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Heathfield Silver Band
Until further research is done, the precise dating of the formation of a band in Heathfield will remain uncertain. Evidence which has come to light so far though, suggests that a band was started in 1888. The first band was not brass and it didn't practise in what we today call "Heathfield" it was fife and drum and it used Heathfield National School as a practice room, having oil lamps as its only means of lighting. The founder of the band was Mr Edward Bean of the well-known Heathfield family of carriers. He was supported by Mr Fred Adams and between them they got the band off the ground using subscriptions and donations from Leadenhall Market (London) poultry dealers, which Beans had contact with through their carriers business. As a result for quite a long time the band was dubbed the "Chicken Fatters Band". Fred Adams was the first bandmaster and Mr Stephen Saunders from Little London was their tutor.
Edward Bean was recognised as a generous and popular man whom everyone knew. He remained a member of the band until his death in the 1930's. Gradually, brass instruments were added to this fife and drum band and by the end of the century the band was attached to the local 2nd Sussex Volunteers. By this time the band was using a room belonging to the Cade Street pub for practising, where bandsmen used long tables for music stands, putting up with poor lighting and heating. The sergeant bandmaster was Charles E. Pettit, who remained with the band for some 40 years. As a volunteer band, Heathfield was expected to go to camp at Lydd where besides playing the Reveille and for Parades, they entertained troops. Of course the band still attended its usual fetes, marches and flower shows back in the Heathfield area throughout the rest of the year. Heathfield Band became a civilian band again a few years into the present century and continued playing regularly right up to the First World War.
Ever since about 1930 the band had rented its practice room in the Alexandra Road, but with increased financial strength, due to the activities of a large and thriving supporters club, the band purchased it in 1955 and it still practises here to the present day. The asking price was £225, £100 of which the supporters club donated. The original trustees of the band were Reginald Thomas Lloyd Bland, Robert John Lee, Royston Percy Elphick and Graham Stewart Barton.
During the 1914-1918 war, the band was suspended for two years despite optimism that it might continue, but the bandmaster was called away on war business and many of the bandsmen found they too had to leave. Alfred Hopkins, George Baker and Francis Greenaway were killed in the war, but the band spirit continued and it reformed after the war, returning to use the Cade Street practice room. A local newspaper described the band rising "phoenix-like out of the flames" and soon it was winning prizes for its playing; entering its first contest in 1922 and winning the 4th section in 1923. In 1922, new uniforms were bought for the band's 18 members at a cost of £63 1s 9d. They were black with a red stripe down the trousers. Not surprisingly, the band soon attracted a wider interest and a committee of local businessmen was formed to put the band on an organised footing and obtain fresh instruments. It is from 1928 that the band's written records date, and early minutes and accounts books made interesting reading.
Among the band's varied engagements, one of the hardest was the hospital parade: "toil and sweat" as one old bandsman recalls. These parades held in aid of hospitals, lasted for miles. Heathfield Band played each year for Heathfield, East Hoathly and Warbleton parades, refreshing themselves with cider, beer and even bee wine! The band's major weakness of the inter-war years was its failure to secure a permanent conductor. When Mr Pettit retired, several of the band's members tried their hand at conducting but none lasted more than a few years, that is not until Mr A E Wise came along in 1937 to guide the band until his retirement in 1957, except for the war years. Playing continued throughout the war, the band being injected with enthusiasm by some members of the local ATC group, under the baton of Mr J W Durrent. This also guaranteed uniforms and engagements – one such engagement was at a secret church service on Tilsmore Common for some locally based Canadians before they went off to the famous Normandy landings the next day.
The 1970's were among the most prosperous financial years the band had known, resulting in the purchasing of our distinct red uniforms in1975. Marking perhaps, the start of the band's modern era, and in the gradual replacement of all the instruments, so that at that time the band played on the best instruments it had ever done.
Mr Bland handed the bandmastership to Mr T Kelly in 1975 who took the band contesting successfully again, until he retired, leaving the band under the baton of Mr David Threlfall. In the 1980's the baton passed to Mr Dick Turner.
In 1977 Cyril Leeves retired from the band after notching up 50 years of membership and Jack Mitchell retired in 1983 after joining the band in 1913.
During the 1990's the band made a number of trips abroad, most notably to Weisbaden in Germany, where it took part in the local "Fasching" celebrations or carnival time. A trip was also made to Forge Les Eaux, Heathfield's twin-town in Northern France, where the band gave a concert.
At this time in the band's history cornet players became very scarce and for a while the band became a wind band, welcoming to it clarinet, flute, oboe and saxophone players.
In 1977 the band successfully applied to the Arts Council of England for a Lottery Grant and was awarded the grand sum of £42,500 with which they bought a complete set of brand new instruments. The Bandmaster at that time was Mr Richard Sherlock.
In January 2002 the band reached a new low point and was not only struggling for players, but was once again in need of a new conductor and some new ideas. Mrs Frankie Lulham, a music teacher, who had been the bands drum-kit player for over a decade volunteered to lead the band. She was duly elected as the band's first lady bandmaster and her dedication to the band was total. Frankie rallied the band and with her leadership it was decided in 2003 and 2004 to try its hand at contesting again, after an absence for over 25 years. Venues were Folkestone, Eastbourne and Ringmer where the quartets faired better than the band as a whole.
Frankie always set her targets high and with incredible hard work the band raised over £20,000 to realise its dream of extending and refurbishing the practice room with toilet facilities and a kitchen area. Without the unfailing commitment to Heathfield Silver Band of Mr Mostyn Cornford, Treasurer for 26 years and Percussionist for 28 years so far, who designed the extension and then proceeded to build it with the help of many loyal members the band room would still be very small and have no toilet. Mr Cornford put in more than 700 working hours over two years on the band room during the time of the refurbishment. This amount of dedication is unbelievable and deserves a medal. Mr Ted Lee who has played with Heathfield Band for over 50 years and has been the Librarian for most of those years, has once again painted the interior of the band room, along with willing helpers.
On Saturday 3rd September 2005, the band celebrated the grand opening of their vastly improved band room in Alexandra Road, which had undergone dramatic changes. Mr David Dimbleby performed the opening ceremonial cutting of the ribbon and wished the band good fortune in the future.