In this post I want to outline the importance of using local archive material in the study of history and musicology. Local archive libraries were valuable resources when I researched my PhD, ‘Slate-Grey Rain and Polished Euphoniums’: Southern Pennine Brass Bands the Working Class and the North, c. 1840-1914 (University of Huddersfield, PhD Thesis, 2015).
I have outlined a little theoretical background as to why local archives are significant and then I have listed an indicative bibliography of primary source material that helped illustrate the themes my thesis covered, class, culture, gender and region. I also consulted local newspapers and band periodicals, which is somewhat axiomatic, but they were also significant sources of reporting and comment. My key point, however, is that local studies libraries contain gems of archive material that are often undiscovered. My research was done in the Southern Pennines, which has proved a fruitful area for many historians.
Local Archives and Influential Historians
Influential historians have turned to the Southern Pennines to examine working-class lives in the ‘classic’ period of class formation. In 1968, Eric Hobsbawm argued, when writing about Manchester, that ‘whoever says industrial revolution says cotton.’ E. P. Thompson’s classic, The Making of the Working Class (London, 1969) was coloured by archival work from the West Riding of Yorkshire. Patrick Joyce was emphatic that ‘the manufacturing districts of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire were the cradle of factory production, and it [was] to them that posterity […] looked in seeking to discern the nature of the class structure to which the new system of manufacture gave rise.’ Therefore, it is valid to view the density of brass bands in the area as a way of defining aspects of working-class leisure and cultural activity that depended on, interacted with and influenced other activities within the industrial settlements of the Southern Pennines.
Brass Bands as an Agency for Social History
My research used brass bands because of the vast amount of social networks they were involved in. In 1892, the music journal, Magazine of Music featured an article that placed an emphasis on the importance of northern brass bands’ social networks. This piece featured the importance of brass band contests and how they encouraged musical skill; moreover, the rhetoric in the piece highlighted the importance of bands over other musical groups in bringing working-class cultures to the attention of the wider world. Towards the article’s end the author wrote:
Contests, however, are by no means the only objects, as everybody knows, for which bands exist. There is scarcely a public function of any kind at which there is not a band to dispense sweet harmonies. As one looks through the record of a month’s work, one sees social gatherings of all kinds – teas, suppers, dances, cricket or football matches, presentations, festivals, demonstrations, camp meetings and anniversaries. It would seem as if nothing human were complete without a band, for this week, a band has to play at a marriage and a funeral. 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 […].There are many wide questions connected with these bands – the influence on their members, on their home life, on the life of the neighbourhood, which we must leave to be answered […] by those whose knowledge of bands and bandsmen is more extensive than our own.
Furthermore the years 1870-1914 are of fundamental importance in any study of recreation and leisure. These years saw the fruition of previous trends and the emergence of a fully-formed working-class style of leisure. This period witnessed the evolution of small public houses into fully-fledged music halls, the professionalisation of sports, the emergence of the seaside holiday, and the growth of cinema. In short, this era was the birth of the classic working-class leisure experience that embraced working-class attitudes and experiences. Therefore, an understanding of bandsmen, bands and the social networks that supported them adds to the understanding of a period when both men and women were taking part in pastimes that started to define working-class cultural identity after the mid-nineteenth century. Indeed, the brass band becomes a site to explore working-class life from the 1840s onwards.
Local Archives and the History of Labouring People
The Society for the Study of Labour History (founded in 1960) investigated how trade unions and the Labour movement became a representation of influence in British society. Asa Briggs, and other contributors to Chartist Studies, changed modern study into the movement arguing that Chartism could only be understood fully through local studies, in an attempt to record the activities of the movement’s rank and file members.
This view is reflected in my own work by my use of many local studies source material, not only newspapers, but also local diaries, reflections, minute books and financial records that discuss local bands and their relationships within the community. In addition local and national newspapers, magazines, music journals and the brass band movement’s own press, records that have been overlooked in earlier analysis of the social networks of brass bands, have been used.
Local studies materials then are significant collections that can bring new material to the historical record.
Where primary sources and books cannot be found in the British Library collections I have listed the locations using the following key:
Accrington Local Studies Library (ALS)
Bacup Local Studies Library (BLS)
Bolton Archive Service (BOAS)
Bradford Local Studies Library (BRLS)
Burnley Local Studies Library (BULS)
Bury Archive Service (BAS)
Halifax Local Studies Library (HXLS)
Haworth Brass Band (HB)
Huddersfield Local Studies Library (HLS)
Lancashire Record Office, Preston (LRO)
Leeds Local Studies Library (LLS)
National Brass Band Archive, Wigan (BBA)
Rawtenstall Local Studies Library (RLS)
Salford Local Studies Library (SLS)
Todmorden Community Brass Band (TCBB)
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Bradford (WYASBR)
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale (WYASCD)
Brass Band History Booklets:
Anon, Irwell Springs (Bacup) Band (Bacup, 1914) (RLS)
Anon, Life and Career of the Late Mr. Edwin Swift, a Self-Made Musician, Bandmaster and Adjudicator: Trainer of Many of the Leading Bands in the North of England, (n.p. 1904) (HLS)
Anon, Milnrow Public Band, 1869-1969 (Milnrow, 1969) (BBA)
Anon, Slaithwaite Band: Golden Jubilee Year Souvenir (Huddersfield, 1975) (HLS)
Anon, Stalybridge Old Band, 1814-1914 (Stalybridge, n.d.) (BBA)
Bythell, D. Banding in the Dales: A Centenary History of Muker Silver Band (Muker, 1997)
Bythel, D. Water, A Village Band, 1866-1991 (Water Band, Rossendale, Lancashire, 1991) (RLS)
Carrington, R. (Ed.), The Centenary Chronicle of Rothwell Temperance Band, 1881-1981, A Tribute to Those Who Have Gone Before (Leeds, 1981) (BBA)
Hampson, J. N. The Origin, History and Achievements of Besses o’ th’ Barn Band (Northampton, 1893) (ALS)
Hartley, E. A. Brindle Band: A Social and Cultural History of a Lancashire Brass Band, 1868-2000 (Preston, 2000) (LRO)
Hesling White, J. E. Our Village Band (Bramley, 1905) (LLS)
Hesling-White, J. E. A Short History of Bramley Band From Its Inception to The Present Time. With Glimpses of Old Time Doings in Bramley (Bramley, 1906) (LLS)
Hume, J. O., Souvenir of St Hilda’s Band (n.p.1929) (BBA)
Leech, I. Reminisces of The Bacup Old Band, Which Appeared in the Columns of the Bacup Times in 1893 (Bacup, 1893) (RLS)
Lord, S. The History and Some Personal Recollections of the Whitworth Vale and Healy Band (Rochdale, 2005) (RLS)
Massy, R. Meltham and Meltham Mills Band 1846 -1996, 150 Years of Music, Commemorative Booklet (n.p.1996) (BBA)
Rogerson, B. ‘A Touch of Brass’, Eccles & District Historical Society Lectures (1977-1978) (SLS)
Walker , M. The History of Farnworth and Walkden Brass Band: A Brief History of Brass Bands in the Bolton District (n.p., 2007) (RLS)
Local History Pamphlets:
Baldwin, A. Crompton, M. Hargreaves, I. Simpson, J. Taylor, G. The Changing Faces of Rossendale: Production Lines (Halifax, n.d.) (RLS)
Clifton Subscription Brass Band-Plan of Proposed Band Room, Clifton (11 May, 1898) (WYASCD), catalogue ref CMT6/MU: 24/42
Brass Band Minute Books:
Haworth Brass Band Minute Books, 1900-1904 (HB)
Minute Book of The Christian Brethren Brass Band, Cleckheaton, 1886-1899 (WYASCD), catalogue ref, K131
Heap Bridge Brass Band Minute Books, 1898-1914 (BAS), catalogue ref, RHB/1/1
Helmshore Brass Band Minute Books, 1889-1922 (ALS)
Brass Band Tutor Books and Instrumental Methods:
Arban, J. B. Grande Méthode Complète de Cornet à Pistons et de Saxhorn (Paris, 1864) (BBA)
Curwen, J. The Brass Band Book for Tonic Sol-Fa Pupils, Containing Instructions for the Cornet, Bugle, Tenor, Baritone, Euphonium, Bombardon, Trumpet, Trombone, Ohecleide and French horn (London, 1864) (BBA)
Wright and Round’s Amateur Band Teacher’s Guide and Bandsman’s Adviser (Liverpool, 1889) (BBA)
G.U.S. (Footwear) Band 1867-1967, Centenary Year Concert Programme (12 November, 1967), catalogue reference, RC785G00 (RLS)
Music in Greenhead Park Concert Programmes (1901-1922) (HLS)
Contest Entry Forms:
Contest Entry Forms for the Belle Vue Contest, Manchester, from 1901-1904 (BBA)
Database of Contest Results from 1900-Present (BBA)
Correspondence and Reports:
Correspondence re Bury Recreation Grounds, 1895-1905 (BAS), catalogue ref, ABU2/3/7/1
Park Superintendents Reports on Bands, 1812-1913 (BOAS), catalogue ref, AF/6/125/2
Documents Relating to Oats Royds Mill Brass Band, 1864-1897 (WYASCD), catalogue ref, JM857: Band Uniform Brass Tunic Buttons
Newspaper Cuttings With Regard to John Foster and Sons, and Local Events in Bradford and Queensbury (WYASBR) catalogue ref, 6195/9/1/1
Peacock M. R. Haworth Public Prize Band Poem (September, 1912) (HB)
Financial Records, Personnel Records and Receipts:
Bradford Brass Band Account Book, 1854-1858 (WYASBR), catalogue ref, DB16/C31
Bradford Borough Council, Town Clerk, Papers Regarding Peel Park, Including Financial Agreements, Correspondence, Minutes, Plans, Reports and Subscriptions, 1851-1864 (WYASBR) catalogue ref, 1D82
John Foster and Sons, Director’s Minute Book, 1891-1920 (WYASBR) catalogue ref, 61D9521/1
Documents Relating to Oats Royds Mill Brass Band, 1864-1897 (WYASCD) catalogue ref, JM857:
Engraving receipt 253a, 31 December, 1869, receipt, 254a, 31 December 1870
Estimate for band clothing
Instrument and band membership lists, 1864-1884
Settled Accounts in the Winding up of Oats Royd Mill Brass Band (11 November, 1890)
Helmshore Brass Band Leger Books, 1901-1914 (ALS)
Heap Bridge Brass Band Trust Deed for Instruments and Other Property, 21 December, 1885 (BAS), catalogue ref, RHB 2/1
Register of Staff Absences, With Time Off, and Cause, to Playing in Black Dyke Band, 1864-1880 (WYASBR), ref 61D95/ 8 box 1/ 4
Watson and Son and Smith, Solicitors, Bradford, Records (Idle and Thackley Brass Band Papers, 1898-1943 (WYASBR), catalogue ref, GB202
Todmorden Old Brass Band Ledger Books, 1900-1910 (TCBB)
Anon, Recreation for the Working Classes on Temperance Principles (Dublin, 1857)
Uniforms Act 1894, Office of Public Sector Information, <http//www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1894/pdf/ukpga18940045_en.pdf>
Halifax and Huddersfield Mercantile Directory, 1863-64, (London, 1863) (HXLS)
Kelly’s Directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1897 (London, 1897) (HXLS)
Trust Deeds, Rules and Regulations:
Clifton Brass Band, Declaration of Trust, 1882 (WYASCD), catalogue ref, KMA: 1850
Cliviger Prize Band Rules and By-Laws, 1908 (BULS), catalogue ref, LT641
Haworth Public Band Agreement (6 December, 1876) (WYASBR) catalogue ref, 80D/92
Idle and Thackley Public Brass Band, Rules and Regulations (30 July, 1898) (WYASBR) catalogue ref, 540D/1/5
The Shipley Brass Band Trust Deed (7 March, 1894) (WYASBR), catalogue ref, 41D/84/49
Unpublished Manuscripts, Diaries and Reflections:
James Law Cropper, Memories, typewritten transcription of interviews (n.d.) (RLS)
Moses Heap, An Old Man’s Memories n.d. (typescript, 1970) (RLS)
Moses Heap of Rossendale, My Life and Times (1824-1913) (transcribed by John Elliot, 1961) (RLS)
Diary of Willie Jeffrey, 1906 (Queensbury Historical Society) photocopy, held in (BRLS)
 Eric J. Hobsbawm, Industry and Empire From 1750 to the Present Day (London, 1968, this edition, updated with Chris Wrigley, 1999), p. 34.
 Patrick Joyce, Work, Society and Politics: The Culture of the Factory in Later Victorian England (Brighton, 1980, this edition, London, 1982), p. xiii.
 Magazine of Music, 9/4, (April, 1892), pp. 62-63.
 Martin Childs, Labour’s Apprentices: Working-Class Lads in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (Belfast, 1992), p. 143.
 See Eric Hobsbawm, ‘The Making of the Working Class, 1870-1914’, in Eric Hobsbawm, Uncommon People: Resistance, Rebellion and Jazz (London, 1998, this edition, 1999), pp. 78-99.
 McWilliam, Popular Politics, p. 21.