community, the centre of which was the small hamlets of Haggate and Lane Bottom, and before Harle Syke came into being, the band gave a good account of itself beyond the confines of the village, for according to a printed advertisement found on the premises of Messrs. Alfred Cheshire (Outfitter) of St James's-street, Burnley, during alterations in the early part of 1925, Briercliffe brass band was engaged to play "selections from the most popular composers of the day," at Wild's Colossal Pavilion, Burnley, during a "Fashionable night" (Friday) January 28th 1859?. Their appearance was an added attraction to the performance of the five-act play, "Ignomar," or "Son of the wilderness".
The band was reorganised in 1866, with twenty members, and a new set of instruments was obtained. These instruments arrived at the township, from Bank Top Station, on the same day that the foundation stones of Haggate Baptist Chapel were laid. For some years the band was known as the Haggate band and its members included Mr. John Foster, a noted solo euphonium player, and at one time conductor of the Haggate Chapel choir; Messrs. Robert Foster, James Atkinson, Robert Bannister, R. Proctor, John Proctor, Harry Bannister, W. Bannister, John Edmondson, James Edmondson, Whittaker Whittaker, Wm. Whittaker, J. Hartley, J. Banks and Robert Thomas. Two members who were most enthusiastic were Messrs. Edmund Atkinson, father of the present band secretary, and Robt. Bannister. The latter, who lived at Lane Bottom, also played with Trawden band, and would walk to Trawden for the practices two and three times a week. He was often accompanied by Mr. Atkinson, who on the erection of Queen-street Mill, created a sensation by climbing the chimney stack on its completion and playing a cornet solo from the top.
At the outset the members themselves paid for the instruments they used, and were afterwards repaid when the band obtained sufficient funds, the whole of the instruments becoming the property of the band. Rehearsals began in a room at Finnymoore Foot, near Walverden, and the members were self-taught. All of them were singers, some being members of the Haggate Baptist choir, and with their ability to read music it was not a difficult matter for them to pick up a fairly good knowledge of instrument playing.
The first bandmaster on record was Robert Bannister, and after three or four years existence the band entered its first contest at Hollingworth, with the test pieces of the "Hallelujah Chorus" and "Kyrie" and "Gloria." Their performance was so creditable that they won the fourth prize of £5 and a soprano cornet. This was the beginning of a long and honourable competitive career, successes being gained at Trawden, Middleton, Nelson, Stoneyholme, and Halifax. Mr. Joshua Kippax also brought distinction to the band with his noted success in the trombone solo class.
The band's headquarters were subsequently moved to "T'owd smithy" at Haggate, but this was soon disposed of for £25 when the site was required for the erection of the Council School. Rehearsals were held at the "Hare and Hounds" for a short time until a room was built at the rear of these premises at a cost of between £70 and £80. All the money that was obtained for playing during the greater part of the next twelve months was set aside to meet the cost of the room, with the result that it was paid for in one year.
An illustration of the seal displayed in those early days is afforded by the large quantity of hand-written music that the band possessed, but it was their misfortune that during the period at the smithy it was all ruined by dampness in the place where it was stored.
Subsequent conductors were Messrs. J. Banks, Whittaker Whittaker, J. Bailey and Joshua Kippax, the latter charge in 1891 coinciding with a marked improvement in the proficiency of the band, due to the employment of a professional coach. Two years later, Mr. Tom Greenwood became conductor. The band enjoyed a good measure of local support as was instanced in 1892, when a bazaar was held to procure new uniforms, which were to cost £128. Over £200 was raised by the bazaar, its success being in no small measure due to the energetic secretary at that time, Mr. Robert Halstead. During subsequent contests at Keighley, Warncliffe, Blackpool, Darwen and Wigan, Briercliffe band, as it again began to be called, competed with some of the best bands of the day. An instance of their high standing was shown in 1895, when they contested at Wigan against 15 bands. On this occasion the judge remarked that he had 'adjudicated at fourteen contests and had been particularly waiting to hear the test piece properly played. That day Briercliffe had played it in a manner that almost reached perfection.
From 1902 the membership dwindled, and the band became practically extinct, but about 1906 it was revived, thanks to the untiring efforts of Mr. Albert Foster, who by the persuasion of Mr. James Taylor, made three attempts to restart the band, and on the third occasion was successful, a fairly good band of 23 members resulting.
Because the entrance to the room at Haggate had to be reached through licensed premises, the headquarters were removed to the Church Institute, and a short time afterwards the band purchased the Socialist Club, just outside the borough boundary, which has remained their headquarters up to the present time.
One of the best instrumentalists in the district, Mr. James Kippax, who has for a number of years been a member of the Irwell Springs Band, received his training with the Briercliffe band. During recent years that band has had as conductors Mr. J. Birtkett who was in charge prior to joining up in 1914, Mr. Albert Proctor, who since the war has served the band for about eight years, and Mr. H. Tregilgas, who has served twice since 1919, and who was the last to conduct the band - he conducted them in their broadcast early this year. Mr. E. Bannister served as secretary from 1910 to 1921, and was followed for a short time by Mr. Alf Healey, and then until 1933 the secretarial work was in the hands of Mr. J. Atkinson, the band's oldest member, who joined when he was 18 years of age, and has 46 years' service with the band. He relinquished the post for two years to Mr. W Chadwick but resumed his duties in the final stage of the band's career.
Promise Of Work Enticed Long-serving Bandmaster - by Rowland Denis Kippax (Th'Owd Syker) - BURNLEY EXPRESS AND NEWS - 25-07-1978
My dad also played with the local band, Briercliffe Brass Band, and I have pictures of him playing the cornet, but he finished up with the largest instrument in the band - the double B. I remember going with him to a band practice in a stone-built building behind the Hare and Hounds Hotel at Haggate. The licensee, a Mr Proctor, had the place built not, so I was told by his grandson, to help the band, but because he thought that it would bring more custom to his pub. This idea didn't work for so long, as the band moved to a wood building near the Commercial Inn. The building behind the Hare and Hounds became the bowl house for the bowling green which was also behind the pub. Members of the band whom I remember: My Dad Mr J Kippax, E. Kippax, Jim Robinson, Johnny Atkinson, Albert foster, Joe Foster, John Duerden, Smith Waterworth, Albert Waterworth, J.W.Whittaker, W. Dent, John Greenwood, Mr Pickard, Mr Trafford, W. Jones, J Bullcock, Joe Turner, Billy Nutter, Albert Proctor. The latter became conductor after World War II, Albert Foster was conductor at one period, but the conductor with the longest service in my opinion was Harry Trigillgas.
How he and his brother Wilfred came to the band is a story in itself. Both of them agreed to come if they could be found work, and the village was canvassed in order to find them a window-cleaning business. Harry Trigillgas's son still carries on the business, both Harry and Wilfred are dead. The business must have been in existence for close on 60 years.
Every Whit Friday for many years the band would parade through the village about 6 am, prior to setting out for the Manchester district where they played for the annual Whit Friday Walking Day.
A Lancashire Township - The History Of Briercliffe - by Roger Frost (Local Historian) - Published in 1982 - Chp.15 - The Arts in Briercliffe - The Brass Bands
In 1936, the years in which it ceased to exist, the Briercliffe Prize Band, formerly Haffate Band, was descibed as "... one of the oldest musocal organisations in Lancashire". The band was formed in 1854 at Finneymoor Foot where a small group of enthusiasts obtained the use of a room. All the early members were singers, not musicians and , in typical Briercliffe fashion, they set about arranging lessons for themselves.
The first bandmaster was Robert Bannister who guided the infant band through basic instruction to the point at which they felt confident enough to enter their first contest. This was about 1857 and the contest took place at Hollingsworth, Rochdale. Two years later they were accepting engagements and in 1859 they played "... selections from the most popular composers of the day, at Wild's Colossal Pavilion in Burnley".
It is not known how long they stayed at Finneymoor Foot, but it couldn't have been for a great many years. They next moved to 'T'Owd Smithy' in Haggate and it was their association with this building which gave them the name of the Haggate Band. Whilst they were there they were reorganised on a sounder financial footing. This was in 1886 when the membership of twenty obtained new instruments just in time to play at the opening of the Haggate Baptist Chapel.
The band left the smithy when Haggate School was built in 1882. They received 25pounds as compensation and this they put into a bandroom building fund, but in the meantime, the band held rehearsals at the Hare and Hounds. After a while an agreement was reached between the landlord of the inn and the members of the band to the effect that room for a building would be found behind the inn. A band room was put up at a cost of 70 to 80 pounds and was paid for in one year. However, before long the band was on the move again, firstly to the church institute on Finsley Street in Harle Syke, and then they purchased the Socialist Club, a wooden structure which stood behind the "Tin Tab", just inside the borough boundary. It was at the Socialist Club, re-named the Briercliffe Band Rooms, that the band ended its days.
Briercliffe Prize Brass Band, to give the band it's proper name, competed sucessfully with some of the best bands of the day. At the first competition they entered, at Hollingsworth, where they played the Hallelujah Chorus, the Kyrie and other test pieces, they won fourth prize; a soprano cornet and the princely sum of 5pounds. They had early successes at competitions at Trawden, Middleton, Nelson, Burnley and Halifax and won contests at Keighley, Warncliffe, Blackpool, Darwen and Wigan amongst other places.
Their services were sought by many local organisations, and they played for churches, chapels, garden parties, school fetes, and in local parks. The Briercliffe Prize Band was a familiar sight on the Haggate Recreation Ground and later on the new grounds at the bottom of Queen Street. One of the more spectacular performances was a solo by Edmund Atkinson who was an enthusiastic member. He climbed the chimney at Queen St Mill when it opened and played a cornet solo from the top!
It would be invidious to mention many people by name, but the Tregillgas brothers, Harry and Wilfred, are worthy of note because it illustrates the importance of the band in years gone by. Harry was perhaps the longest serving conductor of the Briercliffe Prize Brass Band, but he, along with his brother, almost didn't become a member at all. They only agreed to join if they could be found work and, in response to this, the bank canvassed the village "in order to find them a window-cleaning business". The business still survives and is now in the hands of Harry's son.