‘To Encourage Kindness between All Classes of the Community’: The Philanthropic Links between Bramley Brass Band and the Bramley District Nursing Association, 1907-08

Dr Stephen Etheridge 

Bramley Prize Band

Today was a cold day and on my way to work I had an hour to spare. I was drawn to the Local History room at Leeds Central Library. One of the joys of this local history collection is that much of the material is catalogued by towns that surround Leeds. As such, and in my hunt for material for Bramley Brass Band, I came across a volume of the 1907-1921 Annual Reports of the Bramley District Nursing Association.[1]

The archival evidence shows that two pillars of community life had a synchronous relationship that centered around a belief in philanthropy. Paraphrasing the Oxford English Dictionary the Nursing Association and the Bramley Band were practitioners of a ‘practical benevolence’ that was ‘charity on a large scale’.  What is of interest here is the similarities and differences between the band’s working-class wish to do good in the larger community and middle-class philanthropic compassion found in the Nursing Association, not least in the way, as Elaine Denny has argued, that middle-class women used voluntary nursing as a way to escape the cult of domesticity and work towards a ‘calling’.[2] In other words the band had many reasons to raise money for a labouring population; not least for the band’s own needs. The band had roots in their own their own working-class environment. The Nursing Association was focused on providing relief for the poor from a top-down perspective. They had an external view of the working class. Where did these causes conjoin in an industrial community, and was the  working-class philanthropy of a brass band that far away from middle-class values of benevolence?

Bramley the (Philanthropic) Industrial Community

Bramley is five miles to the West of Leeds in West Yorkshire. The East of the area still contains much nineteenth-century housing and architecture. Bramley is listed in the 1086 Domesday Book as Brameleia and Bramelie. The heart of the village was most likely sited at Stocks Hill, and it developed in a linear fashion along today’s Town Street. [3] As with many towns and villages in the North of England the population expanded rapidly in the nineteenth century due to industrialisation. The initial increase was due to the woollen textile industry, but boot making and engineering soon followed. By 1871 the population of Bramley was 9,882 mirroring the population numbers found in other industrial settlements in the North of England.[4]

As an industrial community the population of Bramley was well-placed to practice communal generosity. We have the benevolence of the large employer, but we also have groups such as the band and the Association that operated within benevolence, or ‘gift giving’.  In the industrial heartlands, industrialists often wanted to be seen to be supplying support for a worthy cause. The large employer’s influence was generated in the factory, its locale and magnified in the arena of the town.[5] Most employers conceived their economic duty solely in terms of supplying employment to alleviate a core of endemic poverty found in the towns and cities. Nevertheless, after mid-century, the large employers’ view of themselves as the creators and custodians of urban civilisation became sufficiently grandiose to permit a considerable involvement in the control of urban poverty.[6] It was reflected in the foundation of orphanages, almshouses, homes for the aged and Ragged and Industrial Schools that sprang up in this period.[7]

A Subscription Ethos

 By 1907 it was noted that the Association had published its 14th report, meaning they were formed in 1891.[8] The Nursing Association and the Bramley Brass Band both relied on subscriptions to meet their day-to-day expenses. Both the band and the Nursing Association shared the commonality that they had to prove their commitment to helping the community to attract– and be morally worthy of –receiving financial assistance from the public.

The Nursing Association’s and the Band’s Commitment, and Moral Duty, to Public Good

As a philanthropic group the Nursing Association’s Governors  clearly spelled out their commitment and moral worth to the community in the Association’s rules, writing:

As the object of this Association is to provide as many skilled nurses as be required for the efficient nursing of the sick poor of Bramley Parish in their own homes, and thus by the example, teaching, nursing, and general influence of the nurses, raise the standard of nursing and encourage sympathy and mutual kindness between all classes of the community […]. [9]

As a subscription band Bramley Band was also under a similar ethical contract in order to receive public subscriptions. The band was formed as a brass and reed band in 1828, by 1836 they were a Temperance band and by 1859 they were regularly taking part in contests in the North.[10] In 1860, a year when The Times referred to brass bands as a movement, they entered London’s Crystal Palace Contest.[11] The link between rational recreation and musical performance is well documented elsewhere on this blog, and it was an ethos  that bands such as Bramley relied upon when they appealed to the public for funds. Such moral contracts inferred that the bands should be part of charitable community events. Writing in 1895, Algernon Rose published Talks With Bandsmen: A Popular Handbook for Brass Instrumentalists (London, 1895). In this was a guide on how subscription bands should apply for funds. One of the answers is telling:

Why [is a band] desirable[for the town]?

  • Because there are a number of young men who wish to become musicians
  • Because there are many of our neighbours who would welcome outdoor music in this town
  • Because the existence of such a band would be invaluable by affording help at charitable and local entertainments[12] 

There is  evidence that Bramley Band used this ethos when they asked for funds .Sadly, the date of the citation is unknown. They wrote:

The band would be grateful for subscriptions to the band fund, which is upheld by voluntary subscriptions and proceeds from entertainments etc [….] Many can help one when one cannot help many.[13]

Working-Class Philanthropy?

 Subscription bands, then, were in competition for public subscriptions with other groups. Yet Bramley Band became one of the key contributors to the Association’s funds. They had a special committee that arranged fundraising concerts. This suggests that the respectable working class of Bramley, represented here  by the band, were raising money for parts of the population that had less than themselves. By 1908, and together with other high profile contributors – the Bramley Board of Guardians (£10.00) and the Leeds Workpeople’s Hospital Fund (£50.00) – they had raised Sixteen pounds, seven shillings and four pence.[14] What is more significant is that the band organised benefit concerts by other musicians to raise funds. They are mentioned in the Association’s Annual reports as a ‘special performance arranged by the Bramley Band Performance Committee’.[15] These concerts often featured military bands such as the Guards’ Regiments.  These contributory patterns remain the same until 1921 when the Association’s record ends. It does indeed seem that Bramley Band did believe that ‘many can help one when one cannot help many.’

There is more research needed, and this blog is an outline of themes to explore. However, a working-class band that relied upon public subscriptions was in a position to be a significant contributor to an organisation based in top-down philanthropy. Philanthropy, then, as a desire to promote the welfare of others, especially by generous donations of money to a good cause, crossed class boundaries. Being working class did not mean to be always on the receiving end of benevolence. Moreover, top-down philanthropy relied on working-class contributions.

Notes and References:

[1] Bramley District Nursing Association, In Affiliation With The Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute for Nursing the Sick and the Poor in their Own Homes, Annual Reports, 1907-1921 (Leeds) Leeds Family and Local History Department, Leeds Central Library, Catalogue Ref: LBRA36Z   

[2] Elaine Denny, The Emergence of the Occupation of District Nursing in Nineteenth-Century England (PhD Theis, University of Nottingham, 1999), p. 6.

[3] Wikipedia< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bramley,_Leeds >accessed 8 December, 2017

[4] The Bramley Almanac and Historical Year Book for 1878 (Leeds, 1878) In 1851, for example, Bacup, in East Lancashire, had a population of 10, 315 (Source: Official Census)

[5] Patrick Joyce, Work, Society and Politics: The Culture of the Factory in Later Victorian England (Brighton, 1980, this edition, London, 1982), p. 168.

[6] Joyce, p. 168.

[7] Joyce, Work Society and Politics, p. 168.

[8] Annual Report, 31 March, 1907, p.2

[9] Ibid, p. 22

[10] The development of the brass band is too lengthy for this blog. Bands emerged from the 1820s from a mix of woodwind and brass instruments, influenced by military bands, through a number of phases, to, by the 1870s, the standard band instrumentation seen today. Key stages were the invention of the keyed bugle (1820s); the invention of the piston valve (invented no later than 1814 and was developed through 1827-1850). The development of the saxhorn, invented by Adolph Sax in the 1840s and 1850s, was also significant. The saxhorn was later promoted by the Distin Family whose popular concerts showed it to be a melodious instrument. Key texts for the development of brass bands are T. Herbert, ed.The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History (Oxford, 2000); E. Mitroulia, ‘Adolphe Sax’s Brasswind Production With a Focus on Saxhorns and Related Instruments’ (unpub. Ph.D. Thesis, Edinburgh Univ. 2011) and A. Myers, ‘Instruments and Instrumentation of British Brass Bands’, in, Herbert, ed. The British Brass Band, pp.155-186.

[11] J.E. Hesling-White, A Short History of Bramley Band from Its First Inception to the Present Time, with Glimpses of Old-Time Life and Doings in Bramley (Bramley, 1906), pp. 5-8.

[12] Algernon J. Rose, Talks With Bandsmen: A Popular Handbook for Brass Instrumentalists (London, 1895), pp. 309-311

[13]  Hesling-White, A Short History, Inner Cover of Volume

[14] Annual Reports, 13 March, 1908, p. 5.

[15] Ibid, p.5.


Reflections on Brass Bands and Christmas Carols: A Continuation of Victorian ‘Banding’ Traditions

Water Prize Brass Band, picture taken in Rossendale before a trip to Southport in 1880 (Rossendale Free Press, 14 May, 1916)



As Christmas approaches the streets are alive with the sound of brass bands playing Christmas carols. Indeed, a friend from my days in the Staffordshire Youth Brass Band, who is now playing with the Co-op Funeralcare Band, said that they had ‘done 2 [caroling] sessions, and had 14 more to go.’ A Cursory glance at any band’s website shows that outside the contest season caroling is possibly the bands’ busiest of times.

It is accepted that the ‘golden age of brass bands’ dated from 1860-1900. In this period brass bands expressed a highly visible working-class pursuit. It was a period when brass band contests attracted crowds in their thousands, and park concerts were key events in the communities where bands thrived. Bands were an important presence at many civic events, such as the opening of Mechanics’ Institutes, Sunday Schools and libraries.  Christmas caroling was an important year-end event for Victorian and Edwardian bands that added to their presence  in the community.  A glance at this period shows us that contemporary bands are carrying on a tradition of playing Christmas carols that is as old as bands themselves.

Finance and caroling

The archival evidence in this blog comes from the Southern Pennines, a region that was well-known for the density of bands in the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, one defining element that united bands on a national level was the need to raise money for the day-to-day running of bands, and especially the need to buy uniforms, instruments and music. Much finance came from employers and, in the case of subscription bands, the local community. This finance, however, was mostly in the form of unsecured loans. Many bands spent much of their time raising money to repay these loans. Christmas was a time when bands could secure a significant amount of income. In 1898, for example, Shipley Brass Band collected their bandsmens’ subscription fees of £2 for the year after the Christmas money had been collected.




Writing in 1892 it was the Magazine of Music who highlighted the community nature of caroling, writing, ‘at Christmas the bands turn out in great force to go the round of their subscribers; and we hear that in spite of the intense cold last Christmas, some bands played before the houses of over a hundred […] members, notwithstanding benumbed fingers and frozen valves […].[1]  The bands’ subscribers would often give the players money for playing carols, which would not only assist the bands in their day-to-day expenses, enable them to give a contribution to charity, but also give the bandsmen a source of extra cash at Christmas.

On December 3, 1888, for example, the committee of Cleckheaton Christian Bretheren Brass Band agreed ‘that we go out during the night at Christmas; busking with collectors. That half the money be given to the band and the other half to be equally divided [between the players].[2] By 1892 the band were looking to raise money for uniforms, asking bandsmen to contribute money from their Christmas takings. The committee wrote ‘That if we can get J Beever of Huddersfield to get us a new uniform ready for Christmas. That each member of the band shall leave 10 shillings out of the Christmas money. If not each member shall leave five shillings each. That suits shall be like Batley Temperance.[3]

 A few words on money and working-class independence

Together with other seasonal and occasional payments Christmas money gave bandsmen an element of security when a man’s independence depended on how much spending money – or ‘spends’ – he had for himself. As Dave Russell has argued elsewhere bandsmen were, in spite of varying levels of income, the respectable working class. The economy of the working-class household was rooted in the collective earnings of father, mother and children. Jose Harris has highlighted the importance of the financial contribution of the wives and children to the household, as social surveys of the period recognized that how much the man contributed from his wages could vary wildly. Indeed, the management of the household fell to the wife, and in what were considered the more respectable households the man would hand his wages over and the wife would often give the husband his ‘spends’ after the essential items – food, bills and so on – had been budgeted for.  In spite of observers disagreeing about the significance of the amounts the husband gave, one thing that all observers agreed on was that it was the wife’s skill, or ineptitude, in making ends meet that determined the comfort or neglect of working-class homes.[4]  

Bramley Brass Band, known locally as the Bramley Beer and Bacca’ Band


Christmas was a time when bandsmen could have a significant amount of disposable income. As working men this income increased their independence after essential bills had been paid. They had ‘spends’ for beer and tobacco. Some of this is shown in how Bramley Old Band would ‘do the rounds of the better-class houses in Bramley at Christmas, and be rewarded with food, beer and tobacco. This caroling gave Bramley Band the nickname the Bramley Beer and Bacca Band.’ (Recollections of Bramla’ Band: Pauline Kirk, Ed. p. 6)

Caroling as a social event

At Christmas Victorians and Edwardian bands were not unknown to play for long periods of time, and this often including playing throughout the night of Christmas Eve into Christmas Day.  James Law Cropper (1864-1974), remembered ‘going out’ as a teenager at Christmas time with Water Prize Band (Rossendale):

We covered the whole neighbourhood. We’d meet at the Commercial on Christmas Eve, at twelve o’clock the Church bells used to ring out. We always blasted off with Old Glory, then up the road as far as Culvert, we played about every three houses, and they all came out to listen to us, and treat us, they used to bring beer out to pass round, and cups of tea or coffee. We used to do the front, back and cellar dwellings of Culvert, and it would take us until four o’ clock in the morning to get back to Water and go home. We’d turn out again at about nine o’clock on Christmas morning going round Dean and Water. We played Christmas Carols […]. All the old ‘Laycock’ tunes, always the old tunes they’d had for generations. As a rule, our music that we played for Christmas was hand written.[5]

It’s interesting to note that this band was using hand-written arrangements, that were most likely bespoke for the instruments they had in the band.

Cropper did allude that bandsmen drank during caroling, writing Folks from Dean, although they were mainly Baptists, took an interest in the Band, and the right old ones didn’t seem to have anything against the Band, and of course, we played their tunes at Christmas… but as it became very strong anti -drink, the Baptists and the Band did not mix. Eden didn’t connect so much with the anti-drink, dancing and gambling lot. [6]

This sounds quite romantic: Bandsmen playing carols for the community and socialising with tea, cakes and beer. Yet, these sessions had their detractors and critics. It was caroling, and the disturbance it caused, that created comment, one member of the public venting their spleen to the Yorkshireman, in 1881:

If we have not had sufficient music this Christmas, I am no judge of it. From midnight on Christmas Eve to the dawn of Christmas Morn, I lay on my downy bed, a long-suffering Christian …. A monstre double bass would begin business with a grand bang that nearly smashed the windows, and completely awoke every living thing in the house. I like sacred music, but I object to it strongly, when there is an obbligato of howls from old Towser, and, a series of cadenzas from that ancient Thomas, in the next back- yard mingled with it. It would take St Cecilia all her time to draw an angel down with such music as I heard, and when the angel did appear, I am sure it would not be able to stay long amidst such a hubbub.[7]

In the final analysis bands relied upon caroling to raise funds to run the bands, contribute to charity, and to supply extra income for bandsmen. Yet, the social side of caroling should not be underestimated. It brought communities together in one Christmas event. When contemporary bands ‘go out’ at Christmas it is an expression of a tradition that started with nineteenth-century brass bands.


[1] Magazine of Music, 9/4, (April, 1892), pp. 62-63.

[2] Minute Book of The Christian Bretheren Temperance Brass Band; Cleckheaton. West Yorkshire Archive Service Kirklees ref KC131

[3]  Ibid

[4] Jose Harris, Private Lives, Public Spirit: Britain 1870–1914 (London: Penguin: London, 1994), 72–3. For a wider discussion on working-class masculinity see,  Stephen Etheridge, ‘Music as A Lifelong Pursuit for Bandsmen in the Southern Pennines, c. 1840-1914: Reflections on Working-Class Masculinity ‘in,  Catherine Haworth and Lisa Colton (Eds.) Gender, Age and Musical Creativity (Ashgate, 2015)

[5] James Law Cropper, Memories, typewritten transcription of interviews (n.d.) Rawtenstall Local Studies Library, ref RC942WAT,   29-30.

[6]Cropper, Memories,   28-29.

[7] The Yorkshireman, January (1881), 4.

Black Dyke Band’s Tour of America & Canada, 1906: Cocktails & Philanthropy

BDM 190
Black Dike (sic) Mills Brass Band, c. 1906

It can be argued that Black Dyke Mills Brass Band were one of the most successful and influential brass bands of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. It is certain that they were what was known as a ‘crack’ band. In 1906 they undertook a tour of America and Canada. An analysis of this tour gives us a glimpse of industrial philanthropy and its influence on how the distinction between work and leisure became blurred in this period.

The Foster Brothers and Black Dyke Mills Brass Band

John Foster was one of the directors of John Foster and Sons Ltd, Black Dyke Mills, Queensbury, producer of alpaca, mohair and worsted woollens. He was a French horn player in a brass and reed band, which was formed in 1816 by Peter Wharton, the publican of the Old Dolphin Hotel at Queensbury. Foster was a musician and he loved playing the French horn.[1] John Foster was not only a musician: he and his brothers were philanthropists. The mill supported many local causes. They gave £100 to help extend Bradford’s Deaf and Dumb Institute.[2] They gave £250 to help build an extension to Bradford Infirmary.[3] In addition they donated £100 to help reduce the outstanding debt at Bradford Children’s Hospice.[4] It was not out of character for them to consider giving financial assistance to a local band.

In 1833 a new band called the Queenshead Band formed in Queensbury, and the Foster Brothers gave it some financial assistance. In 1855 the band was close to falling apart and at this point the Foster Brothers stepped in and joined the band to the mill. Reflecting the experiences of other bands, they gave the band a practice room, in Wellington Mill, a new set of instruments and a set of uniforms. The tone of Jonas Foster’s letter to his brother suggested that the appearance of the band was important to them:

We have got the dress for the band which is universally admired. Green coat, trousers and cap, silver buttons with crest on them, coat with white braid round the collar, and small white braid down the front and down the trousers. German silver epaulettes, and silver lace around the caps and white sword belt, leader with gold round his cap, and three cornet piece players, gold stripes on the arm.[5]

The fame of Black Dyke Mills Brass Band spread quickly. In 1860 they won first prize at the first Crystal Palace Contest, winning a silver cup for the Bandmaster, a champion contra bass in Eb, worth 35 guineas, and £30 in cash.[6] The 1860 band was 18 members strong, all employees of the mill.[7]  The band’s success grew rapidly; the British ‘Open’ Championship results from 1856 to 1906 are an evidence of their ability. They were rarely out of the top three and they came first twelve times.[8]

The Tour

In 1906 the band undertook a five-month tour of Canada and America. The company paid for all passage fares, rail travel and board and lodging.[9] While they were away the company also agreed to pay the band members wages of two pounds a week, with the band members receiving fifteen shillings a week, with the balance paid to the bandsmens’ wives or nominated persons.[10] It is interesting to note that the bandsmen complained to the periodical the British Bandsman that their spending  money was not enough, and I have explored this in terms of their masculine independence in a  published chapter. It was agreed that if the tour made a profit the band members stood to receive a share as a bonus but if the tour made a loss then the band would have to reimburse all travel, and accommodation expenses.[11] The tour did indeed make a loss of £2000. However, the company agreed to defer two thirds of this as long as the band paid the remaining amount back from engagement fees.[12] Four months later the band had still not cleared the debt and the company decided to write off £500 of the outstanding £850.[13]

This financing suggests that band funding was not a totally altruistic or philanthropic gesture as it was funded by an unsecured loan from the company. Yet, in the industrial heartlands, industrialists often wanted to be seen to be supplying support for a worthy cause. The large employer’s influence was generated in the factory, its locale and magnified in the arena of the town.[14] Most employers conceived their economic duty solely in terms of supplying employment to alleviate a core of endemic poverty found in the towns and cities. Nevertheless, after mid-century, the large employers’ view of themselves as the creators and custodians of urban civilisation became sufficiently grandiose to permit a considerable involvement in the control of urban poverty.[15] It was reflected in the foundation of orphanages, almshouses, homes for the aged and Ragged and Industrial Schools that sprang up in this period.[16] Employer provision can be interpreted in terms of the gift relationship. As Patrick Joyce has argued:

In the sense of deference as a mode of social interaction, the gift was one of the most valuable means of managing the tensions of identification and differentiation that characterized deference. The gift celebrated and reaffirmed the bond of master and man.[17]

The rhetoric of the reporting of the tour suggested that the band was fully funded by philanthropy. Despite the speculative nature of the tour, and its eventual financial loss, the tour created a lot of excitement in Queensbury and Bradford. It is within this excited rhetoric that we should view the unsecured loan – which was largely written off. The Fosters had paid for the band to be seen as theirs. All reporting gave the impression that the Fosters had fully-funded the band’s tour. The Fosters did not have to supply the loan or write off the balance. The band did receive a tour and other benefits but the Fosters also received exposure.  ‘To Messrs John Foster and Sons Ltd, belongs the distinction of sending such a combination on a novel and successful venture,’[18] opined the Halifax Daily Guardian, when the band returned. In spite of the fact that the band had clearly undertaken the tour to make money and promote itself, the overriding inescapable theme was that the band was part of the mill; they were John Foster and Son’s band, made up of working-class mechanics, which was to be a common refrain throughout their tour. As such, the Fosters inferred the gift relationship between master and employer. In spite of the nature of their funding the band was one part of the Fosters’ contribution to the improvement of the community.

There was a large turnout to see the band set off. The town hall bells were chiming and the band, to some people’s disappointment, wore mufti rather than the new uniforms that the company had bought them for the tour. The band had lunch bought at the Great Northern Victoria Hotel and Fredrick Foster warned them about the dangers of America saying:

Be careful of what you eat, and also of what you drink, American cocktails are very nice and seductive, but they are not quite as innocent as you think they are. Americans are almost offended if you refuse to drink with them, but I think I can rely on you to use your own judgement.[19]

Foster emphasised that the company had spared no expense in equipping the band for this tour. He said, ‘their instruments could not be better, and they had the best selection of music.’[20] Even before they had left Bradford it was being driven home that this band was the public face of John Foster and Sons. It was expected that their behaviour should reflect this, as they were on a tour promoting the mill’s business interests. The Bradford Daily Telegraph reported that:

The firm felt certain they were doing the right thing in sending the band out, and they hoped the conduct of the men would be the same as it had always been, and they would remember they were the Black Dyke Band, and connected with the firm of John Foster and Sons[…]. I hope you will not forget that this firm is well known, not only in Canada and the States, but throughout the world.[21]

The firm saw themselves as having a global reputation: the band was the public expression of this reputation. The Fosters made it clear that without their support the band would not have been successful.

The American and Canadian press viewed the bandsmen as ‘mechanics abroad’. Wherever the band went in America and Canada the press were there and the Fosters collected the newspaper reports of the tour in a scrapbook.[22] The commonality in all the reports was that they promoted the mill and its products, and, significantly, they stressed that the band membership was working class. The Metronome wrote:

A British Amateur band is to visit America. Americans will soon have the opportunity to hear a band, which is peculiarly British. The band owes its existence, and its approaching tour, to the generosity of John Foster and Sons, who are great manufacturers of dress fabrics in Yorkshire, and in whose mills the band are employed. Although the band is an amateur band, let it not be though that they need any indulgence from even the most refined and cultivated musicians. On the contrary, we predict they will astonish all who hear them.[23]

The Peterborough Daily Evening Review said, ‘this distinguished organization […] owes its formation to John Foster and Sons, manufacturers of alpaca, mohair and other wools.’[24] The Montreal Daily Star stressed the working-class membership of the band and their interest in schemes that would help the working class:

Black Dyke Band Concert in aid of Poor Children

The famous Black Dyke Band will give a special concert in the arena on Saturday afternoon. For the purpose of helping, enlarge the fresh air fund. The interest taken by the members of this band in the fresh air movement will not be wondered at, when it is considered, that the object of the society is to give generously to the children of the working classes the benefit of a summer outing, and that the members composing the Black Dyke Band are every one of the skilled mechanics.[25]

The band returned to Bradford in November 1906. The return was a quieter affair that the departure; the Fosters were away on business, and the crowd that greeted them at the station consisted of wives, sweethearts, relatives and friends.[26] Even though the tour was well promoted what was significant was that the social network of the band that greeted them consisted of close relations. These networks highlighted the working-class nature of the band movement and the people that supported them. Industrialists could supply all the equipment and facilities they wished but the bands also relied upon stable social networks for support.[27] Industrialists supported the bands rehearsal space, music, uniforms, instruments and tuition, paid time off work, finance for travel and board and lodgings when the band was away. In return industrialists received advertising for their company and its products. If, like Black Dyke, they were successful, this exposure could be almost constant. The expense of running a band could result in financial loss. Nevertheless, for the industrialist the promotion and support of a band was to be accepted, if not expected, of a philanthropic employer who supported other benevolent projects in the community. For the industrialist these philanthropic practices could exert a force for influence in the region. This meant that there was little demarcation between the towns – mixtures of deliberate and ad hoc development – and the urban factory. [28] Therefore, through the agency of the brass band, the space between leisure and work was brought closer.

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[1] John H. Clay, Black Dyke, An Inside Story (Stockport, 2005), p. 2.                                                             

[2] West Yorkshire Archive Service, Bradford, John Foster and Sons, Directors’ Minute Book, 1891-1920,  Catalogue Reference, 61D9521/1 (August 28,1895), p .61.

[3] John Foster and Sons, Directors’ Minute Book, 1891-1920 (November 26, 1895), p. 65.

[4] John Foster and Sons, Directors’ Minute Book, 1891-1920 (November 26, 1895), p .65.

[5] Letter cited in, Clay, p .3 (August 30, 1856), no source given.

[6] The Times (11 July, 1860)

[7] John H. Clay, Black Dyke, p .5.

[8] Violet and Geoffrey Brand, Brass Bands, pp. 224- 227.

[9] Queensbury Historical Society, Legal Agreement, re the Canadian and American tour of 1906 (1 June, 1906), cited in, Clay, Black Dyke, p. 19.

[10] Queensbury Historical Society, p. 20

[11] Queensbury Historical Society, p.20.

[12] John Foster and Sons, Directors’ Minute Book, 1891-1920 (December 12, 1906), p. 188.

[13] John Foster and Sons, Directors’ Minute Book, 1891-1920 (March 24, 1909), p .212.

[14] Joyce, Work Society and Politics, p. 168.

[15] Joyce, Work Society and Politics, p. 168.

[16] Joyce, Work Society and Politics, p. 168.

[17] Joyce, Work Society and Politics, pp.169-170.

[18] Halifax Daily Guardian (24 November, 1906).

[19] Bradford Daily Telegraph (29 June, 1906).

[20] Bradford Daily Telegraph (29 June, 1906).

[21] Bradford Daily Telegraph (29 June, 1906).

Newspaper Cuttings With Regard to John Foster and Sons, and Local Events in Bradford and Queensbury, West Yorkshire Archive Service , Bradford, Catalogue Reference, 6195/9/1/1.

[23] Metronome (July, 1906) Newspaper Cuttings, p. 37,

[24] Peterborough Daily Evening Review (n.d., 1906), Newspaper Cuttings, p. 39.

[25] Montreal Daily Star (13 July, 1906), Newspaper Cuttings, p. 40.

[26] Halifax Daily Guardian (24 November, 1906).

[27] The importance of these networks becomes apparent in the following chapters.

[28] Patrick Joyce, Work Society and Politics, p. 145.

Five Things Friday: Women’s Brass Ensembles in History from Brass Chicks Blog

This week, we’ve taken Five Things Friday to highlight some amazing women’s brass ensembles in history. These groups are as different as they come and range from famous to barely-remembered. Nonetheless, every ensemble on the list proves how women have been playing brass for centuries!

via Five Things Friday: Women’s Brass Ensembles in History — Brass Chicks

Northern Theatre Life

I was so excited to be cataloguing the programmes for the Ardwick Hippodrome. I had heard so much about it from my parents and my aunts and uncles. I was especially looking forward to seeing famous names on the programmes. I was surprised to see that it was originally called the Ardwick Empire and was […]

via Ardwick Hippodrome —

Bands, Beer and Adjudicators: Northern Brass Band Contests, Moral Economy and the Carnival Day

Accrington Brass Band
Accrington Brass Band, date unknown. Note the overalls

In the industrial areas of the North brass band contests had been popular from the 1840s. As such they became ways that the emerging brass band press could highlight the moral worth of the brass band movement. In February 1900 the editorial team of the brass band periodical the Cornet wrote about the importance of the contest in promoting the positive aspects of the brass band movement. Editorial comment such as this helped establish the way in which bands led to the incorporation of the working class into bourgeois norms, as a representation of the oft-cited ethos of rational recreation. It was each bandsman’s responsibility to see that they did not behave in a way that could upset a wide range of middle-class benefactors. In other words each bandsman had an individual responsibility to represent not only the town but also the movement. Yet, as this blog shows, and in contrast to the ethos of rational recreation, older working-class traditions and behaviour came to the fore in the carnival arena of the brass band contests.

For the editors of brass band periodicals the contest was the key area for promoting the brass band movement to middle-class observers. Moreover, it was the financial benefits that came from the sponsorship of people with significant disposable incomes that was important. Therefore, inevitably, the alcohol induced social side of the contest was viewed as a negative activity, they wrote:

This being a subject of importance to the whole “live” brass band fraternity, there is no need to apologise for laying a growl before the numerous readers of the “Cornet.” There is urgent need for improvement in the manner most contests are carried out […]. It is a fact that brass bands are placed at a low estimate by a majority of people occupying the best social positions, whose influence would be enough to guarantee the success of any band, and would undoubtedly be glad to subscribe to the funds. They are deterred, however, by the line of conduct adopted by many bandsmen in public, and especially on the contest field. It is no uncommon occurrence at band contests to find, after the decision, men who have drunk well, if not wisely, making all kind of insinuations against committees and adjudicators, and using language of the vilest description, because their favourite band has not been placed in the prize list. None will deny this, yet there are some that say, “Take no heed; they have had too much John Barleycorn, and are to be excused. No one not accept their opinions.” Perhaps not, but this kind of thing drives away many people, and also tends to keep them; and their friends away from the next contest; besides, they are likely to withdraw their influence and support from the village or town band. As the means of improvement it is in the hands of the bandsmen themselves, it is to be hoped the season of 1900 will show that much of this tendency to lower the standard of brass bands has disappeared.[1]

Yet, on the same page, the band commentator ‘Shoddythorpe’ celebrated the many toasts and congenial company of the Batley Old Band’s Annual Supper, writing, ‘of all the happy evenings in my life this was the best. Batley Band can play, and they also know how to hold an annual supper’.[2] This dual reporting is both the strength and the irony of the band periodicals. The editorials clearly condemned what they perceived as low behavior: yet, these social traits became celebrated in humorous and anecdotal sketches that reinforced the notion that bandsmen were working-class people who enjoyed drink as a social lubricant and on occasion to excess. Yet, making the writing humorous also meant that such behaviour was without threat. In the same month the Cornet featured the tale of ‘Mungoe’s’ Christmas Adventures’, in which Mungoe was visited by his friend, ‘Billy Blowtop’, who:

‘ewst to play t’cornopean in t’band in t’owd days, when Aah used to play t’buzzoon […]. We gav him a warm welcome, en after we’d hed a gooid meeal en tooisted wer knees[…] en tawked abaat awd times oover a glass ov toddy, we tewk a walk into t’taan. We called at two or three hasses, en Billy met a few owd friends, that he hedn’t seen for many a year. Ov course we’d to hev a glass with ‘em all, en ther wor soa much to talk abaat wol it wor turnin aght time afore we fairly knew wheer we wor.[3]

Two months later, the editorial voice of the Cornet was in a moralising tone again. The editorial condemned bandsmen when they drank, argued and made a great deal of comment over contest results, the rationale being that it would deter the people from subscribing to band funds. More importantly, such drunken behaviour would negate the positive work that the movement had achieved in bringing working-class musical performance to the fore. They wrote:

Bandsmen should learn to control their feelings, a great deal more than they are accustomed to do. There is not a bandsman I know (and I know a good many), who would like to be called “low” or “vulgar” and yet, to exhibit, so openly the uppermost feelings in one’s mind, is nothing short of the essence of vulgarity. The natural consequence of these exhibitions of feelings, is that the gentry and upper class people will have nothing to do with contests – not because they object to where bandsmen are -but because they are never safe to being a witness to one of these questionable scenes, which almost invariably take place at contests. No, if bandsmen only knew, it does not pay; and they are performing the peculiar feat of raising themselves with one hand, and knocking themselves down with the other.[4]


The brass band contest was an extension of older labouring-class traditions: as such the competition reflected communal holiday revelry. The middle-class dislike of bad behaviour at contests, and the suggestion of revulsion at this behaviour, indicated a clash of cultures. Hence, the band contest became an arena for working-class display.  It was this traditional revelry that the editors of the brass band periodicals were fighting against. When the bands played in public it was a festive event, and, as such, bandsmen could not avoid mixing with the wider working class, who some commentators saw as rough and detrimental to the band movement. In Wright and Round’s Amateur Band Teacher’s Guide and Bandsman’s Adviser, for example, the editor featured a letter from F. C. B., who wrote:

I have much to say in favour of our amateur bandsmen as musicians, and hope I may live to laud them as gentlemen. And why should they not be gentlemen? Of what value is the “divine art” to them if it does not refine their tastes, and subdue evil passions, and enkindle good passions? Next to hearing a band play well, I like to see a band behave well, and not indulge in rough horse-play and vulgar talk at every opportunity. Again nothing can be more fatal to a band’s interest than for the members to make to familiar with the clowns that always crowd around them when fulfilling and engagement.[5]

Often held in wakes weeks, contests drew upon traditions that were common in northern manufacturing districts. Particularly tenacious in Lancashire the wakes week was the culmination of a full calendar of traditional celebrations. The wakes was originally a religious festival, held on the saint’s day of the local church, which centred on the rush bearing festival.[6] This festival was part of the cycle of historical time. Individual and collective memory became essential in marking historical meaning and continuity.[7] The appreciation of brass band music, and its importance to local memory, depended upon a complex process of memory, recalling past events and experiences. Audiences did not enter an event that featured a brass band with an open mind but brought with them extensive musical and social experience. Much of the meaning of the event relied upon what happened in the past, the brass band taking on elements of older rituals.

The contests were days of carnival and holiday, mill owners often giving the towns the whole day off.[8] On the 16 August 1868, for example, the Bacup competition, in east Lancashire’s Rossendale Valley, saw sixteen boys, doffers from Shepard’s Mill, who were keen to outshine their rivals from Smith and Sons take part in the competition. As Chris Aspin has shown, they were ‘dressed in fantastic colours, drawing a rush cart adorned with musical instruments and kitchen utensils.’[9] Boys pulled the rival cart ‘wearing white stockings with knickerbocker trousers, secured at the knee by coloured ribbons, and they wore crowns of coloured paper.’[10] In this way Wakes walks were a visible continuation of rural festivals such as rush bearing. The cycle of brass band contests acted as arenas that embraced a history of events that celebrated the lives of working people.[11] The fair, the festival and the holiday became one under the auspices of the contest.

On 5 April, 1867, for example, Accrington hosted a contest that reinforced the carnival atmosphere, the contest becoming central to the day’s events:

Yesterday the whole of the mills were stopped, and a general holiday observed by the work people, who being gaily dressed […] gave an enlivening appearance for the town. The streets were crowded not only from this, but also from distant towns, the facilities offered by the railway companies, being an inducement for many to enjoy the musical treat. The array of stalls laden with confections, and the roundabouts showed that the pleasures of young England were attended to[…]. Abbey Street presented a very attractive and business like appearance, one side of the street being lined with stalls, the articles on which found ready purchasers in persons that thronged the street.[12]

In 1868, the  day became even more carnivalesque.

This year’s exhibition had brought into the town visitors so numerous as to surpass the most sanguine anticipations, tradesmen made great preparations. The lovers of the marvellous too had ample opportunities of gratifying their tastes, for in Church Street, there were exhibitions of the most curious and rare freaks, that nature ever produced. At the top of Union Street, there was a boxing booth, featuring the thorough bulldog type of facial beauty […]. Photographic galleries were present and were no mean attraction for the fair […]. Blackburn Road was crowded with people from nine o’clock in the morning until noon, witnessing the arrival of the various bands, intending to take part in the days contest […]. There were over twenty-thousand people on the contest field, and £478 was taken at the entrance.[13]

From the earliest contests, police were in attendance to control dissent and possible violence towards judges.[14] Adjudicators were well aware that they were under scrutiny by not only the bands but also the supporters in the audience, they were also well aware that the crowd could turn argumentative and even hostile when hearing an unpopular verdict. In 1896, the Magazine of Music found that the contest judge was as sanguine, sober and sophisticated as they imagined, in this ‘chat with a judge’ the Magazine of Music revealed the authority of adjudicators, but also, they also found that the audience could have the potential to argue. The reporter began with the judge’s clear authority:

He sat in his tent, with a table well filled with papers and a closely marked score before him, while outside, preparations were busily going forward for the great contest….He was just the man I had pictured – tall, stalwart, with a clever-looking stern face; a man capable of weighing to a nicety the merits and capabilities of the various competitors, and whose decision no one would think it wise to question […]. I enquired as to the success of brass bands in other parts of the country, and was informed they were invariably popular. “English people love a brass band,” explained the judge…they are not always reliable critics, though, and it is no very uncommon experience for a judge in a competition like this to be told pretty plainly that his verdict is not the popular verdict.[15]


Disagreements over adjudicators’ comments were common.[16] Sometimes they spilled over into threats of violence. A brass band contest, for example, was held on Keighley Cricket and Football Club’s field, on the 30 May 1886. Around 10,000 people attended. The judge was Mr. E. Holland, bandmaster of the 1st Northampton Regiment. He gave first prize to Leeds Forge Band, second prize to Irwell Bank, third prize to Wyke Old, fourth prize to Wyke Temperance and fifth prize to Kingston Mills. He stated that there was only five marks difference between the first three prizes. Black Dyke Mills and Honley did not receive a prize: [17]

The judge’s decision gave a good deal of dissatisfaction, and a most unseemly disturbance followed. Dike Band behaved in an unruly and even threatening manner. One man suggested that they should play the “Dead March”, and this was no sooner said than several of the players struck up a dirge in front of the judge’s tent. It was found necessary for three police constables to escort the judge to a cab in waiting, and then police-constable Newhill proceeded with him to the railway station. When the cab drove off there was mingled hooting and cheering, and one enthusiast threw a stone after the departing vehicle, but no damage was done. Arrived at the station, Mr. Holland had to wait several minutes for a train to Preston[…] and in the meantime some of the members of Black Dike and Honley bands had come on to the platform and these began to taunt and hoot again. Mr. Holland was afraid that bodily harm would be done to him […] he was accompanied by a police constable as far as Skipton.[18]

The brass band contest day was a period of time when the working class attempted to challenge decisions made by people in authority, even though they had no impact on judges’ decisions. As central features of the local holiday day the bands represented a temporary suspension of deference to authority; nevertheless, this was only brief, as figures of authority quickly re-established order.  The editors of the band periodicals may well have been constant in their pleas for gentlemanly conduct, but when brass bands gathered together the joint force of the bandsmen and their supporters gave dissent a currency – however briefly – that was associated with groups of working-class people.  We can see in the audience the notion of moral economy, whereby, as E. P. Thomson argued, that in the eighteenth century:

The men and women in the crowd were informed by the belief that they were defending traditional rights and customs; and, in general, they were supported by the wider consensus of the community. On occasion this popular consensus was endorsed by some measure of license afforded by the authorities. More commonly the consensus was so strong that it overrode motives of fear or deference.[19]

These events meant working people, through their support of the bands, had cultural autonomy. The bands’ supporters, and the bandsmens’, displeasure at these results legitimized the culture of brass bands within the landscape of working-class leisure. Brass band contests were not the food riots of the eighteenth century that Thompson wrote about, nevertheless, grievances brought about by the actions of the crowd on the contest field highlighted what was expected of a judge within the social norms of the contest. The contest being the event of the day, any outrage against the moral assumptions of the crowd, which band should win, for example, was the occasion for direct action, from silence at the announcement of a result, to threats of violence.[20] Brass bands were central to festive events that had their roots in rural traditions; these traditions were part of the collective memory of the community. With the maturing of industrialisation, bands became a central point in continuing and celebrating these events.


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 The author of this thesis (including any appendices and/or schedules to this thesis) owns any copyright in it (the “Copyright”) and s/he has given The University of Huddersfield the right to use such Copyright for any administrative, promotional, educational and/or teaching purposes.

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[1] Cornet (15 February, 1900), p. 4.

[2] Cornet (15 February, 1900), p.4.

[3] Cornet (15 February, 1900), p.3.

[4] Cornet (19 April 1900), p. 6.

[5] F. C. B., ‘Appearance and Behaviour of Bandsmen’, Brass Band News (N.D.), cited in, Wright and Round’s Amateur Band Teacher’s Guide and Bandsman’s Adviser (Liverpool, 1889), p. 75.

[6] Robert Poole, ‘Lancashire Wakes Week’, History Today, 34/8 (August 1984), pp. 22-23.

[7] Peter Borsay, A History of Leisure, The British Experience Since 1500 (Basingstoke, 2006), p. 208.

[8] Chris Aspin, The First Industrial Society, Lancashire, 1750-1850 (Preston, 1995), p. 229.

[9] Aspin, The First Industrial Society, p. 229.

[10] Aspin, The First Industrial Society, p. 229.

[11] Borsay, A History of Leisure, p. 202.

[12] Accrington Times (6 April, 1867).

[13] Accrington Times (11 April, 1868).

[14] John Hollingshead, attributed to Charles Dickens, Musical Prize Fight, p. 68.

[15] ‘Brass Band Contests: A Chat With A Judge’, Magazine of Music (October, 1896), p. 646.

[16] Rossendale Free Press (1 May, 1886).

[17] Manchester Times (5 June, 1886).

[18] Manchester Times (5 June, 1886).

[19] E .P Thompson, ‘The Moral Economy of the Crowd in the Eighteenth Century’, Past and Present, Number 50 (February, 1971), p. 78.

[20] Thompson, ‘The Moral Economy of the Crowd’, p. 79.

Marching, tradition and fancy dress: The Whit Friday Brass Band Contests, 2017

I recently wrote a piece for the ezine Northern Soul about the 2017 Whit Friday Contest. Here it is:


It was a grand day out.

A Working-Class Trombone Player’s Moral Dilemma: Faith, or Socializing with Bands?

Clogshop Chronicles is a volume of Lancashire tales that was first published in 1896, by John Ackworth.  This was a pseudonym for the Methodist Preacher, Frederick Robert Smith. Smith was born at Snaith in Yorkshire on April 18th 1854. His family had a long tradition of Methodist preaching.  He was accepted for the Methodist ministry in 1876, and studied for two years at the Headingley Theological Institute, after which he was appointed to his first post at Castletown in the Isle of Man.  Subsequently he travelled in some of the most important circuits in Methodism. Smith gained fame with his first book Clogshop Chronicles in 1896.  From then until 1907 he wrote an almost annual sequence of short stories and novels; also a volume of sermons in 1909. (1)

 The tale of the Knocker-Upper in Clogshop Chronicles expresses the dilemma between the more rowdy elements of brass band contests, that could be found at the Belle Vue Contests in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the trombonist Jethro’s Methodism. He is torn between his love of playing the trombone in secular brass bands and his faith.  As Jethro says himself, “Wot con Aw expect?  Didn’t Aw let th’ trombone tak’ me into a public-haase Mysel’?  Aw never thowt it ‘ud come whoam to me like this, but it hez! it hez!  My sin hez fun’ me aat!”

The Knocker-Upper, Clogshop Chronicles (1896)

THAT all-important event the “Sarmons” was approaching.  The formal rehearsals for it took place in the chapel during the fortnight immediately preceding the great Sunday, but the real hard work of the band was done at the Clog Shop, and woe to the misguided customer who came to do business after the music had commenced.

It was the first practice of the season, and one by one the members of the band entered the shop, most of their faces wearing a caught-in-the-act sort of look, for their instruments had been taken down from their hanging-places on house ceilings to a feminine accompaniment of railing against all bands in general and the Beckside one in particular.

Each player as he arrived and began to tune his instrument, inquired―

“Hasn’t Jethro come yet?” and the later comers exchanged their query into―

“Wheer’s Jethro?”

Jethro, though not the leader of the band, was its moving spirit, and far away the best musician in Beckside.  He was usually the first to arrive; but now, although Nathan, the smith, for whom they always had to wait, had come, there were no signs of Jethro.

At last Sam Speck offered to “goa an’ fotch him,” and whilst he is away on his errand I will tell you about the missing bandsman:―

He was a spare little man of about sixty years of age, and lived in a one-storey cottage, two steps below the level of the road, on the left-hand side as you went down towards the Beck.

He was the village knocker-up, and went his daily rounds with unfailing regularity every morning, except Sunday, between the hours of four and six.  Over his shoulder he carried a long, light pole, with wire prongs at the end, with which he used to rattle at the bedroom windows of the sleepy factory hands until he received some signal from within that he had been heard.

Though employed and paid by the “hands,” Jethro regarded himself as representing the masters’ interests, and if a post was unoccupied or a loom “untented” when the engine started at six o’clock, Jethro felt that it was a reflection on his professional ability, and was ashamed and hurt.

This doubtless accounted for the extraordinary zeal which the old man put into his work.  The knocker-up was expected to go and knock a second time a few minutes before six to stir up any drowsy one who might, peradventure, have fallen asleep again, and into this second round, which was to many the real signal for rising, Jethro put all his resources.  Not only the windows but the doors were assailed, and in addition he would give a word of exhortation in his thin piping voice―

“Bob!  Dust ye’r?  It’s five minutes to six!  Ger up, tha lazy haand (hound).  If tha dusn’t ger up Aw’ll come an poo’ thi aat o’ bed.”

At the next call he would drop into a coaxing tone-

“Lizer!  Jinny!  Come, wenches!  You’ll ne’er ha’ breet een (eyes) if yo’ lie i’ bed like that.”

After his rounds were finished, he would go down to the mill to report “quarterings” and sick cases, and to spend an hour with the fireman.

Jethro was a light-hearted, merry old fellow, who quoted Wesley’s hymns by the yard on all possible occasions, and sang snatches of them in the still mornings as he went his rounds.

The knocker-up began his musical career as a fiddler, but on visiting Manchester on one occasion, and attending a great concert there, he came back bringing a trombone, and though there was considerable murmuring at the incongruity of introducing a brass instrument into a string and reed band, Jethro was so indispensable that nobody openly rebelled.

This trombone was Jethro’s chief earthly pride and glory, and the source of untold pleasure to him.  He was, in fact, often troubled with the fear that the very strength of his affection for the instrument was a sign of its unhallowed nature, and many of his spiritual conflicts were fought about this unfortunate trumpet. In all pulpit utterances, “stumbling-blocks,” “besetting sins,” “spiritual idolatries,” “false gods,” and the like spelt “trombone” to Jethro, and all appeals for self-sacrifice brought up painful visions of a possible parting with that cherished instrument.

Once, indeed, it spent a Sunday night in the back garden, where its owner had thrown it in a fit of self-disgust at having played it in a public-house, where he had substituted for the sick trombonist of the Clough End brass band.

But the conscience-smitten knocker-up could not sleep whilst his beloved instrument lay among the cabbages, and he finally sneaked out about three in the morning, brought in his pet, went to bed again, and slept the sleep of guilty peace.

Now Jethro had an only son, grown up and married, who from the standpoint of the chapel was a very unsatisfactory character.  Every Becksider, as I said before, believed in retribution, and the father was haunted with the suspicion that his son’s prodigalities were judgments upon himself for his idolatrous love of his trombone.

By this time Sam Speck has returned from his search for the missing musician.

“Aw say, chaps,” he cried, “there’s summat up wi’ th’ owd lad; ” and as the fiddle-bows stopped their scraping, he continued―

“He’s sittin’ afoor th’ feire yond’, and staring into’t like sumbry gloppened, an’ Aw couldna get a word aat on him.”

The musicians looked at each other in astonishment.

“Wor he in a fit, dust think?” asked Jonas.

“Aw conna tell thi, but theer’s summat wrung wi’ th’ owd lad.”

Jabe and Long Ben posted off instantly to Jethro’s cottage.  Opening the door—for knocking was a sign of stiffness—they found him seated on a chair before an expired fire, with his feet on the fender and his body bent forward, so that he propped his chin with his arms, which, in their turn, were propped on his knees.  He never moved when the visitors entered.

“Wot’s up wi’ thi, Jethro?” asked Jabe, approaching him with some hesitation.  But the knocker-up neither moved nor spoke.

Long Ben took a careful look round the room, and finding nothing suggestive, he leaned against the mantelpiece so as to get a side light on Jethro’s face, and then he said soothingly―

“Come! come! owd lad, wot’s up?”

Jethro heaved a great sigh, and looked wildly round, whilst Jabe, getting behind the old man’s chair, motioned to Ben not to speak.

“It’s a judgment on me,” cried Jethro at last.  “It’s a judgment on me.”

Ben was about to interrupt him, but Jabe scowlingly motioned him to desist.

“It’s my own doin’.  ‘Be sure your sin ‘ull find yo’ aat!’  An’ it hez done!  It hez done!”

Another pause; during which Jabe was going through every kind of pantomimic gesture he could think of to prevent Ben from speaking.

“Aw carried him to th’ chapel when he wor three wik owd.  He’s been ta’n (taken) theer for twenty ye’r.  When he’d th’ fayver Aw fowt wi’ th’ Lord two neets an’ a day, an’ naa”—and the old man buried his head in his hands and moaned piteously.

Jabe and Ben drew chairs up, and sitting down one on each side of him, Long Ben asked gently―

“Come, owd lad, wot’s it aw abaat?”

Jethro lifted his head out of his hands, and asked, in a voice of tremulous surprise―

“Why, durn’t yo’ knaw?” and Jabe and his companion answered simultaneously, “Neaw!”

“Durn’t yo’?  Why, aar Jethro ta’n th’ alehaase.  O Absalom! my son! my son Absalom!” and the heart-broken old man rose and stamped on the sanded floor in a passion of grief and shame.

The only public-house in Beckside stood on the left, a little below Jethro’s house and close to the Beck-bridge.  The innkeeper had died recently, and Jethro junior, unknown to his father, had got the licence temporarily transferred to himself.  This young man could not have taken a more cruel young means of inflicting pain on his old Methodist father than the one he had adopted, and whilst Jabe and Ben looked at each other with dull sad astonishment, Jethro walked about the house crying―

“Wot con Aw expect?  Didn’t Aw let th’ trombone tak’ me into a public-haase Mysel’?  Aw never thowt it ‘ud come whoam to me like this, but it hez! it hez!  My sin hez fun’ me aat!”

Nothing that could be said or done seemed to pacify the old man, and his visitors felt that to mention the suspended “practice” would be to inflict pain.

For many a day after this Jethro went about disconsolate.  His voice was scarcely ever heard in the silent road on a morning, and when it was it sounded like a sad wail.  In spite of all that could be said, he was firmly convinced that his son’s conduct was a sort of consequence of his own overweening devotion to the trombone, though he was never able quite to demonstrate the connection between the two.  No amount of persuasion would induce him to play the trombone again, and he dared not go near the Clog Shop for fear of falling into temptation.

In a few days young Jethro moved into the Bridge Inn, and the knocker-up spent the whole of the removal day walking about in the road in front of the alehouse, but neither coaxing, nor flattery, nor reasoning, could induce him to step across the threshold.

But when the door closed at night for the first time on the new tenants, a haggard old man might have been seen kneeling on the steps and pouring out his soul in intense and tearful supplication.

Young Jethro’s wife was a bonnie brown-faced lassie, who had been a great favourite with her father-in-law, and she had done everything that woman’s wheedling could do to coax him into the house, but he vowed again and again that he would never cross the threshold.

Great, therefore, was Polly’s astonishment one morning, when old Jethro entered the inn, but walked straight through into the kitchen.

“Hay, fayther, bless yo’!  Aw am fain to see yo’,” she cried, rising from her chair awkwardly; “come an’ sit yo’ daan.”

But the old man did not move.  He stood there in the middle of the room looking at his daughter-in-law with sad solemn eyes.

“Doan’t stop’ theer, fayther; sit yo’ daan an’ Aw’ll make yo’ some tay.”

“But Jethro took a short step backwards, and raising his hand, and looking for the moment not unlike an old Hebrew prophet, he said―

“Polly, if onybody ‘ad towd me as my fast gronchilt ‘ud be born in a alehaase, Aw’d a letten aar Jethro dee when he had th’ fayver; he’d a bin safe then;” and then breaking down into a wail, and crying: “But it’s a judgment on me,” the old man hastened away.

Now the young landlord had not been much disturbed by his father’s protests, for he had not noticed that the circumstance had taken the hold upon him which it had.

But two or three weeks innkeeping had opened his eyes, and so the account his wife gave of Jethro’s visit made a deep impression on him.

Meanwhile the old man’s melancholy seemed to deepen.  All the efforts of his cronies to cheer him were vain, and as he evidently dared not go near the Clog Shop, the practices were seriously interfered with, not only by the absence of the leading spirit, but also by that of those who went to keep their old friend company.

One cold, dull morning—for the spring was late—old Jethro was seen hurrying up the road past the Clog Shop as fast as he could go, with a sack on his back.  The sack might not have attracted any attention, but the suspicious haste with which it was being carried excited great curiosity at the cloggery, and Sam Speck followed very carefully to see what ” th’ owd chap wor up to.”

After passing the chapel, Jethro slackened speed, and having turned the crest of the hill, he sat down on a heap of stones, whilst Sam was crouching behind the hedge and watching him.

The poor fellow looked very miserable, and after sitting for a minute or two he got up, looked stealthily around, then opened the sack, took out of it a long, green baize bag, containing the trombone, and, after concealing the sack in the hedge bottom, started off to Duxbury to sell his idol.

It was a seven-mile walk, and such an instrument was not easy to dispose of, and had to be carried about from place to place before a purchaser could be found.  So terrible was the mental conflict going on within the old man that he forgot to take food, and started the long walk home in a fagged condition.

It was a weary tramp, accompanied by more than one Lot’s-wife-like look behind him.  The wind, strong and heavy, was all against him, the brooding grief of the last few weeks had drained his vitality; he began to feel very fatigued, then giddy; and finally, just as he drew near the place where he had concealed the sack, he staggered to the roadside in a dead swoon.

Luckily, however, Lige, the road-mender, was returning home from his work behind Jethro, and seeing him fall he hurried up, and in a short time the knocker-up was safe in his own bed.  The doctor said it was a slight stroke, and Jethro must have been worrying about something, but as he had an excellent constitution no serious consequences need be apprehended.

Jethro’s walk to Duxbury took place on a Friday, and on the following day young Jethro sat brooding over late events behind his little bar, and it was evident he was very ill at ease.

On the Sunday he went twice to chapel, and after the evening service Jabe gave him that significant jerk of the head Clog Shop-wards which was the recognised form of invitation to its councils.

The ordinary members of the Club treated him with marked coldness, but he sat the session out, and when the others rose to go, Jabe beckoned him back into his seat, and he sat down, knowing full well what was coming.

Long Ben also remained, and when they had gazed into the fire and puffed rather vigorously at their pipes for a little time, Jabe suddenly turned to the young landlord and said―

“Well, wot dust think to thysel’?”

“Wot abaat?”

“Wot abaat!  Abaat aw t’ trouble tha’s geen yond’ owd chap o’ yours.”

“Haa did Aw knaw he’d tak’ it so ill?”

“Neaw ” (very sarcastically); “tha thowt ‘as th’ best owd saint i’ Beckside ‘ud feel a-whoam (at home) among pigeon-flyers an’ cards an’ ale-pot bottoms, didn’t tha?”

The culprit was getting red, and so Long Ben put his hand gently on his shoulder, and said―

“Wot ‘ud thy mother think if hoo saw thi, lad?”

Jethro winced, and Ben proceeded―

“We ne’er thowt as that Bible we gav’ thi at th’ schoo’ ‘ud find its road into a alehaase.”

There was silence; the young man was deeply moved, and began to bite his lips, whilst a heavy sigh broke from him.  In a moment or two Jabe said, very gently for him―

“Kneel thi daan, lad.”

And down the three went, and there they prayed and prayed until the small hours of the morning, when young Jethro “found liberty,” and went home with a new joy in his heart and a new power in his life.  Next week he gave up the inn.

Some ten days after this the old knocker-up sat on a “long settle” which had been pulled up near the fire, though it was late in May.

Aunt Judy, who had installed herself head-nurse, had just been telling him about his son’s conversion, for it had not been deemed prudent to inform him sooner.  The old man’s face was a picture.  Delight, gratitude, and wonder seemed blended in it.

Then Judy excused herself for a moment and went out.  She was soon back, however, carrying a mysterious bundle of clothes.  This she “flopped” suddenly on Jethro’s knee, and, pulling back the outer shawl, disclosed a fine three-days’-old baby.

“Theer!” she cried, “isn’t that a whopper?  It’s th’ pictur of its grondad!  An’ it’s no’ been born in a alehaase, nother.”

What the knocker-up thought as he sat and looked at the wee one will never be known, but as he held his knees together lest the treasure they supported should be disturbed, Judy was startled to hear him burst out in his high piping voice and to a popular local tune―
“God moves in a mysterious way,” etc.
After this the old man “came on” quite rapidly, and as the “Sarmons” were still three weeks off, he began to talk quite eagerly of being present at them “efther aw.”

One evening some of his Clog Shop cronies paid him a visit.  Jethro thought he noticed three of them as the door opened, but when he had made room for them on the long settle he perceived that there were only two—Jabe and Long Ben.

Jethro at once began to inquire eagerly about the practices, and his face became quite clouded as Jabe mentioned with most persistent frequency that they were “ill off for th’ trombone.”

The more the visitors talked the more uncomfortable Jethro got, and every now and again he glanced uneasily up at the empty hooks whereon his instrument used to hang.  Then Jabe, glancing round the house as if making a most unimportant remark, said―

“We’re thinkin of axin’ Traycle Tim to tak’ th’ trombone parts.”

Now this was positively cruel, for Traycle Tim of the Clough End brass band was Jethro’s great rival, and after gasping in a helpless sort of way, and glancing once more at the empty hooks above him, he said with a sigh―

“Ay, well!  But Aw dunno want a trombone on the top o’ me to keep me daan when Gabriel comes to knock us aw up.”

“Gabriel?” cried Jabe; “why, he’s a trumpet hissel’!  Ay, an’ he’ll blow it too o’ th’ resurrection mornin’!”

This was a new idea to Jethro, and it evidently told; but, shaking his head, he replied, though not quite so decidedly as before―

“Ay!  But a trombone isn’t a trumpet, tha knaws.”

“Yi, but it is.  Th’ new schoo’-missis says ‘at trombone’s ony a soart of a frenchified name for a big trumpet.”

The new schoolmistress was a great favourite of Jethro’s, and so, as Jabe expected, the second shot told even more heavily than the first.

Presently he said, “Th’ trombone’s a varry worldly instrument, tha knaws, Jabe.”

“Nowt o’ th’ soart!  They blowed trumpets at aw’ th’ anniversaries i’ th’ wilderness, an’ i’ th’ Temple, an’ th’ owd prophet says ‘at when th’ millenium comes they’ll blow the great trumpet, an’ that means th’ trombone―naa, doesn’t it, Ben?”

“Sartinly!” said Ben, with tremendous emphasis.

Jethro sat a long time in silence; at last he said―

“Aw’ve happen made a mistak’ efther aw.”

“Of course tha hez,” chimed in both his visitors.

“But yo see Aw’m feared o’ lovin’ th’ trombone moar nor Aw love God, and God Gonna abide that.”

“Ger aat, Jethro,” interrupted Jabe; “Aw’m shawmed for thi.  Did thaa iver tak’ owt fra your Jethro for fear he’d like it better nor he liked thee?”

“Neaw,” very slowly and ponderingly.

“Well then, dust think as God’s woss nor us?”

“Aw never seed it like that afore,” said Jethro, and glanced up again at the hooks, and then he went on―

“Aw wish Aw hed mi owd trumpet here!”

At that moment a most mysterious noise came from behind the long settle.  It was intended to have been a royal blast, but Sam Speck’s unaccustomed effort only evoked a gurgling, struggling sound.

It was enough, however.  Old Jethro seized the instrument, and after holding it out to make sure it was really his own, he put it to his lips and sent forth a blast that brought the hands of his comrades to their ears.

It was really the old trombone.  Nearly two days had Sam spent seeking it in Duxbury; and on the anniversary day, Jethro, with visions of tabernacle and temple in his mind, and the figure of the great Archangel in the background, blew away every lingering doubt and fear, and blew himself into contentment and hope and health again.


  1. http://gerald-massey.org.uk/ackworth/b_biography.htm

A New Brass Band Publication: Music-Making and the Invention of Northernness

A Northern Stereotype?


The brass band movement is a national movement. Yet, in the popular imagination, brass bands are considered working class and northern. My latest article published in the journal Northern History examines the roots of this cliché. The link to the full article can be found here:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0078172X.2016.1254379

The abstract and opening paragraph of the article are shown below.


In spite of being a national form of music-making, the brass band movement is accepted — almost without question in the popular imagination — as working class and northern. Hence, in 1974, Peter Hennessy described a band contest at the Albert Hall: ‘A roll call of the bands is like an evocation of industrial history. From Wingates Temperance and Black Dyke Mills to more modern conglomerates …. Grown men, old bandsmen say, have been known to cry at the beauty of it all …. Of all the manifestations of working-class culture, nothing is more certain than a brass band to bring on an attack of the George Orwells. Even the most hardened bourgeois cannot resist romanticising the proletariat a little when faced with one. (The Times, 11 Oct. 1974) This stereotype, which emerged in the nineteenth century, generated the following questions about northern identity: what elements in the brass band movement created this reportage of northern bandsmen and how did bands, which thrived in large numbers in the Southern Pennines, emerge as a musical and cultural metonym of the industrial landscape? This article explores notions of music-making and the creation of a musical space, place and region through the reporting of brass bands c. 1840–1914.

Opening Paragraph (Copyright University of Leeds)


In spite of being a national movement brass bands have become a clichéd representation of northern working-class identity.[i] Writing in the Daily Herald in 1963, Dennis Potter wrote a review of a play by Ron Watson called Man of Brass. The play starred Jimmy Edwards, who played Ernie Briggs, a B-flat bass player, who preferred playing in brass bands to staying at home with his wife. Potter captured the tone of the play by writing, ‘this “northern saga” grimly celebrating slate-grey rain and polished euphoniums was firmly in the eh-bah-goom heritage of North Country humour.’[ii] As Dave Russell maintains, this image of the northern working-class brass band ‘has become so taken for granted in the national comic grammar that it is easy to smile (or wince) and move on.’[iii] The aim this article is not to move on but to pause and ask questions about these assumptions. When and how did Southern Pennine Brass Bands become a metonym for the industrial north? What elements combined to create this clichéd identity? Through an examination of the brass band movement’s journals and external commentary I will show that the origin of the brass bands’ cliché of ‘northernness’ was a construction that grew from the reporting of bands c. 1840-1914. In spite of the national nature of brass bands commentators singled out the Southern Pennine bands as a symbol of not only northern music-making, but also a representation of northern industry and production over, and in contrast to, what reporters saw, however fancifully, as the unmusical and unproductive south.


Notes and References:

[i] The British Bandsman’s Easter Contest listing from 1903 is indicative of the high amount of national brass band activity. Contests were held, for example, at: Mountain Ash, Carlisle, Abergavenny, Compstall, Stourbridge, Senghenyyd, Barnet, Wigan, Rugby, Lewisham, Colne, South Hetton, Elsecar, Ilkley, Lindley, Pwlleheli and Rotherham. Source: British Bandsman, 18 Apr. 1903, pp. 124-127.

[ii] Quoted in the British Bandsman, 7 Dec. 1963, cited in, D. Russell, Looking North: Northern England and the National Imagination (Manchester, 2004), p. 2.

[iii] Ibid., p. 2.

Cloud 14

A Brass Band Contest at Manchester Dr Stephen Etheridge The following page comes from The School Music Review: A Monthly Periodical Devoted to the Interest of Music in Schools, 1 October 1916. Like other London-based music journals the reporting is indicative of a style of writing that was anthropological in nature. In other words the brass […]

via A Brass Band Contest at Manchester — Making Music in Manchester during WW1