The Hungerford Town Band is a thriving and successful band. Its roots go back more than 140 years.
The possibility of setting up a Brass Band was first made in the winter of 1876-77 when a subscription was made to provide the instruments necessary.
Hungerford had previously been reliant on the bands from neighbouring towns and villages for providing the "enlivening strains as are thought indispensable at Club Anniversaries and other such festivities".
Several local people made donations, including Mr Cherry, who donated £3 of the £17 total. This sum allowed the purchase of "2 Cornets, a Tenor, an Euphonium, a Baritone and a Bombardon. To these instruments, the tones of which it is to be hoped are more euphonius than their names, it is desired to add another Baritone, Euphonium and Cornet at an additional cost of £6; and in process of time a Drum." Further donations were invited.
Hungerford Town Band is mentioned in The Hungerford and Marlborough Times in 1885 as having played at sports events in the Church Croft.
At a meeting on 5 Jul 1911 in the Plume Hotel, it was decided to form a band of all wind instruments. (It is likely that the earlier band had a variety of other instruments as well).
At this meeting, Mr Joseph Vincent, a good musician hailing from London, was elected bandmaster and a committee was formed. The committee met just one week later to discuss the quotations received for instruments. and accepted Hawkes and Sons for £60.0.0 (£57.10.0 for cash!). Mr Vincent was able to teach brass and woodwind, as well as acting as conductor.
On 31 Jul 1911, Miss Mary Sawbridge handed each member the instrument he was to play, and the Constable, Mr Allright, was elected president at a very happy gathering in the Corn Exchange.
Members were all locals, and as the Band prospered with assistance from the Trustees, individual residents offered help. One such was Capt. Sawbridge of Denford House, who lent money for the purchase of instruments, and when the loan was repaid, twice.more advanced sums sufficient to cover uniforms and accessories.
The band met and practised at the back of the Red Lion, and was also something in the nature of a Social Club. Certainly it was at times indestinguishable from the Red Lion Slate Club!
The band prospered and, in 1914, a balance of £7.17.10 was in hand at the annual general meeting.
The upkeep of equipment required constant fund-raising and donations, and the band was in considerable demand. In 1914 a Christmas collection raised £11, and the records show the band giving concerts for the Navy League, for the subsequent Victory Parades, and appearing for the Reading Football Club.
On 2 Dec 1915, owing to so many men enlisting for War Service, the bandmaster proposed that all band property should be handed in at the town hall and stored there for the duration of hostilities.
After the war the woodwinds were dropped, and the Band adopted the name of Hungerford Silver Band. One of the Lewington family, the drummer at the time, was appropriately known ato his friends as "Banger". Arthur Martin (later living in Coldharbour Road) joined as a Band Boy in 1920, and remained a member for 40 years.
Activities ceased during the second World War, and the Band was restarted under Mr. Pratt in 1945, with Mr Crosby Bull elected as bandmaster. For nearly 20 years affairs prospered and the Band made regular appearances in The Croft and the football grounds, gave three concerts a year in the town, as well as performing at Hocktide and on special occasions. With the popularity of ballroom dancing at this time, money was more easily raised, and the Band performed often in the Town Hall. New instruments were purchased and the demise of the Bedwyn Band provided a windfall of instruments for Hungerford.
The Band had entered local competitions before 1939, but now it became more ambitious. With new confidence arising from its successes at the Wessex Brass Band Association in Bournemouth in 1946 it re-christened itself the Hungerford Silver Prize Band.
Under the new Band Master, Crosby Bull, a new headquarters was found in Neates Sale Rooms in Church Street, and there the Band stayed for 20 years at an unchanged rental of £15 per annum. During this time, young learners were being infiltrated into the main band so that, by the 1960s, four or five contests a year were entered. Outside assistance was sought under the pressure to raise standards, and John Allder from Ramsbury and Mr. Dyson from Inkpen both came in to provide coaching. This certainly paid off in that promotion was earned from Division IV to Division II in the competitions, but some members evidently felt that this increase in expertise was purchased at the expense of "village spirit" where the oldsters taught the youngsters and everything was home grown. Moreover, nearby bands, notably Aldbourne, were not above a bit of poaching.
The half centenary in 1962 seems in retrospect to have been a high point. But the late 1960s saw the demise of several local bands and, although Hungerford had a lean period, it always managed to turn out at Christmas and Constable's Sunday, albeit with help on occasions.
By 1970, when Mike Raven took over, membership was down to six. The committee decided in 1972 that a new format was needed and, to this end, many youngsters were recruited and a youth band formed under the direction of Mr Michael Thomas Raven. He rebuilt the Band through this youth Band, and Hungerford youngsters aged between 10 and 12 years were able to lead the youth parade of 3,500 young people in the Queen's Jubilee Celebrations (1978) marching 10 miles through Windsor Great Park for the Firework Display.
The band went from high to low at the beginning of the 1980s, but continuity was assured by some of the older players teaching some enthusiastic learners of all ages. A nucleus was there and the post of musical director was advertised, and a new set of instruments was purchased. After a lot of hard work from the players, the band was again established as part of the town.
After the musical director left, the existing players resolved to continue with new impetus.
A professional conductor was appointed. Mr Tim Crouter has built the playing quality of all members to a high standard.
It is said that at times the Town Band took the form of a wind band and a military band, but the Town Band is again a brass band.
During the 140+ years history, the Town Band has been central to life in Hungerford and has performed regularly at important community occasions.
At a reunion of past members of the Band in c2004, one of the more senior past members recalled that his first public performance with the Band was at Hungerford Railway Station welcoming home troops from the Second World War.
The records show that the involvement of local youngsters in the Band has been a significant feature for many years. Indeed in 1977, the youth band from Hungerford was selected to lead a parade in Windsor Great Park in celebration of the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. There is a separate junior band that meets once a week for tuition and rehearsal and it gives regular public performances.
Further insight into the Youth band can be seen in a letter from the President, Robert James, promoting the annual Christmas Concert in Dec 1978.
The senior band is one of the leading brass bands in the region and has 1st Section status in the Wessex Brass Band Association and 3rd Section status nationally.
In 2002 the Band was successful in reaching the finals of the National Brass Band Championships in Torquay.
To underpin its success the Band produced its first CD in 2001 and a second CD was recorded 2004.
The Musical Director is Mr Tim Crouter. At the Town Band Concert in St Lawrence's Church on 14 December 2019 there was an extra twist. Leader Tim Crouter and wife Sandy were given a surprise presentation to mark their 25 years of dedication to the band. Susan & Tim – pics from the concert and presentation this evening. As agreed with Susan, I took a variety of performance pics for the first half, many using a long lens which I have recently acquired and need to practice in use. So most of this material is more likely to be of interest to those immediately concerned as souvenirs of the concert. For those unaware of what was planned for the second half (including Tim himself), the band started with a rousing version of “for he’s a jolly good fellow”, which Tim eventually came to realise was for himself, not for the Constable’s fictitious birthday shortly. So my main job was to capture the presentation of gifts from the Band to Tim and his wife Sandy for his 25 years of leadership, during which time the Band has become a valuable asset to the Town. Tony Bartlett's photos of the occasion are in the Photo Gallery.
[This article includes some notes made by Robin Tubb in the 1980s].
- Thought to be a group photo including members of the Hungerford Brass Band, c1905. [A Parsons, Church St, Hungerford]
- The Hungerford Town Brass and Reed Band, 1912. These two photographs show the Town Band at Denford Park on the occasion of their first concert with new instruments. The then owner of the house, Captain Sawbridge (standing in the formal group in the back row, just to the left of centre), had loaned the finance to purchase the instruments, music and music pouches. [A Parsons, Hungerford]
- Hungerford Town Brass and Reed Band outside Denford Park, 1912 (A Parsons)
- Hungerford Town Band Dinner, 1913 [Parsons]
- Hungerford Town Band outside the Fire Statiom, Charnham Street c1925 [Mapson]
- Tim & Sandy Crouter's presentation at the Town Band Concert in St Lawrence's Church on 14 December 2019
- Parish Magazine, esp Apr 1877
- Youth Band - Letter from Robert James re Christmas Concert, 1978