Which brass band is the oldest in the UK?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by GordonH, Aug 21, 2010.

  1. GordonH

    GordonH Active Member

    I was just wondering this, but I don't think its going to be easy to answer as you would need to define what a brass band is/was.

    I have played in two very old bands. Penicuik Silver (1835) and Alloa (1842) but both of these started as military style bands with woodwind in them. Many of these bands switched to brass only by the late 1840's. Even then the instrumentation was not what we have now. At Alloa we had old photos on the bandroom wall showing the band in the 19th century with lots of flugels and not many cornets.

    So, I suppose there are really two questions:

    1. Which current brass band was founded the longest time ago (regardless of original instrumentation)?

    2. Which of the currently existing brass bands switched to brass only first and when was that?

    Maybe someone has Roy Newsome's books. The answers might be in there.
  2. Kjata

    Kjata Member

    Stalybridge Band in Manchester was formed in 1809 (apparently!).

    Source: http://stalybridgeoldband.org/page2.htm
  3. GordonH

    GordonH Active Member

    Well I doubt anybody can beat that. That must have been keyed bugles as I don't think the stolzel valve (with air going out through the bottom of the valve) were invented till later than that.
  4. Frontman

    Frontman Member

    If you have a look at www.ibew.co.uk

    go into reference section and use the drop down and press Brass Bands Genealogy.

    Every band and their formation years are in it. Whether still in exsixtance or not.
  5. GordonH

    GordonH Active Member

    Thats a great site. Interesting that they have Alloa a lot later than I remembered.
  6. jrshimmon

    jrshimmon Member

  7. tenortuba

    tenortuba Member

    I guess the oldest band has to be black dyke. If my memory serves me correctly they have had at least two centennial celebrations with gala concerts and blanket media coverage to boot! Two hundred and something years would take a hell of a lot of beating!
  8. Splitzer

    Splitzer Member

    Did they realy have two centenials?
    I will have to dig out my trevor herbert book, but if my memory serves me correctly the oldest brass band is actualy from our own neck of the woods in Wales - defunct now mind you.
  9. euphoria

    euphoria Member

    They actually had two 150 year anniversarys (I know cause I have CD of the first and a book and DVD of the second)
    The first in 1987 and the second in 2005.
    I don't know why they changed their time of origin, but it surely comes down to a matter of definition. There was a town band in Queensbury from the early nineteenth century, but I reckon that at least one of the possible times of origins has to do with John Fosters involvement in the band. Perhaps the second (1855) was when they changed to all brass instrumentation??

  10. jrshimmon

    jrshimmon Member

    My earlier post relates directly to this. I think Cyfarthfa are supposed to be the first Brass Band.
  11. Splitzer

    Splitzer Member

    Yep thats the one - my fault not reading thread properly. The Dyke thing does stink of milking the old cash cow though? I remember the first 150yrs CD as it had quite a distinctive photo/cover. I suppose it will be cory having a celebration of 3 centuries playing york instruments next.
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    A few candidates suggested so far. I'll add in some of the more common suggestions. It's a bit of a knotty question this - misplaced hometown pride and mythology tend to play their part!

    There's an older thread in the IBEW section of this site on this subject here. I reckon debating it here is worthwhile though, as not many people check in to that part of the site.

    To sum up, here are some candidates so far from here and there:

    Cyfarthfa - 1838 (all brass?)
    Driffield - <1837 (type?)
    Black Dyke - Originally founded 1816, but reestablished 1855.
    Stalybridge Old - 1809? 1812? 1814? (wind and brass) When did it change to all brass?
    Besses - 1818 (type?)
    Kippax - 1814 (wind and brass), 1834 (all brass)
    Clifton & Lightcliffe - 1838 (type?)
    Royal Buckley - <1822 (type?)
    New Mills - 1812? 1813? (all brass? or wind and brass? [see link] - can such an early date be correct for an all brass band? Their website states that they were mixed at this early date.)
    Melton - 1813 (all brass at this date? Seems very unlikely)
    Penicuik - 1835 (type?)
    Alloa - 1842? (type?)

    So it looks to me like Kippax were all brass before Cyfarthfa was founded, and probably New Mills were the earliest founded band that are now all brass but were not when founded.

    I stress that I'm just summarising the state of knowledge given this thread and that one!
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
  13. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    According to their Facebook page, the Band of the Grenadier Guards was founded in 1685! If we're debating brass bands that were founded as wind bands, we probably ought to let them in...
  14. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    A truly unique experience in that I find myself agreeing with you ;) I too was baffled by the 150th anniversary - I've got the 150 years of Black Dyke recording on LP. Seems like somebody's been cooking the books.

    Following Dave's post, I suppose the further back we go, the more removed from brass bands we get. Perhaps the beginnings of our movement could be more considered an evolutionary thing, rather than a bolt from the blue.
  15. 08cbinns

    08cbinns Member

    deffinately Stalybridge, celebrated their 200th anniversary last year. Even the one show did an interview with the band.
  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Aidan Howgate had some interesting things to say on the thread I linked to about that - he wrote that he had proof that the 1809 date marked only an aborted attempt to found a band, and that the real foundation was in 1814. It would be interesting to see the documents he's got!
  17. Frontman

    Frontman Member

    I agree seeing as they celebrated their 200 year anniversary last year.

    The committee at Stalybridge must have proof as to their date of formation.

    However, the documents which Aidan has must prove interesting reading to all including the Stalybridge committee.
  18. GordonH

    GordonH Active Member

    Penicuik was a military style band from 1835 to 1847 when they switched to brass. Quite a few bands round here switched at the same time. I wonder if someone was going round with a cart full of brass instruments selling them?

    Most of the bands round here were made up of ex military bandsmen which is why they had woodwind in them. The story with Penicuik is that the band was started by bandsmen who had been in the army during the napoleonic wars (which ended in 1815). Its just oral history passed down through the band, but its perfectly possible.
  19. StellaJohnson

    StellaJohnson Active Member

    According to the staybridge website by the end of 1814 stalybridge band had a mixture of reed and brass players. I personally believe Aidan is correct.
  20. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Perhaps they can take a leaf out of Dyke's book and have two bicentenary celebrations!