‘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
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 book 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 Thesis, 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. The fact that this author wrote a guide on ‘how to’ ask for money from both employers and subscribers suggests that bands were using the rational recreation ethos to their own ends.

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

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

[15] Ibid, p.5.

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


brass
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

‘Mungoe’s Christmas Adventures’: A Brassy Victorian Christmas Tale


“Mungoe’s Christmas Adventures”

From the Cornet, 15 January, 1900, p. 3.brass

This time a vaary owd friend ov mine, Billy Blowtop, came to spend a few days with us. Billy ewst to play t’ cornopean in t’ band in t’owd days,when ahh yewst to play t’ buzzoon.  He turned up this time reight enuff at Kersmas Eve. We gav him a warm welcome, en after we’d hed a good meeal en toosted wer knees in t’front ov t’fire en tawked aboot t’owd times oover a glass ov toddy, we tewk a walk into t’taan. We called attwo or three haases, en Billy met a few own friends that he hedn’t seen for many a year. Ov course we’d to hev a glass with ’em all, en there wor soa much to talk abaat wol it wor turnin’ aght time afore we fairly knew where we wor….

We wor up in good time in t’morning, en when t’band came to play at Aah’r haase we wor sittin comfortable in front of a good fire; we were feet on t’fender, wer glasses ov toddy at t’side on us, an we woor smookin real Have Hannahs. They played us a few nice tewnes, en Billy seemed sewted wol his een fair dazzen led….

After t’ dinner we made it up to hev a walk en hear some of t’other bands in t’district, soa we made wer way to Burstal, where we fan em in good form, en knockin on en makin brass fast. We had a liquor up with em en then wemade wer way to Drighlington, en we walked abaat a good bit, but could hear nowt of t’band, soa we called at a pub to mak enquiries….(More drinking with bandsmen.)

After another haar or two of fun t’ landlord came in and said he’d a conveyance at t’door ready for us. There was a flat spring cart covered wi straw en plenty ov rugs to lap us with, so we gat on an laid daan en covered us en we must have fallen asleep…. [When  got home] Just then t’door opened, en t’wife came en said, “Helloa, what  hav we here?” but t’driver jumped on his cart, an hes he wor drivin off he shaated, “You’ll find ’em all theer, missis, sooart ’em aght for yorsen.”

Merry Christmas to my followers, friends and colleagues.

Stephen

x

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