A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CHEDWORTH SILVER BAND
What follows is based on a history of the Band prepared by one of its longest serving members - Mr Peter Juggins.
The Band’s Predecessors.
In the late 19th Century there were in Chedworth two bands - The Primitive Methodist Band and the Lower Chedworth Band. Chedworth is a village of two parts Upper and Lower with a distance of about a mile between them. The Primitive Methodist band was based on the then Methodist Chapel in the upper part of the village and the Lower Chedworth Band was probably based on the then Congregational Chapel in the lower part. The bands were a mixture of brass and woodwind instruments. A photograph of 1897 clearly shows clarinets.
With no radio, television or cinema in those days entertainment was homemade and included music, with instrument playing featuring largely. A book of 1898 which refers to “The Chedworth Band” (which one not known) says that “The Cotswold folk on the whole are fond of music, though they have not a large amount of talent for it” and “I am bound to say that the music produced by the Chedworth Band in the present day, though creditable in such an old world village, is rather like the Roman remains for which the district is so famous; it savours somewhat of the prehistoric”. We hope that we are a bit more up to date these days.
Foundation of the Band
The present Band was founded in 1905 by amalgamating the two existing bands as the Chedworth Brass Band and changed its name to the Chedworth Silver Band when silver-plated instruments were introduced around 1928-30.
Among the Rules of the new Band it was stated that the number of members should be more than eight, that the subscription was 6d (2.5p) per month, that members were to attend practices as regularly as possible and not to leave the room unless compelled (!), to pay attention to business when requested by the Chairman or Bandmaster and to be as punctual as possible on engagements, not leaving without the Bandmasters permission. Swearing was strictly prohibited. Our present rules are not quite so specific, but they make very good sense even now.
Once the Band had been founded there was a need for somewhere to practise other than people’s homes as had been done before. The use of large barn called Whites Barn was offered to them. At first practice was on the ground floor but when this proved to be too cold and draughty, a first floor room with its own outside entrance was constructed within the barn. Some light was provided by a skylight and the rest by candles. Heat came from a stove in the centre. Meetings were on Tuesdays and still are.
1905 to 1918
In the days before the First World War there were in Chedworth a lot of young men on poor agricultural wages and many of them joined the Band, some briefly and some for longer. The numbers became so great that it was necessary to decide who should or should not attend an engagement. This was more important than it would be now because those who attended the event split the fee between them and it was a valuable boost to their income and the matter was often strongly contended. The Band was in demand at many shows, fetes and other events in Chedworth and surrounding villages. Christmas was a particularly busy time and the chance to go visiting some of the ‘big houses’ in the district and be given food and drink was very welcome to the bandsmen who were often out of work when the weather turned wintry. They would walk very long distances while doing this. On Boxing Day morning they would do Upper Chedworth, where most of them lived. At some stops the Band would be offered several drinks and many people would follow them singing and dancing in the street to music such as foxtrots waltzes and two-steps which had been taken with them for the purpose. They would then lunch at home or the Seven Tuns and then do The Waggon and Horses (now closed), Cheap Street. the school house and Smuggs Barn (another pub long closed).
When the Band was engaged to play at a flower show or fete they would play in the afternoon, have tea and then play for dancing in the evening. Food and drink was sometimes provided, but often the Band would take its own provisions in the form of a 5-gallon barrel of beer, loaves, ham, cheese and pickles. Anything left over got finished on the next practice night.
In 1911, the Band acquired a competitor in the form of the Conservative and Unionist Band. This band was well provided with money for instruments and uniforms and some members of the Chedworth Brass Band defected to them to take advantage of this. The opinion of the then Bandmaster was, however: “They might have better instruments and uniforms but they can’t play”. This band apparently did not reform after WWI
With the outbreak of WWI, most of the younger men joined up, leaving only the older men to carry on. Many of them took their instruments with them and played with their regiments. Albert Allington took his E=bass (tuba) with him in 1915. When they were ordered to the front line at Ypres, supposedly for two weeks, they left their instruments covered in straw in a cowshed to pick up on the way back. Three years laters the survivors returned to find the instruments still there and in good condition. The bass is now in the Cotswold Countryside Museum.
Between the Wars - from Brass to Silver
During the 1920s and 1930s the Band did well. New members joined, some for a short time and others more permanently. When the Band was playing at Rissington, they were introduced to a Mr and Mrs Mitchell, who showed great interest and around 1929 presented an E=bass and euphonium, both silver plated and inscribed. From that time onwards the Band gradually replaced its brass instruments with silver plated on and by 1930 had changed its name to the current Chedworth Silver Band. They also purchased a very good quality navy blue uniform with silver braid and peaked caps.
Around 1926 the first bus service started and from then on the Band was able to travel in greater comfort, but still with a barrel of beer on the back seat. On one occasion the Band went to Gloucester an marched to the Cathedral with other bands to a British Legion Rally to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Afterwards they could not find a suitable place in Gloucester to eat their provisions and drink the barrel of beer. Accordingly, they went up to Birdlip Common and had a picnic with a few tunes to entertain the local people who had gathered there. Many of the latter still remembered the event in the 1960s
The Band and the British Legion worked together to hold a joint fete on the Manor lawn each August bank holiday (the first Monday in those days). This was quite an ambitious event with competitions, sports for the children, sideshows and, sometimes, a play. A fancy dress competition for all ages would parade behind the Band from the Waggon and Horses.
Other Band engagement would often occur on a Thursday, which was early closing day in Cirencester. In villages such as North Cerney or Bibury where many people worked in shops in the town this was a more convenient day than Saturday, when the shops were open.
The Band did not enter competitions and this is still true today. Members did, though, like to go to listen to local competitions and some would even go to the Brass Band Finals at the Crystal Palace.
The Second World War to the Present
During the War the Band was able to carry on much as normal because most of its members were over military age. They played at many fund raising events and also gave concerts to entertain the personnel at the American Military Hospital at Stowell Park. The concerts were a great success and the Band was always made welcome and rewarded with lots of what seemed like exotic food.
In 1948 a very important event for the Band occurred. The Old Methodist Chapel in Cheap Street became available and was purchased for use as a Band Room. The renovation needed to make it suitable for our use was carried out by members and the money for the purchase was raised by a number of events such as concerts, dances or plays, often with the help of the British Legion.
The purchase provided a more comfortable and warmer practice room and made loading the equipment for engagements much easier as it was directly on the road. It has proved invaluable to us in that it provides a secure base which we cannot lose because a landlord wants to change tenant or sell the building. Covenants on the building prevent the consumption of alcohol and dancing. We have never felt these to be a problem!
In the 1950s the rise of recorded music reduced demand for live music as it was cheaper to hire one person to play records for an afternoon than to hire up to 20 players. (It could be pointed out here that the Band is fully licenced by the Performing Right Society, while the playing of recorded music is actually illegal without permission from the owners of the rights to it, which would cost more than we charge.). The Band was able, however, to hang onto many traditional engagements like fetes and flower shows because there was usually a fancy dress parade beforehand and a band was needed to head the procession through the village.
In the 1960s and 70s the Band flourished. The increasing availability of cars meant that people could make their own way to engagements and take their family with them. This mobility also meant that members of the Band would, when necessary, help out other Bands in Cirencester, Fairford (sadly now demised) and Blockley and their members would return the favour.
By the early1980s a decline in membership, problems finding conductors and a degree of disharmony among the remaining members led eventually to a crisis meeting to decide whether to continue. Fortunately it was decided to carry on and the Band's fortune picked up again. We still have a respectable membership and can field 20 or so at most engagements, but members are getting older and the recruitment of new players is increasingly an issue. The young who would have joined the Band in earlier times now have a wide range of entertainment options. We are lucky to have four young players at the moment and would like to have more.
From Black to Purple
The Band has had a variety of uniforms over the years. In more recent times up to 2004 the uniform was a black jacket with a Chedworth Silver Band badge on the breast pocket and black trousers. In 2004 a decision was taken to liven up our appearance by purchasing a coloured uniform. After an evening spent comparing the various colours available, with a member modelling the various sample jackets, it was decided that the present purple colour with gold braid best met our needs. The upside is that we look much brighter and stand out more at an engagement. The downside is the expense of the jackets which have to be fitted to the member.
In April 2008 the Band became an associate member of the organisation Making Music. This is a charity set up to provide support to amateur music making groups of all sorts and to promote amateur music making. The principal advantage of membership to us is that using the group insurance available to members we are able to insure our instruments, the Bandroom and our public liability more advantageously than before.