A Means Of Enlivening The Community

Chapter 5 - The New Century

At the time of compiling this history the British Government is pondering how the nation should mark the end of both the 20th century and the Millennium. What the Slaidburn Brass Band did at the end of the 19th Century is not recorded, but in June 1900 their services were once again called upon for the Whit Monday Festival:

“The Whitsuntide festival ranks first and foremost in the yearly events of the village of Slaidburn. ... By nine o'clock, the Band, in their smart new uniform, were pouring forth enlivening strains... . ...the Slaidburn Brass Band rendered selections during the afternoon and evening. The Band, under Mr. William Turner's able leadership, has made further progress and bids fair to equal any other in the district. We trust its services will be in great requisition.”

Later in that same year the Band was able to show its appreciation to the King-Wilkinsons for all it had done for the Band when the marriage of one of their family was announced:

“Mr. Leonard King-Wilkinson was the recipient of presents in anticipation of his marriage. ... Mr. Wm. Turner, in felicitous terms, handed a Silver Rose Bowl, duly inscribed, from the members of the Slaidburn Brass Band.”

Throughout the life of any Brass Band there are always certain members who, as well as providing a musical contribution, will also serve as officers, such as Secretary, Treasurer and Bandmaster. These duties are often not fully appreciated by other members, but Slaidburn Brass Band obviously wished to show its appreciation in February of 1902:

“On Friday evening, February 21st, the Slaidburn Band had their Annual Supper. The event of the evening was the presentation of a handsome clock to Mr. W. Turner from members of the Band. The Bandmaster, who evidently was surprised, expressed his thanks in fitting terms. Mr. W. Middleborough, who proposed the health of the Secretary (Mr. A. Turner) and Treasurer (Mr. J.Buller) was much to the point.”

Nearly 100 years later Rector Garnett's final tribute to the Band on that evening would provide a very apt title for this book:

“Long may the Band and Bandmaster flourish and be a means of enlivening the community.”

The highlight of 1902 however was to be the Coronation of Edward VII in June. Preparations were made throughout the land by towns and villages to mark the occasion and Slaidburn was no exception. The Rev'd Garnett announced in his magazine that celebrations would be held in Slaidburn on June 26th and that a procession headed by "Band and Banner" would go to Whiteholme. Unfortunately Edward VII's appendicitis put a stop to such plans at the last minute and festivities were put on hold until a later date. A few weeks later in July news reached Britain which again was cause for celebration:

“PEACE ...we heard the news that the struggle which has been going on in South Africa was ended. No wonder that our Church bells rang out their merry peals during the day, and that in a short time Slaidburn was decked with bright colours. The Band was of course in evidence, and a torchlight procession closed the day's proceedings."

No sooner had village and band recovered from these celebrations than they found themselves involved in the re-organised Coronation festivities. The Band must have found additional reserves of energy for their duties on Coronation day:

“The Coronation of their Majesties King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra was celebrated at Slaidburn. The village was en fete. The Slaidburn Brass Band marched to Newton and headed the procession which was in waiting to Slaidburn, and the entire procession proceeded to Whiteholme, where Coronation medals were presented. ...the festivities were brought to a conclusion by a first-rate torchlight procession."

Marching up and down Dunnow and Clerk Laithe? They must have been mad! However, remember when the Slaidburn Band of 1988 marched from Slaidburn to Clitheroe over Waddington Fell, about 9 miles? They thought we were mad too! Interestingly the account for the Coronation festivities in Slaidburn were published and in the expenses column is the Band's fee --- £6-0-0d. The event made an overall profit of £10-4-0d.

During these early years of the century the Band played at many events in the Slaidburn area. Besides its annual booking at the Whit Monday Festival the Band could also be heard at Newton Sports Day, Garden Parties, Sales of Work and other fund-raising activities where their musical contribution would enhance the event. The fees charged by the Band around this time average around £3-0-0d and on some occasions they would play "gratis". It is interesting to note that in August of 1903 the fee received for playing at Slaidburn and Newton Horticultural Society's Annual show was £3-10-0d in a year when the Society was recording a profit of £16-1-7d. Unfortunately by 1913 the Show was beginning to lose money and the Band, for whatever reason, received only £3-0-0d.

One tradition adopted by many Bands, and taken up by Slaidburn, was the practice of touring the villages and farms at Christmas both to bring a festive musical treat to individual families and hopefully to elicit donations to swell the bands coffers. This tradition in many bands view was important as it provided much-needed income at a time of year when traditional outdoor engagements were few and was usually the time when repairs, maintenance and music purchases were made prior to the start of the new seasons banding. A remarkable document exists describing Slaidburn Band's tour of the outlying farms and hamlets above the village around Christmas 1903. Written by Ellen Cowking , the poem "Success To The Slaidburn Band" tells in 34 verses which places were visited and the names of the residents, including Stock's Fold and Dalehead long before the Stocks Reservoir project was to submerge these places forever. The poem is printed in full in the appendix at the end of the book.

The Parish Church magazine continued to report on the Band's progress, but controversy was to rear its head at the Whit Monday festival of 1905. Part of Rector Garnett's report reads:

“I sincerely congratulate the Band on their playing. A marked improvement is noticeable.”

Okay so far, but, a few paragraphs later:

    “…in the first place the committee do not really engage the Band for the sole purpose of dancing. It is true that the Band at times plays dance music and that some people dance to it. There are however, hundreds of people on the field who do not dance and do not want to ... and this is of importance --- I DO NOT LIKE DANCING. Since my conversion to God over 20 years ago I have never had anything to do with it.”

Oh Dear! This was the Rector's reply to criticism in the Clitheroe Advertiser that the Rector of Slaidburn had allowed the Band to play for dancing on the sports field at an event organised by the Church. The Band would at this time have a fairly limited library of music, probably consisting of marches, fantasias and selections of the time and certainly a set of books known as "Wright & Rounds No. 1 Set" which would contain many waltzes, two-steps, polkas, etc., which were played for their entertainment value rather than for dancing purposes. Perhaps the Band unwittingly contributed to the controversy by playing them at the Festival.

Somewhere around this time the Band found time (and possibly the money) to pose for a formal photograph reproduced here. It is one of the earliest known photographs of the Slaidburn Brass Band and is taken at Town Head gates. The bandsmen were identified by the late Jim Leeming and contain many names still well known in the Hodder Valley. Some of these players were first generation bandsmen whose children and grandchildren would continue the banding tradition at Slaidburn.

By March of 1906 the controversy of the previous Whit festival must have been forgotten, for the Band was to receive a surprise:

“Those who help themselves are most likely to get help! So the members of Slaidburn Brass Band have found. They have made strenuous efforts to raise sufficient to purchase new instruments. This has been brought to Mr. King-Wilkinson's notice with the result that he has most generously offered to buy them instruments, making one provision only - 'let them be new and good ones' ... Long may Bandmaster Seed and his men have 'blowing powers'. I know of no Band which has so many steady, sober men in it as our own.”

Two interesting points from the Rector's "glowing" report: a change of Bandmaster to Mr. William Seed (see the photograph) and the Rev'd Garnett's reference to "steady, sober men."

The connection between beer and brass was becoming quite common. Many bands used to share out their Christmas carolling money amongst themselves and celebrate accordingly at the end of the year! If this practice was adopted by Slaidburn it was certainly kept from the Rector who was well known for his teetotal views!

The main item of the report however concentrated on the gift of a new set of instruments from William King-Wilkinson which no doubt caused great excitement in the village. Unfortunately the celebrations were curtailed by the sad news of the death of Mr. King-Wilkinson a month later. His family however proceeded with the purchase of the instruments which were handed over to the Band just before the Whit Festival of 1907, and that was not the only new item that Slaidburn Band were to receive:

“The Whit Monday Festival procession, as usual, started from the Grammar School, headed by the Slaidburn Silver Band ('Silver Band' be it well noted) and members of the Festival Committee.”

The emphasis on "Silver" Band was a reference to the new electro-plated silver finish instruments which the Band had acquired. It became fashionable to re-title bands as a bit of one-upmanship over a "brass band" although in terms of sound nothing changed and in fact the general term "brass band" is still the name used generally to describe this form of music-making. Even Mr. King-Wilkinson jnr. alluded to the silver finish in his hand-over speech:

“This was a fitting time to hand over the new instruments to the members of the Band, and in a few but highly appropriate sentences, Mr. William King-Wilkinson did so. He touched on the usefulness of a band in any village and expressed the hope that the reputation of the Band might always be as bright as their instruments. Mr. Bandmaster Seed thanked the generous donor for so handsome a gift and assured him that it would always be the endeavour of his fellow bandsmen and himself to keep up the high estimation which had been formed of them, and that they would always seek to do all they could for the village and public generally.”

Mr. King-Wilkinson's proviso that the new set of instruments be "good ones" must have been taken seriously. This set of "Hall Gisborne" brand instruments would be the last ones purchased until the members of the Band in the 1970s began the project to replace them once again. That project was to last some 18 years!

During the winter months before the days of radio and television the brass band could provide "live" entertainment in the towns and villages, a practice continued today. One unknown element in any concert is the audience's general reaction to the performance. Today the concert-goer generally listens, applauds and enjoys the occasion, but in 1909 the Slaidburn Silver Band found itself in a different atmosphere at Slaidburn. Again, the Rector writes:

“I was sorry to miss the Band Concert owing to a heavy cold. The members of the Band are all friends of mine and I have at heart their true welfare. I am sorry to hear that there was a rowdy element in the room which spoiled the pleasure of both performers and listeners. I had hoped that such behaviour was a thing of the past.”

These were no doubt words of great feeling from Rector Garnett, for the Parish's annual New Years Day Concert had also been disrupted by the same "rowdy element" and ominously the Rector reported that he had identified the culprits and would be having "well chosen words" with their parents!

With the new century came the end of the Victorian age and the commencement of the Edwardian era, and in 1910 that also came to an end. In 1911 the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary saw the Band again at Slaidburn for Coronation festivities for which they received a fee of £5-0-0d. They were also engaged to play for similar celebrations at Dale Head and the route of the procession is described:

“..the children assembled at the school at 10.30 am and marched in procession the usual route on such occasions, headed by the Slaidburn Band. Halts were made at Swinshea, The Vicarage, Chapel house, The Grange, Bridge House and Stocks.”

How often the Band played in the upper Hodder Valley is not known, but the Coronation of 1911 was probably one of the last before the demand for water was to end a way of life in this area for ever. However, more ominous happenings in Europe were to dominate life throughout the world shortly.

The announcement of hostilities in 1914 followed by the carnage on the battlefields of France was to affect every city, town, village and hamlet of Great Britain, and Slaidburn was no exception. The Parish Magazine proudly recorded the names of local men who marched off to fight at the front and as time moved on sadly announced the names of those who were never to return. As it became apparent that this conflict was not to end quickly those "keeping the home fires burning" became involved in the war effort. The Parish of Slaidburn played its part by organising a "War Material Fund" to buy wool, flannel and other fabrics for both war refugees and for the "boys at the front".

How many members of the Band volunteered for active service is not known, but the Band continued to rehearse and perform during the war years, although engagements would be few. As their contribution to the war material fund the Band performed two fund-raising concerts which provided £27-6-0d for the fund. By the time hostilities ended in 1918 the Slaidburn Parish had raised some £542-18-0d which had provided material to make 5740 items of clothing such as socks, shirts, balaclavas, etc., which were sent to the front, a remarkable achievement for the villagers.

In the summer of 1919 Slaidburn and Newton held a joint Peace Celebration for which the Band was paid £6-0-0d. The profits of the day, some £73-6-11d, were to be appropriated to the War Memorial Fund. On Wednesday 23rd May 1923, in the presence of the Chaplain General to the Forces, Slaidburn's War Memorial was unveiled and dedicated with music for the service being provided by the Slaidburn Band, and no doubt for the first of many times at that Cenotaph, the Last Post and Reveille were sounded. Some 60 years later a new generation of Slaidburn Band would march to the impressive Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium where men from the Hodder Valley were killed in battle and take part in a similar service. The names of the men from Slaidburn were read out in the service as a special tribute and wreathes laid by the Hodder Valley British Legion and the Band.

© 2024 Slaidburn Silver Band