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Brass Bands of Stanbury

Joseph Craven, 1907

About fifty years ago any person going through Stanbury on a Sunday evening would have stopped to listen to the singing and playing. Pianos were not common in those days, but there were fiddles and flutes and various other instruments. In many a home, if one could have gone in, he would have heard a good concert; it would have stirred any one's feelings! Some of the houses were moderately large, and you would have seen the father and mother and children, also some neighbours, sitting round the house singing and playing. This was not done in one house only, but it was so in many cottage homes. Ah, these old days have cheered many a heart and inspired many a soul! Hymns were most popular. It kept many a person at home and under home influence. At that time the young people were not satisfied with learning a few tunes, they wished to read the music themselves. Many of them would be able to play several instruments or take their part in singing. When one was tired of singing or blowing he would take up the stringed instruments and play. Are these things dying out and giving place to pianos, organs, etc.? One does not want to say anything detrimental of modern instruments, but what a help it is in a family when all join together.

At one time the Heatons, of Ponden, took a great interest in a brass band. Several of the Heatons played brass instruments and there was a brass band at Ponden. After a time, for the convenience of some of the band, they removed to Dry Clough, a few field lengths above Pickles Hill. They got several young men from Lumbfoot and Stanbury to learn to play and then join the band. The family of Lunds, who lived at Dry Clough, were very fond of playing. One of the Lunds went to a village not above six miles away, and he had a lad who learnt to play and had a longing to be a good player and get to play before the Queen. In order to do that he knew he would have to persevere in practising. His father thought he should do something else besides playing, so one day he drove him out of the house. After a time, to the surprise of his father, the boy was on the roof, sitting across the rigging with his book against the chimney, playing away with all his might. The result of his perseverance was that he had the honour, one day, of playing before her Majesty Queen Victoria.

After a time the Dry Clough Band broke up, some of the members going to Lumbfoot and some to Springhead, near Haworth, where Mr. Hartley Merrall and family lived. The sons of the family encouraged the band and helped it considerably, whilst the Lumbfoot Band was also helped. The Lumbfoot Band consisted of fifteen or sixteen young men, most of whom worked in the mill, and Messrs. Butterfield Brothers let them have the dining room to play in. The band consisted at one time of two Binns, two Nicholsons, three Prestons, two Heys, and several others, and they were very persistent in learning. There was much rivalry betwixt Springhead Band and Lumbfoot Band.

When Mr. Frederick Butterfield was married in October, 1863, the firm gave their hands a trip to Morecambe. The Lumbfoot Band played for the procession, when about three o'clock in the morning the mill-hands at Lumbfoot marched to Bridgehouse Mill, Haworth, and joining the hands at Bridgehouse Mill, walked down to Keighley. There was no Worth Valley Railway then. Joining the hands from Prospect Mill, Keighley, they filled two trains. Many hundreds of them had never seen the sea before this day at Morecambe. There was no station at Morecambe itself at that time, but the train went on to the stone pier. It was very wet going to Keighley, but the day cleared and many got a sail that day for the first time. Arriving at Keighley from Morecambe, the band went into the yard at Keighley Station (that was before the present station and bridge were built), and commenced playing, when some person or persons stepped up to the drummer and cut the drum with a knife. Stones were thrown at the band, some of the instruments were damaged, and a little scrimmage took place. After a time the band took up their instruments and played through Keighley. They marched away to Haworth and Lumbfoot and Stanbury. The reader can imagine what amount of feeling was raised by this incident.

The lads were made of better stuff than to give up, and they struggled hard to make a good band. The writer's father conducted them for a time, and after him the bandsmen got John Sugden, from Marriner's Band at Keighley, to conduct them, and later Joseph Turner, from Marriner's Band, conducted them and played with them. It was not long before it became evident that there were some good players amongst them. Mr. Turner offered James Nicholson, the leader of the band, a situation at Keighley at Marriner's mill to learn to be a woolsorter. He, being a weaver and having a chance of more money, took the offer and went to Keighley; this distressed the other members. About this time the Trawden Band got up a Brass Band Contest for bands which had not won a prize anywhere, and the young band of about twelve entered for the contest at Trawden. Sixteen was the number stipulated to be in the band in order to contest, so they got their number made up from Marriner's Band. Nicholson was still a member of the band. That day Joseph Turner and his son John, and Jonathan Preston played with them. Some of their enemies sent word to one of the bands which were contesting, saying that the Lumbfoot Band had some helpers. The writer remembers the day of the contest, when the band met at the back of the Cross Inn and played their pieces over. At the end of the rehearsal, Mr. Turner gave them some advice, and said if any one of them got a bad note to be certain to get the next right. They then went into the main road and formed into marching order. It was Easter Saturday and all the villagers were "playing". In due course the band struck up, "Tramp, boys, tramp", and every heart was thrilled and all thought they would bring home a prize. The band was inspired by the cheers and the cries of "Good luck, lads".

Whilst they were making their way to Trawden other bands were getting together at Trawden and spreading the news what helpers the Lumbfoot Band had. Shortly after this band turned up at Trawden, and the cry was there, "Nobbut lads, let 'em play". The bands marched off to the field where the contest was to take place, and they took their turn one after another playing through the streets. When this band was going through, playing "Tramp, boys, tramp", the people shouted, "Caant thease lads play, that's the band a't'll tak prize, ya'll see". But when their number should have gone up the next number went up - they were barred. They went down to the Rock Inn and played the test piece there, to the surprise of many and the delight of all.

They obtained many engagements for Sunday School and Friendly Societies' processions and festivals. Once when they were engaged by the Temple Street Wesleyans at Keighley to play for their annual procession, some person was heard to say, "What a poor band we have got, there's only about a dozen". The Rev. Jonathan J. Bates, who was a good musician, said, "It was not the quantity in the band, but the quality which made a good band". He listened to the band and took particular notice of each part, and said they were a good little band. For some years they kept together, but ultimately they broke up, some joining the Haworth Band and others leaving the district.

It might be added that they went a second time to Trawden Contest, but unfortunately they won nothing. Fifteen bands entered the contest and the writer went to hear and see the bands. John Sugden, of Keighley, conducted the Lumbfoot Band at that contest and he was satisfied with the result. Strange to say, one man who conducted two bands which had to "play over", took his instrument and blew the octave when going on the stand with the second of these two bands. There was a commotion amongst the listeners when that happened, but the decision gave general satisfaction; the band referred to won the lowest prize.