This page is part of an archive of historical details from existing or defunct brass band websites. This is being maintained to provide a record of this information in the event of a band folding, its website disappearing or other loss of the historical record. Where possible, and appropriate, the information cached will be updated from time to time - and any corrections or updates are welcome.
The exact origins of the band are unknown but it is generally believed it evolved from a village orchestra which had connections with the local White Horse Friendly Society Band of Music as far back as 1873. It still has 'connections' with The White Horse public house today – (read into that what you will!) and indeed the band usually plays Carols and other Christmas music there as part of its busy string of engagements in the run up to the festive period.
Over the years the band has enjoyed mixed fortunes. It was placed third in the 1988 Second Section National Brass Band Championships having won the Regional contest and was promoted to the Championship Section but sadly has not reached such dizzy heights since. This does not mean however that the band has slipped into oblivion! Most recently it has competed in the 2003 Fourth Section National Championships at Dundee.
As for the future we shall go on playing music and help to keep the traditions alive and in our own little way will have made our mark in history.
There is a brief article from the Salisbury Journal about Bert Giles who estimated the date of the foundation of the Downton Band to be 1874.
If a band was founded in Downton in 1874 it had ceased within nine years. The Downton Parish Magazine was founded in 1883 copies of the magazine for the 1880s make no reference to a Downton Band. The Woodfalls Band on the other hand, gets frequent mentions. For instance at Downton's celebrations of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee it was the Woodfalls Band that provided the entertainment.
From old copies of the Parish Magazine we learn that the Downton Band was founded in the Summer of 1889. The edition of August 1889 states:
A Brass Band has been formed by some of the young men of Downton, who have begun their practices under the tuition of Mr Davis. The Vicar acts as treasurer. They wish to thank those who have kindly contributed to enable them to purchase their instruments.
Could its formation have been the result of a breakaway from the Woodfalls Temperance Band? One of its founder members, John Smith is pictured below in this rare photograph of the Woodfalls Temperance Band, dating from c.1880-4. Smith lived at Gravel Close, so the formation of a band in Downton would have saved a long walk to The Ridge. Smith was born in 1864 and worked as a journeyman tanner, supplementing his income by being a barber, labourer and lighting the village street lamps. He was also a member of the Downton Fire Brigade.
The Woodfalls Temperance Band eventually became the Woodfalls Silver band and is still going strong. For more information see the Woodsfalls Band website.
Early local press coverage of the Downton Band is sparse. The Salisbury and Winchester Journal and General Advertiser of 4th January 1890 briefly covers a "Tea and Entertainment" story about a "Parish Tea held on New Year's Day in the National School. Three hundred people were supplied with tea at 6d per head." The Journal comments "The newly-formed Downton Band played outside."
The next reference is in a lengthy article about a Grand Bazaar held in the open air at The Moot, in June 1890, in an event arranged to raise money for a new heating system for Downton Parish Church.
...during the latter part of the evening the Downton Brass Band played and gave great satisfaction, considering that it has been in existence for such a short period."
The early photograph of Downton Band below shows John Smith who was a band member from the time of its formation until his death in December 1934. (Note his final appearance on the 1933-4 photograph as an old man.
At least two people in the Edwardian photograph were killed in the Great War. Ralph Bundy was badly gassed in the War and later died at the Battle of the Somme. Harry Winton (one of the original so-called "Downton Volunteers") had his young life cut short in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Winton met a particularly unpleasant death.