Brass banding sixty years ago

In the 40’s and 50’s playing in a brass band for many was a way of life, and when something comes to light such as the papers and documents of a small town band it unearths a situation difficult to understand in present times. During the war and the formation of the Home Guard, Royston Town Band took on a patriotic role and, being fitted out with khaki uniforms, appeared in the town and district at all official functions and parades.

An interesting piece of memorabilia emerged while searching through these papers. In the summer of 1944 the band played 11 engagements, for which the senior members were paid each an amount of money in relation to the number of appearances they had made, to the maximum of £4 15s. However the 16 boys, who were making up the baulk of the band at that time, were paid just 10s each for all their appearances. Something surely that would not be the case today!

The value of money then is very noticeable when looking through catalogues and price lists of the time. Searching through the many items of interest we see that in 1937 a new set of instruments from Bessons of London could be purchased for between £250 and £300. J. B. Mayers and Sons from Manchester were offering solid leather cases for a cornet for £1 10s 0d, and these were said to be of the latest style, hand-sewn throughout, lined with velvet, and with the very best quality nickel plated fittings. How much would they be today?


The expenditure sheet from that time would envy any band treasurer today. A 26-seater coach for an afternoon’s fete at Chatteris, was quoted by Messrs Livermore of Barley, at £5, and for Downham Market on a Good Friday afternoon, only £4 15s. Ok, petrol was perhaps only 1s 3d a gallon!


Moving along to 1963, the band received credit, indeed, in the form of a letter sent to a prominent Roystonian, County Coun Robert H. C. Clark, it read: “With respect to the many bands the Baldock Legion has had on special occasions, I must say that during the 20 years I have been an officer of the branch, I have never known wider praise given by the people of Baldock than that which I have heard for the wonderful playing of the Royston Town Band on the occasion of the recent laying up of the old standard and the Dedication of the new standard in St Mary’s Church, Baldock. Canon Brenchley, the Rector, told me that he had never heard the Last Post and the Reveille sounded in the Church so well. Fit for the Albert Hall service was his final comment. A very fitting compliment to the players. I know how keenly interested you are in the public life and the institutions of Royston,” he writes, “and I feel you will be glad to know how much the Royston Town Band is appreciated for its kind services to Baldock.”

Fine praise, indeed!

Brian Edwards, 25th Jan 2009


“Royston can take pride in its Town Band”


1968 letter confirming engagement for the band to play at a British Legion County Rally in Sawston. The band is referred to as “Royston Town / Spicer Band” at this point (unless two bands were playing?). The letter details hymns the band are expected to play and the time the parade will ‘form up’.


1936 cheques from Barclays Bank’s Royston branch


1937 Report of proceedings at The East Anglian Brass Band Association’s Executive Meeting at Downham Market. Details of the Quartet Contest at Littleport are highlighted – own choice test pieces with 15 shillings 1st prize money!


Details of the 1939 East Anglian Brass Band Rally – the forerunner to today’s Picnic in the Park?! Royston’s conductor is featured in item 6, and don’t forget the Ovaltine!


Undated ‘outing card’. The Outing Fund seems to have been a way to collect funds so that the band could take part in an annual contest at Crystal Palace – “members may pay what they can afford each Monday night after Band practice” but if you leave before the outing you don’t get back the 3 pence for your card! The band here are “Royston Town Silver Prize Band”



Concert programme from 1972. It also has an interesting summary of the band’s history at the bottom – “During its 103 years it has never been short of members, even during the manpower crisis of the two world wars”

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