Historical Research


Of the many brass bands that have flourished across the world over the last 200 years very few have documented records covering their history. Even less is known about the players in those bands.

Over the last 25 years I have researched, collected and collated a range of information about the history of the brass band movement, and made it available to all via the IBEW. In recent years this work has also resulted in a number of books, articles and blog posts on a wide variety of banding historical topics.

At the forefront of these are the Brass Band Bibliography, with over 9,350 entries, and the various historical directories, in particular Brass Bands of the British Isles, which lists nearly 20,000 bands, with some 10,300 additional cross references for alternative or previous names. Over 9,500 "overseas" bands are included in Brass Bands of the World, with around 2,700 cross references. A full list of my publications is given below - all available as PDF downloads either below or from
https://gavinholman.academia.edu/research, and the IBEW Blog.

Further information and discussion about historical brass bands can be found in the Facebook Group History of Brass Bands [Facebook]

Details of other band historians and researchers can be found on the Brass Band Historians and Researchers page.

My publications on the history of brass bands and related subjects:

  • Bourton-on-the-Water Brass Band [13 April 2021, 4 pages] A small village band that existed for less than 20 years - a brief look at what is known about its members and activities.

  • Cleora Miller - the "Prima Donna and the Instrumentalists" - a trombone and sousaphone artist on tour for thirty years [12 April 2021, 40 pages] Cleora Miller was a multi-instrumental musician, who toured with her parents in a musical trio, before becoming the figurehead of the show and a much loved and admired solo artist in addition to her ensemble work, eventually leading a multi-act variety show that was greatly sought after in the American mid-west in the early 1930's.

  • Comic Bands in the Photograph [in Japanese] [5 April 2021, 6 pages] - A version of my earlier paper on comic and zobo bands (see below), published in the Japanese Pipers Magazine, Issue 476, April 2021.

  • Charles Godfrey Jnr. - the insult that lasted nine years [4 April 2021, 6 pages] Charles Godfrey, bandmaster of the Royal Horse Guards, was a prolific arranger of music for brass and military bands, and also adjudicated many brass band contests. However, an unpleasant experience at the British Open contest, in September 1888, led him to refuse to judge any further band contests - a decision which would last until 1897.

  • Hazel Gwinnup and the Six Royal Hussars - a brass sextet in early 20th century America [4 April 2021, 12 pages] Hazel was a trombonist and saxophonist who, after touring with Helen May Butler's Ladies' Brass Band, joined a vaudeville brass sextet on the theatre circuit for a further six years.

  • Castle Howard Reformatory School Brass Band - musical education and social reform for wayward boys [28 March 2021, 18 pages] One of the many institutions set up in the late 18th and 19th centuries to cater for sick, orphaned, destitute, and criminal children. This Reformatory was established in 1856 and the education and training activities for the boys included the school's brass band. This was active from the late 1880's through to the late 1920's.

  • Miss Nettie Goff - a minstrel and vaudeville trombonist [20 March 2021, 29 pages] Nettie Goff was an African-American trombone soloist and actress who toured the eastern and southern USA with a number of different minstrel shows in the 1890's and 1900's. With her husband, Will Garland, she also undertook various European tours.

  • Rothesay Brass Band - entertaining the excursionists fresh off the paddle-steamers on the Isle of Bute [24 February 2021, 24 pages] - Rothesay, the main town on the Isle of Bute, became a popular tourist destination in the Victorian era. Tourists wanted entertainment and the town council initially provided professional bands for the summer season from the mainland. A local brass band was established in 1875, which took on some of the musical duties required, and a successor band was formed in the 1920's.

  • Ups and Downs - the patterns of band engagements over the year [18 February 2021, IBEW Blog] - A look at the distribution of brass band engagements - concerts, contests, festivals etc, over the main 14 years that the IBEW hosted the Brass Bands Events Diary.

  • A trumpet prize for an unknown band [15 February 2021, 5 pages] - Awarded as the 5th prize for the 1926 National Championships Junior Cup (A) contest, the identity of the band which received this Vincent Bach trumpet is unknown, at present.

  • A Shifnal Band at the pub [9 February 2021, IBEW Blog] - A band on parade outside the White Hart pub in Shifnal.

  • Four unknowns to puzzle over [9 February 2021, IBEW Blog] - Four pictures of unknown bands with a little background.

  • Brass Instruments and Baldness [in Japanese] [5 February 2021, 2 pages] - A version of my earlier paper (see below), published in the Japanese Pipers Magazine, Issue 475, February 2021.

  • Lynn and Lynda - 14 years of touring and treading the boards for two 'dainty' brass musicians [3 February 2021, 8 pages] - A look at the touring performances of 'Lynn and Lynda', who gave multi-instrumental concerts and turns, with their various brass instruments, on stages across the British Isles during the 1920's.

  • 19th Century Circus in the British Isles - [2 February 2021] awaiting publication in:- Circus Fanfare [Windjammers Unlimited Inc.] - Vol 51 (3), May/June 2021. Extracted from "Roll up! Roll up!" (see below).

  • British Isles 19th Century Circus Bands: Part 1, 1838-1863 - [2 February 2021] awaiting publication in:- Circus Fanfare [Windjammers Unlimited Inc.] - Vol 51 (4), July/August 2021. Extracted from "Roll up! Roll up!" (see below).

  • British Isles 19th Century Circus Bands: Part 2, 1864-1883 - [2 February 2021] awaiting publication in:- Circus Fanfare [Windjammers Unlimited Inc.] - Vol 51 (5), September/October 2021. Extracted from "Roll up! Roll up!" (see below).

  • British Isles 19th Century Circus Bands: Part 3, 1884-1887 - [2 February 2021] awaiting publication in:- Circus Fanfare [Windjammers Unlimited Inc.] - Vol 51 (6), November/December 2021. Extracted from "Roll up! Roll up!" (see below).

  • A pig and a tale of several brass bands [1 February 2021, 5 pages] - The anecdotal tale of the pig which was placed on a wall to observe a band marching by, is attributed to various locations and bands across the country. Just one of several 'humorous' accounts of the trials and mishaps of brass bands that seem to be linked to multiple bands.

  • Matrimony and Music [29 January 2021, IBEW Blog] - A tale of newly-weds and an ophicleide.

  • York Industrial School Boys' Band [28 January 2021, IBEW Blog] - A look at its activities, and its annual trip to the seaside.

  • Music to roll along by - bands that entertained the Victorian and Edwardian roller skaters [26 January 2021, 28 pages] - Roller skating was a pastime that became very popular in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century. The initial skating rinks were established in London in the 1850's and, with the introduction of the 'modern' roller skate in the 1870's the craze took off, with rinks being opened in all the major towns and cities. Many of these establishments had bands to provide music for the skaters - either professional bands that were engaged for a season, or ad hoc arrangements with local bands/groups.

  • Unknown Bandsmen (2) [24 January 2021, 28 pages] - Another collection of unknown bandsmen, ranging from frock-coated conductors to a young Salvation Army boy.

  • Flockton Brass Band - an augmentation of its centenary story [21 January 2021, 28 pages] - Flockton Brass Band was a typical Yorkshire mining village band. The local colliery employed many of the menfolk and, although the pits were shallow, unlike the deep pits of other regions, the work was still hard and dangerous. The Band was established in 1838 and produced a small Centenary Booklet in 1938. The wider history of the band is examined with additional information to augment what is in the booklet.

  • Charles Ashby and a glimpse or two of the Rushden Temperance Silver Prize Band [18 January 2021, 7 pages] - When a band official resigns or retires, they are often presented with something to show the appreciation of the members of the band for their work and service. In some cases this takes the form of an object - perhaps a clock, or watch - usually something that relates to their position (conductors often received engraved batons). In other cases a certificate may be presented to mark the occasion, such as the highly decorated and illustrated certificate presented to Charles Ashby on 30 March 1914, on serving as secretary to the Rushden Temperance Silver Prize Band for 21 years.

  • Lamberhurst Brass Band - a series of engagements from 1873 to 1934 - [17 January 2021, 15 pages] - The acquisition of a single faded photograph, certainly the only example I have seen, sparked an investigation into the life and times of the Lamberhurst Brass Band, which kept this Kent village entertained from the early 1870's through to the 1930's. Their first conductor, Walter Bailey, remained with the band in various roles, including cornet, trombone, bandmaster, until the band ceased, eventually dying just short of his 100th birthday.

  • Fred, a tuba player with an unknown band - [14 January 2021, IBEW Blog] - When I recently came across a picture of two children in the bell of a tuba, it was slightly different to most other such images, in that the children were not anonymous. They were Katherine and Viola Elfgren, photographed in 1913, in the tuba of their father, Fred. I tried, and failed, to find the band Fred played with, but did discover a lot about his life along the way - nothing band-related, sadly..

  • Vintage Brass Band Recordings [6 Jan 2021, 386 pages] - a listing of commercial recordings made by brass bands from the era of the wax cylinder to the compact disc.

  • Brass Bands & Cornet Bands of the U.S.A. - a Historical Directory [1 January 2021, 580 pages] - Of the many brass bands that have existed in the USA over the last 200 years very few have documented records covering their history. This directory is an attempt to bring together information about such bands and make it available to all. It is an expanded extraction from my earlier "Brass Bands of the World". Over 8,700 bands are recorded here, with some 560 additional cross references for alternative or previous names. This is, however, but an unknown, and probably small, proportion of the cornet/town bands that flourished in the USA, particularly in the 19th century. I am sure there are many more still to be unearthed, hiding in newspaper reports or contemporary photographs and documents in museums, archives, the hands of private collectors and the attics of individuals. My own research on a broad scale encompasses US brass bands from the 1840's to the 1920's. A more detailed investigation is ongoing, but has only reached 1872 so far - and I intend to issue an update when I have proceeded further into the late 1800's!

  • Keep it in the Family - the Family Brass Bands that entertained the USA and UK in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - updated - [6 Dec 2020, 164 pages, originally published in October 2017] - Family bands were not uncommon in the later 1800s and early 1900s. They were most prevalent in the USA but other countries had their fair share, including the UK and Germany. Some bands were amateur in their activities, and remained resident in their local area. Others adopted the professional mantle and travelled the country giving concerts, appearing at shows, circuses and on the stage. Although the various family bands had different line-ups and instrumentation, they were quite popular as entertainment troupes, sometimes singing, dancing and performing sketches in addition to their, often, multi-instrumental abilities. This paper gives details and pictures of more than 190 such named bands

  • Women and Brass: the female brass bands of the 19th and 20th centuries - updated - [3 Dec 2020, 165 pages, originally published in April 2018] - Brass bands have been a musical force across the world over the last 200 years. Mainly concentrated in Europe, North America and Australasia, they were predominantly male, and the members were largely working class. The female brass band is a somewhat rare beast, even today, though it did enjoy a "golden era" during the late 1800s and early 1900s in the USA. In this paper are details of some 410 female brass bands - a very small number compared to their male equivalents

  • Musical Jack Tars - Brass bands on board Royal Navy ships in the 19th and early 20th centuries - [30 November 2020, 62 pages] - From the middle of the 19th century Royal Navy warships, especially the larger vessels, often had bands aboard. These were generally brass, with occasional woodwind instruments and/or fiddles. Their ongoing upkeep was usually the responsibility of the individual ship's officers with a modicum of support from the Admiralty. This paper lists some of the known ships' bands and their activities, although information about them is even more sparse than that for civilian, land-based bands of the same period.

  • Grimesthorpe Brass Band - [25 November 2020, IBEW Blog] - Not Grimethorpe Colliery, but a village some miles away. A few facts about its bands.

  • The Poetry of Brass Bands - [22 November 2020, 116 pages] - A contribution to National Poetry Day 2017. [updated November 2020]

  • Roll up! Roll up! - 19th century circus and other professional bands in the British Isles - [19 November 2020, 21 pages] - During the 19th century, many travelling entertainment shows criss-crossed the country as they thrilled audiences with their various acts. Circuses, menageries, waxworks and minstrel shows usually had a band attached to them to provide exciting music, drawing in the punters and emphasising the acts themselves. In addition to these bands, other static entertainment venues also engaged professional bands to supply musical entertainment to their clientele - these included pleasure gardens, theatres and museums.

  • Scorton Hospital Brass Band - [15 November 2020, IBEW Blog] - A few facts about this band.

  • Bath Post Office Band - forty years of support by the Postmasters of Bath - an example of some 50 similar postal bands in the British Isles - [23 October 2020, 19 pages] - A receipt for the hire of oil lamps and an account sheet for a charitable concert, in the Bath Record Office, led me to the Bath Post Office Band leading me to dig further into the story of this band. Over the years there have been some 50 or so bands associated with the British Post Office - from Aberdeen to Exeter. The Bath Post Office Band existed for about 40 years from the early 1890's, endorsed and supported by the local postmaster, and consisting of his employees

  • Anston Brass Band - [19 October 2020, IBEW Blog] - A few facts about this band.

  • Tunbridge Wells - the Corporation Band (1896 -1902) and Matthew Marks - [15 October 2020, IBEW Blog] - A look at this short-lived "corporation band" and its professional conductor, Matthew Marks.

  • Anthony Yorath and the first Crystal Palace Gold Medal - [13 October 2020, 6 pages] - The story of the first recipient of a gold medal for a cornet soloist at the 1900 National Brass Band Championships, in the Royal Albert Hall.

  • The Brass Band Bibliography (v12 - 2020) [c. 8,355 entries] - [5 Oct 2020, 362 pages] - A comprehensive list of books, articles, theses and other material covering the brass band movement, its history, instruments and musicology; together with other related topics (originally issued in book form in January 2009)

  • Hello, Hello, Hello - the brass bands that made arresting music for their audiences - [4 October 2020, 32 pages] - The British police forces have been protecting the population for over 200 years. What is not so well known is that some of them have also been entertaining audiences through their brass and concert bands. Originally established in the late 1850's, some 75 police bands are documented here, including the nine which are still active today.

  • Maidenhead Town Silver Band - [22 September 2020, IBEW Blog] - Some early photographs of this band.

  • Hambledon Brass Band (Hampshire) - a tale of three bands, cricket origins, and Peter Warlock - [1 September 2020, 4 pages] - An extract of my previous Hambledon Brass Band article, published in:- Peter Warlock Society Newsletter - [Partial Lockdown Edition], Number 107, Autumn 2020, pp. 33-36.

  • Three Bands in One - Eynesbury & St Neots - [27 August 2020, IBEW Blog] - The three incarnations of Eynesbury & St Neots Brass Band.

  • Beatrice Pettit (1872 -1922) - a cornet soloist who thrived in the nascent ladies' orchestras of the late 19th century in Britain - [12 August 2020, 10 pages] - Beatrice Pettit was one of many accomplished female brass musicians who made a career out of their music in the 19th century and early 20th century. She started to perform at the age of 15, and her first appearance in public was in November 1888. She went on to study at the Guildhall School of Music, and became a soloist on cornet with a number of orchestras, bands and entertainment troupes over the years. She was also accomplished as a pianist and soprano vocalist. She was particularly associated with Rosabel Watson's Æolian Ladies' Orchestra, the English Ladies' Orchestral Society, and Eleanor Clauson's Ladies' Pompadour Band.

  • Strange band engagements - [8 August 2020, 4 pages] - A compilation of strange and unusual concerts and engagements experienced (or endured) by brass bands.

  • The Development of the Brass Band in the 19th Century - [5 August 2020, 8 pages] - An anonymous article, posted in the IBEW in the late 1990's.

  • Bradford City Band and Harry Grace - [5 August 2020, IBEW Blog] - A report outlining the career of Harry Grace and his relationship with Bradford City Band c. 1936.

  • Bratley Family Brass Band - [5 August 2020, IBEW Blog] - Charles Bratley and his family.

  • Eating people is wrong - blow a trombone instead - [5 August 2020, IBEW Blog] - A report requesting brass instruments to send to cannibals in Papua.

  • History of the Glynneath District Silver Band: 1888 -1962 - [5 August 2020, IBEW Blog] - Originally formed in 1888. Known as the Curtis & Harvey brass band. Practices were held at the School House in Dinas Terrace, Pontneddfechan. In 1893, the band later transferred to Glynneath.

  • Widdington Brass Band, Essex - [5 August 2020, IBEW Blog] - An outline of the second brass band in Widdington from 1909 to WW2.

  • Support for the St Albans bootmakers on strike - [2 August 2020, IBEW Blog] - St Albans City Band supported the striking bookmakers in 1894 in their demonstration and parade, and were rewarded with refreshments.

  • Last, by a country mile - a British adjudicator's remarks explain the Oddfellows Band's placing at Rockhampton, Queensland - [29 July 2020, 4 pages] - Albert Wade, a successful conductor of several British bands in the 1890's and early 1900's, including Wyke Temperance, accepted an invitation to adjudicate at the Ballarat contests in Australia, leaving the UK in 1905. He was quickly accepted in Australia, and made his home in Queensland. In 1906 he adjudicated at the Rockhampton contest and gave a somewhat critical assessment of the losing band's performance.

  • The Balliette Concert Family Band - brass minstrels of Pennsylvania - [29 July 2020, 7 pages] - Charles Henry Balliette, and his wife Martha, had eight children, four girls followed by four boys. In the mid-1890's Charles formed a family quintet, with himself and his four daughters, which spent the next eight years performing in and around Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The girls were Hope Amanda (Bb cornet, b. 1879), Vesta Helen (Eb alto horn, b. 1883), Viola (Bb baritone horn, b. 1885), and Alfaretta T. (Bb bass, b. 1887).

  • Some early brass band contests pictured - [29 July 2020, IBEW Blog] - A view of some early contests as depicted in photographs.

  • Richard Taylor (1867 -1943) - bandmaster and trainer - [26 July 2020, 4 pages] - 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.

  • Alton Towers - 1930's, not a rollercoaster in sight - [24 July 2020, IBEW Blog] - Before the theme park was built, Alton Towers was a stately home with extensive gardens, that hosted many band concerts in the 1920's and 1930's

  • Wheatley Hill Colliery Band - the case of the altered photograph - [14 July 2020, IBEW Blog] - 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. Who was he and why the photo fixing?

  • Scunthorpe Borough Boys' Juvenile Band - [3 July 2020, IBEW Blog] - Formed in May 1944, it existed until 1951. It had been intended as a startup for an adult Borough Band, but this did not happen.

  • Hammersmith Borough Band - a Band's Life in Five Acts - [17 June 2020, 11 pages] - Originally founded as Wormholt Silver Band in 1927, it went on to become the "official" band of Hammersmith Borough, supported to a small extent by the Borough Council. A term as a Home Guard band during WW2 and its later disbanding and reformation in the early 1960's, before finally folding in the late 1970's.

  • Pictures of Youth - a look at some early views of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain - [16 June 2020, 5 pages] - The National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain was founded in 1952, and this paper shows a number of early photographs of the band taken at its residential courses from 1957 to 1962.

  • Elsworth Silver Band (Cheshire) - [16 June 2020, IBEW Blog] - Elworth Silver Band only existed for two years between the Relief of Mafeking and the Coronation of King Edward VII. A small village band, it nevertheless has a large claim to fame, as it was the precursor to the current Foden's Band.

  • Which Rothwell Band - [16 June 2020, IBEW Blog] - An assessment of a photograph of "Rothwell Band" - but there are too many possibilities to be sure which one it actually is...

  • Fighting at home - the brass bands that became part of the civil defence war effort on the home front during WW2 - [11 June 2020, 43 pages] - 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 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.

  • Hambledon Brass Band (Hampshire) - a tale of three bands, cricket origins, and Peter Warlock - [6 June 2020, 44 pages] - Using the Attendance Book for the Hambledon Brass Band (1920-1925) as a starting point, this paper looks at the brass bands in Hambledon, and a surprising link to the "cradle of cricket" and the composer Peter Warlock.

  • Brass Instruments and Baldness - some results and observations from a 124 year old study - [5 June 2020, 7 pages] - An article in Scientific American in 1896 concluded that the playing of brass instruments induced more baldness in players than other instruments - i.e. stringed or wind. This paper looks, a little sideways, at this and subsequent results/reports.

  • The Lads of Kent Boys' Brass Band - training for the forces and touring in Edwardian England - [27 May 2020, 10 pages] - 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. 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.

  • Gibsthwaite Jugglers - [27 May 2020, IBEW Blog] - An explanation for a very peculiar sporting image.

  • Cats and Dogs in Brass - [26 May 2020, 23 pages] - Representations of cats and dogs and their anthropomorphic appearances as brass players in various postcards and similar published material. I have selected a number of such "cats" and a much smaller set of "dogs"- why the difference in popularity/availability I wonder?

  • The Curtain Falls - the end of St Hilda's Band - [24 May 2020, 14 pages] - In December 1937, James Southern, band manager of the famous St Hilda's Professional Band, announced it would be disbanding. He outlined the history of the band from its earliest days in South Shields attached to the local colliery to its 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.

  • Police Band Cartoons - [24 May 2020, IBEW Blog] - A dozen cartoons by Charles Ingles of the Metropolitan Police Central Band.

  • Methil Brass Band - a tenancy missive and some poetry - [22 May 2020, 4 pages] - Methil Brass Band was active from 1870 through to WW1. Not much is known about its activities prior to the 1890's, but the discovery of a tenancy letter from North British Railways, and some poetry written about the band, give a brief insight into its activities during that period.

  • Inverness - a look at its brass bands from the 1840's to 1936 - [21 May 2020, IBEW Blog] - From the early Inverness Amateur Brass Band to the end of the Inverness Silver Band in 1936.

  • Bandstands - a selected bibliography - [20 May 2020, 4 pages] - A collection of books and articles about bandstands and similar performance stages.

  • The Douglas Colliery Prize Silver Band North Tour - July 1929 - [20 May 2020, IBEW Blog] - A week's tour undertaken by this Lanarkshire band around the north-east of Scotland.

  • The cornet madam and the trombonist actress - two extraordinary women at the turn of the 20th century - [18 May 2020, 8 pages] - A look at the lives of Antonia Gonzales in New Orleans and Marguerite Dufay in Paris.

  • Original Music for Brass Band Contests - [16 May 2020, IBEW Blog] - A look at the first music composed specifically for the major brass band contests, from 1913 to WW2.

  • The Iles and Mortimer Medals - [16 May 2020, IBEW Blog] - The many recipients of these two medals that are awarded to people who have made significant contributions to the brass band movement.

  • What did the Champions look like? - 50 Years of National Brass Band Champions - [15 May 2020, 20 pages] - A series of formal photographs of each of the National Brass Band Champions from 1900 to 1951, with brief notes on their achievements

  • A pioneer of brass in the East - Sir Robert Hart's Chinese brass band - [12 May 2020, IBEW Blog] - The first civilian brass band in China.

  • Brass bands and V.E. Day celebrations - [7 May 2020, IBEW Blog] - A look at how brass bands contributed to the celebrations of V.E. Day in 1945

  • Where do all the old brass band instruments go? - [28 April 2020, IBEW Blog]Looking at the fate of old instruments and the museums and archives that preserve a few of them.

  • Ponsonby Boys' Brass Band 1916 -1968 - [25 Apr 2020, 12 pages] - This band was formed in Auckland, New Zealand following the success of an earlier drum and fife band associated with the Ponsonby Boy Scouts Association. It undertook several country-wide tours on both islands during the 1920's and was a very successful and sought-after musical organisation.

  • Sutton Scotney Brass Band and its instruments - [16 April 2020, IBEW Blog] - A few notes about the band and its remaining instruments which are held in the Winchester Museum.

  • The Crystal Palace and bands - [15 April 2020, IBEW Blog] - A query about the relationship between the Crystal Palace and the brass bands that competed and performed there from 1860 to 1936.

  • A Souvenir of Grieg - a manuscript bringing together two bands, an arranger and a professional conductor on a singular occasion - [13 Apr 2020, 6 + 24 pages] - Alexander Owen conducted two bands at the 1908 British Open Brass Band Championships, when the test piece was "Souvenir of Grieg". This paper looks at the conductor, the music, the arranger and the bands that made up this unique situation - as this piece was never again used in a contest.

  • Concert programmes - a rapidly closing window into the music performed in the past - [6 Apr 2020, IBEW Blog] - A small selection of concert programmes.

  • Coughs and sneezes spread diseases - so do brass instruments… - [6 Apr 2020, IBEW Blog] - A report from the British Medical Journal warning against the microbes lurking in brass instruments.

  • The first National Brass Band Contest - 1860 - [6 April 2020, IBEW Blog] - A look at this contest, in particular the bands competing on platform 4 of the qualifying round.

  • A couple of character sketches - literally - [30 Mar 2020, IBEW Blog] - A look at two sketches of brass band characters.

  • Easter, brass, bunnies & chicks - [30 Mar 2020, IBEW Blog] - A collection of postcards featuring anthropomorphic animals, mainly, with brass instruments, celebrating Easter.

  • Cambridge Town Band 1927 -1943 - [29 Mar 2020, IBEW Blog] - Notes on the digitisation of the minute books of the band.

  • The World's Smallest Trombone - [29 Mar 2020, IBEW Blog] - The image of a trombone on an integrated circuit chip from the 1980's.

  • St Patrick's Day - a quiet celebration of the bands of Ireland's past - [17 Mar 2020, IBEW Blog] - To mark St Patrick's Day, as we probably can't celebrate it as we normally would, here are a few Irish brass bands of the past, together with a few celebratory postcards - which I suspect were not produced by an Irishman.

  • The Pilgrim Hall contest: a snapshot of Edwardian banding life in London - [15 Mar 2020, 13 pages] - In December 1910, the Camberwell Temperance Silver Band promoted a brass band contest at the Pilgrim Hall, New Kent Road, London. It followed this first successful event with similar contests in 1911 and 1912. A look at the competing bands and their activities around that time.

  • The Nationals in 1910 - [15 Mar 2020, IBEW Blog] - The programme for the National Finals of 110 years ago, at which Fodens took the first place, but also with 6 other sections on the same day at the various venues within and outside the Crystal Palace.

  • Louverne Ladies' Brass Band - fleeing France during WW1 - [10 Mar 2020, IBEW Blog] -A professional band that fled France during WW1 and toured the USA with the Billy "Single" Clifford Company.

  • Scapegoat Hill Brass Band - two historical celebrations - [4 Mar 2020, 29 pages] - The band celebrated its founding in 1854 (although it was actually 1859) with the publication of two booklets, for its centenary in 1954 and its 125th anniversary in 1979. This document extracts relevant sections from these publications with an introduction covering some other aspects of the band's history.

  • The Origins of Brass Band Associations - [28 Feb 2020, 8 pages] - The formation of "county band associations" was originally promoted as early as 1882 by William Seddon and other high profile bandmasters, but it took some years for the ideas to bear fruit. Apart from an early association in Glasgow in 1863, most did not form until the 1890s or later. Some fell by the wayside over the years, but a good number are still active.

  • Le Roi d'Ys - [26 Feb 2020, IBEW Blog] - My introduction to top-class bands in the shape of this test piece in the National Championships at the Royal Albert Hall.

  • Llangollen Town Band - Minutes 1925 -1957 - [22 Feb 2020, 228 pages] - Some notes on the history of the band, from the band's extinct website, together with scans of two books of minutes of the old Llangollen Town Band which were discovered some years ago as part of a parcel of books in an antique shop in Yorkshire. It is not known how or when the books became "lost", but the original books now reside safely with the current Llangollen Silver Band.

  • Shotts Foundry Brass Band - 1829 to c. 1960 - [22 Feb 2020, 7 pages] - The Shotts Foundry Brass Band was founded in June 1829 and survived through to around 1960. A typical industrial "works" band, it provided entertainment for the workers at the iron works, and at one time was one of three brass bands in the small town.

  • The long and short of it - [21 Feb 2020, IBEW Blog] - Following a brief discussion about which was the longest brass band name, I retrieved the longest and shortest from my database.

  • Worcester Brass Band, Massachusetts - [16 Feb 2020, IBEW Blog] - The Worcester Cornet Band, Massachusetts, was originally founded some time before 1852. It disbanded during the Civil War when most of the band signed up with the 15th Massachusetts Regiment Band for the duration of the hostilities.

  • The Cambridge Albion Band - episodes from its history 1921 -1927 - [11 Feb 2020, 144 pages] - The Cambridge Albion Band was formed on November 18th 1921. During its short independent existence it only appeared to have entered one contest, at Kings Lynn in September 1926, winning first prize. It merged with the Cambridge Town Band in January 1927, to form the Cambridge Town Silver Band. The following document is compiled from scrapbooks and record books of the Cambridge Albion Band which had been in the possession of Ronald Matthews, a bass trombone player in the band.

  • Brass Bands in Africa - a brief introduction to a continent -wide topic [10 Feb 2020, 15 pages] - Brass bands in Africa have been in existence since the 19th century after the various colonial powers had established their presence across the continent. The history of such bands is very sketchy and limited, and the small amount of information I have collected so far is presented here. I hope that future researchers will be able to open up much more of this hidden history.

  • Researching the History of Brass Bands - a guide to the resources available, v.3 - [10 Feb 2020, 20 pages] - Many brass bands have flourished in Britain and overseas over the last 200 years, but very few have documented records covering their history. For those wishing to delve into the history of brass bands there are various sources available, both primary and secondary. These are also published histories and individual bands' memorabilia and records. In addition to British resources, I also include some relevant details about key resources in the USA and major commonwealth countries where brass bands were/are common

  • Child prodigies in brass - a selection of vintage images of children who played brass instruments [9 Feb 2020, 13 pages] - Over the years there have been many outstanding child musicians who have excelled at their particular instrument(s). Some of these went on to become accomplished adult artists and/or composers, others disappeared in the mists of time. During the 19th century in particular, children who showed musical promise were often exploited, as solo artists or within family ensembles or "professional" groups, their youth and musical ability being an attractive novelty to audiences.

  • A benefit concert - [8 Feb 2020, IBEW Blog] - Bands of the past had benefit concerts, much as we do today to a lesser extent. In those days it was usually a means to raise funds for new instruments (or at least some instruments) to start or maintain the band. There are many examples of such concerts being arranged with singers, instrumentalists, comic turns etc. and, occasionally, the band itself playing or contributing individual performances of one sort or another.

  • Todmorden Old Brass Band - [8 Feb 2020, IBEW Blog] - This band was active in 1853 through to the early 2000's, when it finally disbanded.

  • An asylum band - though not brass! - [6 Feb 2020, IBEW Blog] - Music in institutions was not confined to brass bands, indeed many of the orphanages operated drum & fife bands or bugle bands (being easier to learn, play and buy the instruments). String and orchestral groups were not so common, but did exist and a long-standing example is this "band" of the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Wakefield.

  • Sightless but full of sound - blind band musicians of the past [4 Feb 2020, 8 pages] - Among the many institutions that were established in the 18th and 19th centuries to provide for the various segments of society which did not fit into "normal" life, were those that provided for the physically and mentally handicapped. A number of bands were established, despite the challenges the players and organisers faced in learning and performing music.

  • Brass instruments and Victorian trade cards - [13 Jan 2020, 18 pages] - Prior to the advent of cigarette cards, and subsequent food product collectors' cards (e.g. tea, bubble gum), Victorian companies often included trade cards advertising their wares with various pictorial images. Some of these included brass instruments and players, many of which are illustrated here.

  • Goodshaw Fold Brass Band - Origins - [12 Jan 2020, 9 pages] - Transcribed from a manuscript by Mr Holt (either John, Thomas or George) - a founding member of the band. Together with various later photographs of the band.

  • Brass on postage stamps - [10 Jan 2020, IBEW Blog] - How is your knowledge of brassy philately? Mogens Andresen, a Danish conductor, composer and author, has produced a website which contains an extensive history of brass instruments from ancient times to the 20th century. An additional feature is a collection of postage stamps from around the world which feature brass instruments, players and ensembles

  • High and low pitch - [10 Jan 2020, IBEW Blog] - As instruments became standardised, they had to be manufactured and/or tuned to similar frequencies so that they would play in tune. Brass bands, however, remained in high pitch, around 453 Hz until the early 1960s when there was a gradual conversion to low (standard) pitch.

  • The works brass band - a historical directory of the industrial and corporate patronage and sponsorship of brass bands - [8 Jan 2020, 293 pages] - From the earliest days of brass bands in the British Isles, they have been supported at various times and to differing extents by businesses and their owners. In some cases this support has been purely philanthropic, but there was usually a quid pro quo involved where the sponsor received benefits - e.g. advertising, income from band engagements, entertainment for business events, a "worthwhile" pastime for their employees, corporate public relations and brand awareness - who would have heard of John Foster's Mills outside of the Bradford area if it wasn't for the Black Dyke Band?

  • Rabbits and antimacassars: raising money for band funds - [6 Nov 2019, IBEW Blog] - Concert fees, contest prizes (where lucky), carol playing and busking, and sponsorship (either through corporate patronage or individuals' subscriptions) have always been the traditional main sources of income for brass bands. Many other mechanisms have been used over the years - merchandising (postcards, badges, mugs etc.), events (such as dances, balls, benefit concerts, bazaars, fetes), raffles and prize draws, more recently sponsored activities (e.g. play-a-thons, silences

  • Brass and tobacco - [19 Oct 2019, IBEW Blog] - While there is a clear link between brass bands and alcohol - either in the various bands that supported the temperance movement, or the enjoyment of beer, in particular, that slaked the thirst of players - a similar association with tobacco products was not so evident, though many bandsmen smoked cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco or took snuff.

  • Test piece blues - [19 Oct 2019, IBEW Blog] - Don't you just love it when the MD rolls out a new test piece for an upcoming contest - perhaps even one you've heard before and enjoyed - until you see your part. All those notes and accidentals! Never mind, let's have a go...

  • Brass band concert programmes on postcards - [18 Oct 2019, IBEW Blog] - Many of the times that a brass band has performed a concert, a printed programme has been available for the audience, giving the details of the pieces played, their composers and arrangers and, where appropriate, the names of the conductor and any soloists. Bands also made use of various printed postcards. These would be showing the typical pictorial scenes on one side, but on the message/address side there would be overprinted the details of the concert programme.

  • Hot Air and Brass Bands - [17 Oct 2019, IBEW Blog] - A number of postcards were produced in the early 1900s which would have been insulting to the recipient - likening their verbal utterances to an extreme amount of hot air - i.e. a "brass band". One assumes, like the later "smutty" seaside postcards, that these were meant to be taken humorously and not to take offence!

  • The brass bands of Boroughbridge - [17 Oct 2019, IBEW Blog] - There is no longer a brass band in Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, but it did enjoy the music of a number of local bands in the town from around 1855 until the last one disbanded in 1955. Aldborough is a village adjacent to Boroughbridge which has shared some of its musical endeavours. Little remains of these bands, a few memories, a few pictures and the odd appearance in the local newspapers.

  • Film, Television and Video productions featuring brass bands - [15 Oct 2019, 28 pages] - Over the years the brass bands in the UK, and elsewhere, have appeared numerous times on screen, whether in feature films or on television programmes. In most cases they are small appearances fulfilling the role of a "local" band in the background or supporting a musical event in the plot of the drama. At other times band have a more central role in the production, featuring in a documentary or being a major part of the activity. This is a list of 505 such appearances, from 1931 to 2019.

  • Circus bands - [7 Oct 2019, IBEW Blog] - I had some discussions earlier this year with some members of Windjammers - the US Historical Circus Music Society. Their journal "Circus Fanfare" is a fascinating repository of information about music old and new and the players and bands of the past.

  • Intemperance bands - [7 Oct 2019, IBEW Blog] - Having produced an article on temperance bands last year, it is clear to me - and to most brass players - that abstinence from intoxicating liquids is not the norm for brass bands.

  • Brass, coal, banners, marching and music: colliery bands and the Durham Miners' Gala or "Big Meeting" - [4 Oct 2019, 8 pages] - Of the 762 brass bands I have records of from County Durham, around 130 were colliery bands (and more of them would have been directly connected to the local colliery, even if not specifically named after the mine or mining company). This article looks briefly at the history of the Durham Miners' Gala and the colliery bands that performed at it.

  • Strange and head -scratching - [4 Oct 2019, IBEW Blog] - There are some pictures that make you wonder "Eh?" or "Huh?" or "WTF?" (whichever you prefer). For example, this European (possibly German) cornet player is holding a dead duck/chicken? What is the story behind this?

  • Oh, Listen to the Band - songs inspired by brass bands - [18 September 2019, 5 pages] - As brass bands gained in popularity, composers and arrangers naturally produced pieces to supply the ensembles with the music for their craft. It was not long before some of those pieces became arranged for solo or piano performance, sometimes with words attached. These first appeared in the 1870s through to the early 1900s. A little later, songs were composed which featured bands, extolling the musicians' abilities, the "sweetness" of the music, and other aspects of bands and their relation to the singer. These were particularly prevalent in the USA, mainly being produced by the talented songwriters of Tin Pan Alley in New York.

  • Punishments - [18 Sep 2019, IBEW Blog] - Punishments for banding infractions were harsh in the 19th century. Rules were common, strict and often involved fines and other measures.

  • Soft lips on cold metal: female brass soloists of the 19th and early 20th centuries - [15 Sep 2019, 89 pages] - During the later 1800s and early 1900s there were increasing numbers of women musicians taking part in the musical life of the western world. Whether as instrumental soloists; members of family groups; amateur or professional bands and orchestras; string, brass and mixed ensembles; and vaudeville performers; these female musicians earned their place in history - one which has largely been overlooked in favour of their male counterparts. This paper documents a number of these solo brass performers, giving an insight into their lives and performances (originally published in 2018)

  • Musical postcards - how to get a tune through the mail - [8 August 2019, 5 pages] - A brief look at some brass band related music that appeared as printed notes on postcards in the early 1900s

  • Climb Every Mountain - [25 Jul 2019, IBEW Blog] - In August 1858, 12 men, including 7 members of the Yreka Brass Band walked to and then ascended Mt Shasta, California, with their instruments

  • Music of discipline and reform - the brass bands of children's orphanages, industrial schools and asylums - [22 July 2019, 104 pages] - From the early 17th century large numbers of institutions were established to provide for various segments of society which did not fit into "normal" life. These included orphans, the sick, criminals the destitute, paupers, and those, that today, we would refer to as physically and mentally handicapped. From the mid 19th century onwards brass and other bands were often set up in these institutions to help educate the children (mainly boys it has to be said), to provide another aspect of discipline, recreation and also, potentially, to give access to a musical career once they left the school. Adult bands were also formed in prisons and asylums among the inmates.

  • Bum Notes - a look at some brassy raspberries - [21 July 2019, 11 pages] - A number of humorous images have been produced which portray brass instruments being played by depictions of buttocks. Some of these were produced by French illustrators .as more "serious" satire during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905.

  • Unknown Bandsmen - [21 Jul 2019, IBEW Blog] - There are thousands of photographs of bandsmen, and the occasional bandswoman, that are sadly totally anonymous. Most have no identifying features, either on their uniforms, instruments or the backgrounds, and only a chance comparison with another known picture can give a name.

  • A Musical Prize Fight at Loftus, 1859 - [2 Jul 2019, IBEW Blog] - In September 1859 a "Grand Village Band Contest" was held in Loftus, a village on the North Yorkshire coast. John Hollingshead reported the event in "All the Year Round" later that year.

  • Alternatives to marching & hazardous journeys - [2 Jul 2019, IBEW Blog] - As it is the marching season - with Whit Friday, various march contests, Durham Miners' Gala, local parades, walking days etc. I'm sure that many players (especially bass players) would like to revert to the old days when bands processed in their bandwagons.

  • Band minute books - [2 Jul 2019, IBEW Blog] - Band minute books - a forgotten but valuable source of historical information. I am sure many current bands, especially those with long histories, will have minute and account books of their early years, but I suspect that most other bands' records are long since lost.

  • Explain masculine & feminine rhythms - [2 Jul 2019, IBEW Blog] - What is a "climax"? What is often the cause of sticky valves? Explain masculine and feminine rhythms? Name a common fault with trombone players?

  • Comic Bands - Kazoo and Zobo - [1 July 2019, 22 pages] - During the 1890s and early parts of the 20th century a type of band arose using kazoo-type instruments as an alternative to the more expensive (and harder to play) brass instruments. Zobo instruments, based on kazoo principles, were invented and developed in the USA in the early 1890s, rapidly becoming a new craze for a while. When the instruments spread to the UK the bands that were formed using them were largely "comic" bands, created ad hoc for galas and festivals, and occasionally having a more long-term existence, to entertain the public and raise money for charity.

  • Tissue paper commemorative programmes and napkins - [1 July 2019, 8 pages] - A look at a form of commemorative souvenir that due to its fragile nature is rarely seen today. These items were printed, and often overprinted to mark some significant event in the 1890s and up to WW2. The first case I came across was some programmes for the Besses o' th' Barn Band - their final farewell concerts before embarking on their two world tours in 1906 and 1909.

  • Brass Band Archive Recordings - a brief guide to recordings of brass bands in libraries, museums and other archives - [25 June 2019, 9 pages] - Brass bands are, of course, musical organisations first and foremost, and the bulk of their heritage is bound up in the hundreds of thousands of concerts, marches, contests and other performances they have provided their audiences with over the years. Very few of these live performances were ever recorded, at least until recent years, and we must depend on the formal studio recorded performances to enjoy the music of the bands of the past. Many such recordings still exist in personal collections, music libraries, archives, the bands themselves and, more recently, digital archives which have digitised recordings from older media, cleaned up the sound and preserved them in digital audio files. This paper gives an outline of various sources and resources for archived vintage (and not so vintage) recordings in physical repositories and on-line databases.

  • Morpeth Band Festival 1895 - almost the end of a great tradition - [22 June 2019, 6 pages] - From 1861 through to the mid-1870s Morpeth had held a series of non-competitive annual band festivals known as the "Monstre Band Festival" after the "monster" massed bands that were a feature of the events. The early events were held in the Old Brewery Field (now built up as the area around Olympia Gardens). Between 8 and 15 bands took part with 200 to 500 performers. Audiences ranged from 4,000 to 8,000. These were major events for the town, with hundreds of visitors arriving by coach and special excursion trains. The entrance fee was around 6 pence, and each bandsman received around 5 shillings, the bands themselves offering their services gratis. A revival in the 1890's was not to prove successful, largely due to the weather being against the organisers.

  • More Rules - Stand Band (Lancashire) 1828 - [21 Jun 2019, IBEW Blog] - The band was formed in 1828, with Thomas Lee as its leader. It established a set of 16 Articles (rules) that members should abide by, with various monetary forfeits if they did not

  • Wylam Colliery - Rules of a band - [17 June 2019, 3 pages] - The band was founded in 1850 and was supported by the colliery owners, the Blackett family, and also by subscription. A set of rules were drawn up which, by today's standards, were quite strict in their forfeits and fines, though the issues they foresaw in their members' behaviours are still relevant today!

  • Rhodes Bleachworks Brass Band - [13 June 2019, 34 pages] - A history of this brass band from an industrial village to the north of Manchester. Sponsored by a local bleaching & dyeing firm, the details of the last 12 years of its existence are documented in the Treasurer's Note Book, which is transcribed as part of this narration. Also included is a brief biographical sketch of its conductor John H. White.

  • Riddings United March Book - [11 June 2019, 26 pages] - A look at a march book consisting of the Repiano cornet parts of 50 bound marches (of which two are missing) for the Riddings United Prize Band. Dating from around the 1890s/1900s - possibly slightly earlier. Most bands at this time had at least one set of music similar to this, either filled with marches, or simple "tunes & toasts" or equivalents.

  • Rothwell & Rossini - an exploration of a manuscript score - [10 June 2019, 6 pages] - This is a score book of the original Rothwell Temperance Band. This band was formed in 1881 with bandmaster Israel Blackburn, and it enjoyed considerable success over the years before merging with Yorkshire Imperial Band in 1999 and losing its identity. The book consists of a complete manuscript score of Rossini's Works (as arranged by Alexander Owen in 1882, featuring music from William Tell and Semiramide) and the last six pages of an unknown work.

  • James Ollerton's Registration Card - a bandsman's contesting life in a few rubber stamps - [4 May 2019, 15 pages] - All those who have played with brass bands in contests in the UK over the years will be familiar with Registration Cards. These were introduced after the Second World War to ensure that players did not compete with multiple bands, and also that the person was actually the correct player. James Ollerton was a player with Preston Town Band and competed with that band from 1955 to 1963, transferring to the Lancashire Constabulary Band (based in Preston) in January 1965 where he remained until his last known contest in 1980.

  • Judith Potter's Scrapbook - brass banding memories in the Forest of Dean - [2 May 2019, 33 pages] - Judith appeared on the brass band scene around 1949 when, at the age of six, she gave a cornet solo at the annual supper of Coleford Town Band. The press cuttings of this event, together with many others covering her time with bands up to the early 1960s, are pasted into her scrapbook.

  • Mary Simm's Scrapbook - [30 Apr 2019, 58 pages] - In May 1952, Mary Simm, who played cornet with the Kearsley Silver Band, started her second scrapbook of brass band memories. She collected press cuttings, programmes and photographs of events she attended or took part in through 1952. Items from her scrapbook have been scanned, more or less in the order she pasted them in. They cover not only the events of the Kearsley band, but also others in the area, providing a brief look at the banding aspects of a year in her life.

  • National Brass Band Championships - 1954 - [25 April 2019, 31 pages] - A souvenir album of photographs, description, and programmes from the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, held at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, and other venues, on 16th October 1954

  • Conductors' batons of the past - [8 Apr 2019, IBEW Blog] - Ebony and other hardwood batons, often adorned with silver embellishments, were just the thing for conductors - particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Given as tokens of appreciation, or bought as status symbols, few still exist, and even fewer have an inscription or detailed provenance, although those with silver can usually be dated through their hallmarks.

  • South Street Mission Brass Band - some scenes from fifty years of an evangelistic brass band - [7 Apr 2019, 14 pages] - The South Street Mission was located in Macbeth Street, Hammersmith, Middlesex and was founded in 1901 by Sister Lizzie (d. 1949). The band was founded in May 1909, and was active through to the mid-1950s, competing in a few contests in its later years.

  • Brass Bands of Canada - a Historical Directory - [22 Mar 2019, 46 pages] - A collection of information about brass bands in Canada over the last 200 years. 374 bands are recorded here (31 currently active). This volume is an extracted subset of my earlier "Brass Bands of the World - a Historical Directory" (2019)

  • Brass Bands of Scotland - a Historical Directory - [20 Mar 2019, 175 pages] - A collection of information about brass bands in Scotland over the last 200 years. Over 1,360 bands are recorded here (95 currently active), with some 731 additional cross references for alternative or previous names. This volume is an extracted subset of my earlier "Brass Bands of the British Isles - a Historical Directory" (2018)

  • Brass Bands of Wales - a Historical Directory - [19 Mar 2019, 145 pages] - A collection of information about brass bands in Wales over the last 200 years. Some 1,260 bands are recorded here (90 currently active), with some 582 additional cross references for alternative or previous names. This volume is an extracted subset of my earlier "Brass Bands of the British Isles - a Historical Directory" (2018)

  • The first American band contest? - [2 Feb 2019, IBEW Blog] - A brass band contest was held at Indianapolis in February 1853. Was this the first such contest in the USA? Do you know of any earlier competitions?

  • Brass Bands of the World - [25 Jan 2019, 626 pages] - Few records remain of the thousands of brass bands that have existed across the world over the last 200 years. This directory is an attempt to collect together information about such bands and make it available to all. This is a companion volume to Brass Bands of the British Isles - a Historical Directory. This volume covers all other overseas countries which have had brass bands similar to those that flourished in the UK. Over 9,500 bands are recorded here, with some 2,700 additional cross references for alternative or previous names

  • Brass Bands of Ireland - a Historical Directory - [12 Jan 2019, 131 pages] - A collection of information about brass bands in the island of Ireland over the last 200 years. Over 1,370 bands are recorded here (93 currently active), with some 356 additional cross references for alternative or previous names. This volume is an extracted subset of my earlier "Brass Bands of the British Isles - a Historical Directory" (2018)

  • Scoring for the ladies: the women composers of music for brass bands - [9 Oct 2018, 18 pages] - A brief look at the women who have composed music for brass band, and the initiative of the Harrogate Band to highlight their music

  • Cottingham Brass Band - [7 Oct 2018, 19 pages] - A brief history collated from records of the band, including historical notes prepared by chairman Dennis Hills, c. 1998

  • Thirsty work - brass bands and the temperance movement in the 19th century - [7 Mar 2018, 36 pages] - Playing a brass instrument is thirsty business. All that pneumatic effort, spit and water vapour will leave the average player needing a good drink after a rehearsal or a concert - possibly the reason that brass bands, in particular, have been renowned for enjoying a tipple or two - though hopefully not before their performances. Nevertheless, brass bands have had a long association with the temperance movement, which advocated abstinence from alcohol, helping to promote the teetotal message to the public. The 19 th century saw the rise of the fight against alcohol and the parallel increase in the popularity and availability of bands led to brass bands being adopted or established by various temperance organisations. This paper gives a brief overview of the temperance movement and brass bands associated with it, together with some contemporary portraits of temperance bands, drink-related band tales, and lists of the temperance bands over the last 200 years.

  • Brass drawings - a look at the depiction of brass bands and bandsmen through the eyes of the cartoonist and illustrator - [6 Mar 2018, 25 pages] - Brass bands, their players and instruments have always been ripe subjects for humour. They have been used to poke fun at themselves, and others, to make satirical or political points, to promote products, or just to provide the scene for a joke. Cartoonists have found the world of brass bands and brass players an inspiration, both in comment on the brass band movement itself and also as reflections on the contemporary political and social scenes.

  • Children as mutes - the practice of stuffing babies and young children into the bells of large brass instruments - [4 Mar 2018, 10 pages] - How many children have had their lives blighted by their fathers stuffing them into a tuba, and then having that sorry experience recorded for posterity in a photograph? It appears to have been a commonplace activity in the early years of brass bands, though we cannot know how widespread the practice was before the advent of photography, through lack of evidence, though there are plenty of examples since then.

  • Brass Bands of the British Isles 1800 -2018 - a historical directory - [2 Mar 2018, 1,921 pages] - Of the many brass bands that have flourished in Britain and Ireland over the last 200 years very few have documented records covering their history. This directory is an attempt to collect together information about such bands and make it available to all. Over 19,600 bands are recorded here, with some 10,600 additional cross references for alternative or previous names. This volume supersedes the earlier "British Brass Bands - a Historical Directory" (2016) and includes some 1,400 bands from the island of Ireland. A separate appendix lists the brass bands in each county.

  • Brass Bands of the British Isles 1800 - 2018 - Appendix A - List of bands by county - [2 Mar 2018, 123 pages] - A listing of over 19,600 distinct brass bands, by the counties of the British Isles, that have existed over the last 200 years. This is a supplement to "Brass Bands of the British Isles - a historical directory"

  • How Many Brass Bands? - An analysis of the distribution of bands in Britain and Ireland over the last 200 years - [28 Feb 2018, 22 pages] - There have been many estimates of the number of brass bands over the years. These have ranged widely and, in most cases, were greatly exaggerated. My research to date has identified nearly 20,000 distinct brass bands which existed in the British Isles between 1800 and the present. This is not a final figure and, although there are many bands still to unearth, I would be surprised if there were more than 2,000 to 3,000 to be added, based on my research experiences

  • The Harrogate Band on the Internet: a view of the band's first website pages, one of the earliest brass bands on the web - [15 Feb 2018, 8 pages] - The Harrogate Band was one of the first brass bands to establish a presence on the internet, with its website going live in January 1996. In addition to basic information about the band and its history, there were some notes on the broader history of brass bands. Later, in June 1996, a set of links to other brass bands and related websites was added - which eventually, in June 1998, became the Internet Bandsman's Everything Within (IBEW)

  • Music and Musicians for the People: Scottish International Exhibitions, 1886 & 1888 - The brass bands and their contests - [9 Feb 2018, 44 pages] - The musical contributions at the two international exhibitions in Scotland, at Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1886 and 1888 were detailed in two books written by Robert Marr. Both exhibitions featured many musical events and groups which were engaged to entertain and educate the thousands of people that streamed through the doors each day. From Marr's copious descriptions about the wider musical performers and events I have extracted the details of the visiting and competing brass bands, using his notes, and have included roughly contemporary pictures of those that are available. In addition to bands, orchestras and choirs performing concerts throughout the Exhibitions, there were a series of contests, including two at each exhibition for brass bands - one limited to Scottish bands, the other open to all. The contest results in Marr's books have been expanded using contemporary newspaper reports

  • Damen und Damen - Ladies' professional travelling brass ensembles of the German Empire 1871 -1918 - [2 Nov 2017, 64 pages] - Travelling musicians and entertainers had been a part of European life for centuries. In the German speaking countries of Europe during the German Empire there arose a large number of "Damen Kapellen", troupes of musical and variety entertainers consisting largely of women, usually led by a man, and occasionally including males as players. This papers looks at the the brass ensembles which made up a significant proportion of these touring entertainment groups

  • Broadcasting Brass Bands: the early years - [2 Oct 2017, 8 pages] - A look at the pioneers of broadcasting of live brass band music. Starting with the earliest telephone transmission, with a short diversion into the infant recording industry, to the birth of the wireless radio broadcasts.

  • Local Musicians: a look at the history of the brass band movement - [11 Sep 2017, 86 pages] - An overview of the history of brass bands from the early 1800's through to the present day, together with details of the brass bands of the locality

  • Sandye Silver Band - [9 Sep 2017, 2 pages] - A brief overview of the brass bands of Sandy, Bedfordshire

  • Frank Wright - [2 Jul 2016, IBEW Blog] - I was sent an interesting dinner menu by Geoffrey Hosier celebrating the 78th birthday of John Henry Iles, and in honour of Frank Wright on his departure to Australia and New Zealand.

  • British Brass Bands - historical directory - [8 Jan 2016, 1,063 pages] - Superseded by "Brass Bands of the British Isles 1800-2018 - a historical directory" Of the many brass bands that have flourished in Britain over the last 200 years very few have documented records covering their history. This directory is an attempt to collect together information about such bands and make it available to all. Over 12,100 bands are recorded here, with some 6,300 additional cross references for alternative or previous names.

  • Cornet prize won by Joseph Hyde in 1861 - [27 Jul 2013, IBEW Blog] - Nickie Preston has a silver cornet in her family, owned by Joseph Hyde, her great, great grandfather. This was won at a contest at Peterborough in 1861 for the "best soprano or solo cornet player" in the competing bands.

  • Stamford Brook Silver Band - [7 Sep 2011, IBEW Blog] - The Stamford Brook Silver Band was active in the 1930s, based at St Mary's Church, Hammersmith.

  • Chorlton cum Hardy Band - [13 Jun 2011, IBEW Blog] - Andrew Simpson has been researching the history of Chorlton cum Hardy, near Manchester, and uncovered some great detail about the brass band that existed in the village.

  • Grundisburgh Brass Band - [24 May 2011, IBEW Blog] - The earliest known press report is the Suffolk Standard of August 1892, when the band played at a local show.

  • Varteg Silver Band - [24 May 2011, IBEW Blog] - Jon Horlor's grandfather and various other members of his family were in the Varteg Silver Band. Varteg was a small mining village near Pontypool, Monmouthshire, Wales.

  • A Bolton Band Mystery - [16 May 2011, IBEW Blog] - I was sent a copy of a picture of Bolton Borough Prize Band from 1933 by Alison Ogden. Sadly the picture was very torn, but even as a part image it was a valuable record of the band

  • Cornet Bands of the USA - [11 Apr 2011, IBEW Blog] - The brass bands of the USA in the mid to late 18th century had a wide range of formats and instrumentation, often including the odd woodwind instrument, but all-brass ensembles were quite common and styled "cornet bands" in many instances. Although the all brass format tended to fade away in the 20th century, being replaced by the military style marching and show bands, their legacy remains.

  • Vintage Contests and Concerts - [29 Mar 2011, IBEW Blog] - A brass band exists to make music, and in most cases the end results of the hours of band rehearsal and personal practice are the concerts performed for the many audiences that bands enjoy - from the park bandstands, to formal hall concerts, from weddings to grand civic ceremonies and much more.

  • Cambridge Albion Silver Band - [28 Mar 2011, IBEW Blog] - Some time ago I was contacted by a lady who had discovered the minute books of the Cambridge Albion Silver Band. These records are now being digitised and are being added to the IBEW archive.

  • Genealogy - [28 Mar 2011, IBEW Blog] - One of the roles that the IBEW plays is to assist with family history research. Those that had bandsmen as ancestors may find pictures of them in the IBEW, and the Your Ancestors page is dedicated to the queries and searches for individuals or bands.

  • Netheravon Bands - [28 Mar 2011, IBEW Blog] - Had a very pleasant couple of hours discussing the Friendly Societies and associated brass bands of the area around Netheravon in the company of local historian Ann Pearce, who was visiting her sister nearby and kindly agreed to share her research with me.

  • The Poor Trombonist - [28 Mar 2011, IBEW Blog] - The trombone is a much maligned instrument - it probably has as many jokes about it as the viola in the orchestra. Despite that, however, it is a crucial component of the brass band today, and in the past, providing a sound that is unique, complementing the tones of the other instruments.

  • Early Harrogate Bands - [7 Feb 2002, 28 pages] - A brief outline of the background to the early brass bands in Harrogate. Talk given to the National Association of Brass Band Conductors, 2002


A few of my publications which are not related to the history of brass bands:

  • Automation at the British Library Document Supply Centre v. 5 - [5 Oct 1991, 35 pages] - An outline of the results of the first 20 years of computerisation at the British Library Document Supply Centre and the introduction of new technology which automated traditional library systems such as inter-lending, stock control, periodicals management, customer information, bibliographic systems and databases

  • Benzie & Miller - Fraserburgh - [19 Feb 2019, 44 pages] - The story of a leading department store in the north-east of Scotland from 1887-1958. (originally published in January 2016)

  • Christmas Crackers - [3 Jun 2018, 61 pages] - The collected issues of "Christmas Crackers" issued in 1990-1997, containing selections of logological diversions and verbal amuses-bouche

  • Damen ohne Blasinstrumente - the non -brass ladies' entertainment groups of the German Empire 1895 -1918: an illustrated directory - (A-G) [1 Sep 2018, 110 pages] - Travelling musicians and entertainers had been a part of European life for centuries. In the German speaking countries of Europe during the German Empire there arose a large number of "Damen Kapellen", troupes of musical and variety entertainers consisting largely of women, usually led by a man, and occasionally including males as players. This paper (in three parts) gives an illustrated directory of some 350 such ensembles (excluding the brass instrumentalists covered in my paper "Damen und Damen"). It includes various other musical ensembles, vocalists, dancers, acrobats, and general variety acts

  • Damen ohne Blasinstrumente - the non -brass ladies' entertainment groups of the German Empire 1895 -1918: an illustrated directory - (H-Q)

  • Damen ohne Blasinstrumente - the non -brass ladies' entertainment groups of the German Empire 1895 -1918: an illustrated directory - (R-Z)

  • In the Land of Mordor Where the Shadows Lie: Good, Evil and the Quest in Tolkien's Middle Earth - [14 May 1981, 22 pages] - The land of Middle Earth, which is the setting for Tolkien's major mythic works, is one which has been created from the best of traditional sources. Tolkien was a famed expert on the literature and language of the early medieval and dark ages. His researches and writings in Anglo-Saxon and Northern lore gave him a unique insight into the meanings of myth throughout the ages. When he came to form the mythology of Middle Earth he built into it all the aspects that made such literature popular for all time. He also included many further subjects and points that had been missing from earlier tales, or merely hinted at. The result is a complete history, cultural, geographical, religious and mythic. In all chronicles of this kind there is an attempt to describe or explain the current state of affairs. In Middle Earth this state is not a pleasant one, and its origins go back to the beginnings of sentient life in that realm.

  • Packet -switching pioneers: the early years of electronic document request transmission at the British Library - [Document lost in fire] - [26 Jan 1995, 21 pages] - How the British Library transitioned from postal requests for document loans and photocopies, to the early use of the internet via email. Often at the cutting edge of current technology, passing through telex and paper tape, 300 baud direct dial connections, PSS packet switching and more

  • Ptarmigan Books - [19 May 1981, 4 pages] - Ptarmigan Books - a little known imprint in the Penguin Books aviary of birds: bibliographic descriptions. Ptarmigan Books was just one of the many special series published by Penguin Books. Hubert Phillips was the major influence in the Ptarmigan series, which reached only nine titles. As well as editing the series he was the author, or co-author, of all but one. In an eight-page self-advertising feature, the series is described as being 'designed to cover, as comprehensively as possible, the field of Games, Puzzles and Indoor Recreations'.

  • Serial relationships - the design of an integrated periodicals control and management system [Document lost in fire] [11 Jun 2001, 18 pages] - The British Library produced its own in-house periodicals system from the late 1970s, with an underlying bespoke database and the development of innovative software to manage the current journal accessions and the archive stocks. A small team of software analyst programmers produced a set of systems that lasted twenty years, until it was eventually replaced by an externally sourced package solution

  • Taking the Waters - The lighter side of the Harrogate Cure, through the humorous postcards of the 1900s - [1 Feb 2018, 26 pages] - Since the early 17th century the waters of Harrogate had been taken by locals and visitors to the area. The chalybeate springs of High Harrogate were originally the more popular, but by the middle of the 18th century doctors had discovered a satisfactory method of using the sulphur wells of Low Harrogate for internal treatments and extended their use in baths. As well as the newspaper and leaflet advertisements, the town also supported the production and sale of picture postcards for visitors to send to friends and family, or keep as souvenirs. Here follows a selection of the cards and images which show the lighter side of Harrogate's cure culture, which sadly is no more, though you can still experience the waters at the town's Pump Museum - if you dare!

  • Thomas Tucker's - some scenes of a provincial draper's shop and department store - [12 Feb 2018, 21 pages] - The first scene comprises the 190th anniversary celebration special insert in the "Exmouth Leader", Thursday April 11th, 1991, which describes the history of the store and shows some of the range of its goods through congratulatory advertisements. The second scene is an article from "Devon Life" in July 2002, which describes how the store changed over the years. The third scene is a contemporary report of the take-over by Thomas Tucker in 1901. The fourth scene shows the staff at the 170th anniversary. The fifth scene reports the closure of the store in 2007. The final scene shows what has happened since 2007

  • What is the Appeal of Detective Fiction - [5 April 1981, 7 pages] - A brief look at what attracts the reader to the detective genre.