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This page is part of an archive of historical details from existing or defunct brass band websites. This is being maintained to provide a record of this information in the event of a band folding, its website disappearing or other loss of the historical record. Where possible, and appropriate, the information cached will be updated from time to time - and any corrections or updates are welcome.

Brighouse & Rastrick Band

The Brighouse and Rastrick Band is undoubtedly the best and most consistent 'public subscription band' in the world. The people of the villages of Brighouse and Rastrick  made donations to establish the band in the late nineteenth century. Today it still continues to be supported through public subscriptions and its own fund raising efforts. Traditionally its amateur members pride themselves on being financially independent, yet are still regarded as one of the 'elite' on both contest and concert platform.

 Evidence exists to show that a band existed in Brighouse in 1858, but B&R officially celebrated its centenary in 1981. Until the 1920's the Brighouse and Rastrick Band could be described as just another band, but their steady progress culminated in 1929 when B&R won both the July and September Contests at Belle Vue Manchester, a feat only achieved once before and not equalled since. The band won The British Open Championship (September), again in 1932-33-34, was barred in 1935 but regained it in 1936. They have continued to feature in the prize list ever since, but had to wait until 1978 to win the 'Open' again.  

In 1945 the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain began. B&R won this title for the first time in 1946, conducted by a young Eric Ball, one of many famous names to be associated with the band. When the World Championships were introduced in 1968, B&R were the first World Champions, successfully retaining the title in 1969 to become the only band to win this short lived contest on more than one occasion. They were National Champions again in 1973 and 1980, just missing out in their centenary year 1981 when they were runners up, but carrying off the European Championship the following day.

 In 1989 a new competition, the All England Masters Brass Band Championships was established in Cambridge. This quickly gained prestige, attracting entries from the top bands in England. In 1993 Brighouse and Rastrick became the first Yorkshire band to win this title.

The Brass Band Championships of Great Britain were again won 1n 1998, the band was conducted to victory at The Royal Albert Hall by professional conductor Allan Withington; successfully defending the title won in 1997. Allan and the Band created a unique triple of championship titles held in one year, when in May 1998, in Kerkrade Holland, B&R won the title Champion Band of Europe; followed three weeks later by victory at the All England Masters Championships.

 Brighouse & Rastrick's foundations for the new millennium were firmly established with a victory for the band and Allan Withington in the 2001 All England Masters Championships, Allan succeeds William Halliwell as the most successful of the band's professional conductors.

 Success in 'media' competitions has also been enjoyed by B&R. In 1968 they were BBC Band of the Year and in 1975 Granada Television Band of the Year. B&R have always been a prolific prize-winner at the Whit Friday Quick Step March contests in the Saddleworth area of Northern England. The records show the band have won more prizes than any other band - over 400 since 1910.

 In 1977 B&R had unique success in a more unusual way. For nine weeks they were at No.2 in the British 'pop' charts with their recording of 'The Floral Dance'. Held off the top by Paul McCartney, they still achieved sales of over a million, earning both Gold and Silver discs.

 Today, with countless radio, TV broadcasts and recordings to its credit, the band is kept very busy giving concert performances both nationally and internationally.  The band moved into their purpose built headquarters, 'West Ridings' in 1995, and is looking forward to making their mark on the 21st century, upholding their traditions and continuing in their success.

The Evolution of Brighouse and Rastrick Band Uniforms - A. J. Wilkinson

One of the most distinctive features of Brighouse and Rastrick Band members, out on duty, are their unique purple and gold uniforms. At the Whit Friday Marches in Saddleworth, where many bands intermingle in their many shades of greens, reds, maroons, blues, and other uniform colours, the Brighouse and Rastrick players can always be clearly identified from the rest in their smart and distinctive outfits. Was this always the case?  I am briefly going to try to tell the story of how the present day B&R uniforms evolved.

Pictures from the early days of the twentieth century show the band in uniform but as colour photography was still a far off dream, the colours of the uniforms are not known and documentary evidence of these uniforms has not been found. A hand tinted photograph, displayed in the current bandroom, suggests that in the 1920's, a uniform of brown and red might have been worn.

During the 1920's, as we know, there was very serious determination within the ranks of B&R to “provide Brighouse with a first class band”. This extended beyond the music and included what we would today call 'the corporate image'. The year 1927 saw musical progress being made but still the band had to achieve national recognition. Off stage a new President, Mr Herbert Wood, was appointed and was to become a very effective and generous working leader of the band and its committee of shrewd and talented administrators over many years to come.  In January 1928, the committee decided to replace the existing uniforms.  These had been in regular use for 15 years.  Mr Wood personally gifted £100 towards the cost of £130, the bandsmen being asked to contribute themselves to make up the £30 difference. By March 1928, the band appeared at a Celebrity Concert at the Albert Theatre in Brighouse in their new uniform colours of maroon and gold.  One commentator of the time described them as “a uniform of becoming smartness and befitting a band of achievements”. The uniform was of a military style with a high collared maroon jacket with many gold buttons and trimmings. This was to serve them well during the exciting days of the late 1920's and up to the late 1930's when the band first made a national name for itself.

By 1937, the Brighouse and Rastrick Band had risen to National prominence. Famous for its epic hat-trick of Championship wins at Belle Vue, the band had joined the elite company of leading bands of the day. By February 1937, the committee decided again new uniforms were needed.  As always, money was scarce so a special fund was set up.  It was estimated £120 would be needed, this being offset by hopefully selling the existing uniforms for around £20.  Hopes were high that they would be tailored and ready for the Coronation of King George VI later in that year.  Much time was spent in discussion of suitable colours, but by March 1937, “the Royal Purple colour with plush and gold trimmings” was decided, but the cost was now estimated at £160.  Whether the coming Coronation influenced the specific choice of a regal colour we don't know, but the people of the district were invited to subscribe to the band uniform fund. Many people did contribute, aided by the active encouragement of the Brighouse Echo's Editor and others. The estimated cost had now risen to £170.  By the time the uniforms were ready for their first public appearance, in late April 1937, at a charity concert for hospital funds at the Palace Theatre, Halifax, the cost had risen again. It was now £190. Many subscriptions had been received and the old uniforms were sold for £25.  The new uniforms were the first of what we now call 'the Whit Friday uniforms'. The jackets were again of military style with high collar, single vertical row of buttons, gold trimmings worn with a tight belt and resembled the scarlet Guards Division uniforms, but in Royal purple. Matching purple and black peaked caps with gold trimmings were worn along with black trousers and shoes. This style was to continue in use through the turbulent years for country and band from 1937 into the 1950's.

What influenced a change in the early 1950's we don't know.  Maybe it was fashion in general or was the military influence felt?  Many of the bandsmen would have given military service in the recent war and would probably have seen the smart evening dress uniforms worn by Officers when dining in the Mess. What we do know is that our distinctive and familiar purple and gold 'mess' jackets', white shirt and bow tie with black trousers with purple seam stripes were first worn in a massed band concert in Huddersfield Town Hall in October 1952, and the style continues in use today.  This 'concert' uniform has undergone some slight changes over the years as fashions have changed. In the early 1970's the jackets were almost devoid of gold being mainly purple and black. After a few years the greater use of gold was reintroduced and extra trimmings and gold decoration were applied to the jacket backs.  This is the uniform in use today for the majority of our concert hall performances.

Up to the mid 1970's, the band travelled to all its concert and contest engagements in civilian clothes. Some bandsmen bought black blazers at their own expense to wear when travelling but we had no walking-out (travelling) uniforms. To provide these would be another burden on an already tight budget trying to fund instruments, music, existing uniforms, rehearsal facilities etc…….  A rare weekend concert trip to Holland in the mid 1970's, along with the Fairey Band, brought the need for this uniform to the serious attention of the then committee. 

Despite the best efforts of both band's secretaries who were co-ordinating travel arrangements, the airline concerned did not taken sufficient notice of the fact that they had to fly out to Holland in one aeroplane about sixty band personnel complete with their personal luggage AND their brass and percussion instruments.  Upon arrival at East Midlands Airport, both bands were faced with a major problem. There was space for the band personnel but only their luggage OR the instruments - NOT BOTH!  As both bands were to appear in a massed concert together that evening in Kerkrade, the instruments accompanied the bandsmen, but not the luggage containing the concert uniforms. 

The Fairey Band had at this time smart walking-out blazers, shirts ties etc.. and appeared at that concert looking quite smart in travelling uniform.  Meanwhile, B&R, travelling in their usual mix of civilian clothes, gave a far from smart appearance and probably gave the only full concert performance out of uniform in their history. The luggage was flown over later in the day but only caught up with the two bands after the evening concert had ended.  The rest of the short concert tour proceeded successfully without incident, but a lesson had been learnt for the future.

Upon arrival home, the committee quickly thought around the problem, examining all possibilities and options. As is often the case, the response to a crisis goes a little 'over the top'. Sports style jackets with chequered patterns in bright modern colours with contrasting coloured shirts and ties were in vogue. They could be easily bought 'off the peg' and were quite reasonably priced.  The committee went for this option and the band were duly kitted out in their first official walking out uniform, christened by the bandsmen, “the Rupert gear”.  It consisted of chequered jacket made up of predominantly light blue and grey with a touch of red, dark blue shirts, light blue ties and dark grey slacks. What a picture! In fact, they once wore this uniform in a Granada TV Band of the Year Contest at Belle Vue, Manchester when the visual entertainment of a performance was part of the competition.  It only lasted around two years although a photograph exists showing the band still in this outfit at BBC TV Studios, Birmingham in 'The Floral Dance days' in 1977.   Probably as a result of slightly better finances brought about by the band joining the 'popular music culture' of the time, the current walking-out uniform, black blazer with badge, white shirt, official band tie, grey trousers and black shoes was purchased and introduced.

This brings us fully up-to-date.  The 'mess jacket uniform' is still used for the majority of concerts, whilst the 'Whit Friday (outdoor) uniform' is used especially on Whit Friday and the occasional concert especially out-of-doors - the jackets are very warm. The 'walking-out uniform' is worn on all concert and concert engagements when personnel are not on stage and when the band is travelling as a unit.  Next time you see the band in those famous purple and gold colours, please consider the thought and care that has been taken to produce our unique and distinctive visual identity, including the' Rupert gear'!!!!!  

Sam B Wood - The man behind the B&R signature tune - March 'West  Riding' - by A. J. Wilkinson

If Brighouse and Rastrick Band had saved a pound every time they have played their signature tune, the March 'West Riding', since it was written in 1943, they would have accumulated quite a healthy bank balance.  Whilst the band has in the last twenty years been closely associated with that well known 'Yorkshire' folk song, 'The Floral Dance', almost every concert of the thirty to forty the band gives annually across the UK and beyond, commences with 'West Riding' whose opening bars, based on the well known Yorkshire Anthem 'Ilkla' Moor Bah't', quickly conveys to the audience exactly where the band originates.

In November 1999, the Brighouse and Rastrick Band contributed to a Centenary and Armistice Celebration Concert held in Pudsey Civic Centre, not only celebrating the 100th anniversary of Pudsey being declared a borough, the last such charter Queen Victoria granted, but also celebrating the life and music of Pudsey born Samuel Balmforth Wood, the composer of 'West Riding'.

Samuel Balmforth Wood. Mus.Bac. (Dunelm) FVCM, FTSC, FRSA, was a prolific composer and arranger of more than 400 published works. Sam B., as he was affectionately known, was born on the 5th August 1896 and raised in a family immersed in music. His father, John Wood, was a professional musician and a Cooper. By the time Sam B. was five years old he had been taught to play the cornet. At ten years of age he performed at the Theatre Royal in Leeds and was a King's Trumpeter. He played the cornet seasonally at Ilkley and Morecambe when he was a young teenager.

During the First World War Sam B. served in Egypt and France, where he served as a stretcher-bearer in the trenches during some horrendous battles. He joined the band of the 2nd Bradford Pals as solo cornet. When the 'Pals' were disbanded, the band was transferred en-bloc to the 8th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. On the eve of his 21st birthday he became the youngest bandmaster in the British Army. Whilst serving in the Forces he composed several marches and a suite called 'Bucquoy'. At the end of his military service he was offered promotion to Brigade Bandmaster but preferred to return to civilian life.

After the 1914-18 War he played in cinema orchestras. He was also the musical arranger for the New Victoria Broadcasting Cinema Orchestra in Bradford. With the demise of cinema orchestras he established several dance bands, one of which was the very popular 'Dutch Boys'. During this time he was also a timpanist in a symphony orchestra. Sam B. was also a music writer and arranger for Banks Publishing, Leeds and Blackburns of Bradford.  He studied music in Leeds under Sir Edward C. Bairstow, MusD. of York Minster for eight years and later  obtained his degree of Bachelor of Music at Durham University on the 6th February, 1934 (No. 527).

Sam B. composed more than 2,000 pieces of music, including forty signature tunes, the most famous being the march 'West Riding' which was especially written for and dedicated to the Brighouse and Rastrick Band. Many of his compositions were used as test-pieces by brass band contest promoters, not only in Great Britain, but also in the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. Several of Sam B's pieces have been heard on the radio and TV and he did take part in broadcasts on numerous occasions as a conductor and instrumentalist. During his lifetime he could adapt himself to any wind or percussion instruments. He had several nom-de-plumes; Duncan Macleod being his favourite, which he used for 'Faith' played by Sandy Macpherson on the BBC theatre organ each Sunday morning in the 1950's radio programme 'Chapel in the Valley'.

During the Second World War he coached the Bradford Military Band, in addition to his own Yorkshire Copper Works' Brass Band, which was later to become the Yorkshire Imperial Metals Band. Always encouraging young people, he also coached the Drum and Fife Band at Pudsey Grammar School. His occupation at this time was teaching at Belle Vue Boys' High School, Bradford. Although a very busy person, he was also an active member of the local hospital committee.

While still residing in Pudsey, Sam B. became an Independent Councillor but lost his seat in the 1945 Labour landslide. This defeat and the poor health of his wife, Agnes, made it an easy decision to move to live near the seaside at Morecambe.

Whilst being employed as music master at Morecambe Grammar School he still kept himself busy musically being associated at one time or another as musical director of three local amateur societies. He was also Musical Advisor to Morecambe and Heysham Corporation and was responsible for organizing their annual brass band contest and concerts played by many famous bands, including Brighouse and Rastrick, at the Harbour bandstand.

Following his retirement he was Principal of the Victoria College of Music in London and accomplished his great ambition when he adjudicated at the Royal Albert Hall.  His last piece was written for the Leeds Fire Brigade Band in which he incorporated two notes of the fire station alarm.  He died in 1977, aged 81, leaving his only son, Barrie and his fine collection of music.

The Brighouse and Rastrick Band's Bandrooms - by D. Rawlinson

The Brighouse and Rastrick Band's first rehearsal room in the 1880's was within a cabinet-makers works on Lower Bonegate, probably owned by T. Greenwood & Sons. At the beginning of the 20th century the band move into accommodation in Atlas Mill Road, located between Messrs Thompson & Walton Engineers, and The Building & Monumental Stone Co. Ltd. The secretary at the time was Mr. H Sykes of Rastrick, who was later succeeded by Mr. James Squire of 11, East Street, Rastrick.

During the 1920's the band moved to the premises of the Wheeler's Club, in Huddersfield Road. They used these facilities until the early 1940's when their rehearsal room became unavailable. The committee of the time wrote to many organisations in Brighouse requesting the use of their premises for rehearsals. They were fortunate in receiving help from a few.  These included J. Blakeborough & Sons Ltd. for the use of their Bradford Road Social Club, the Rastrick Steam Laundry, the Auxiliary Fire Service for the use of the Mill Royd Street Fire Station and also George Turner & Co. Ltd. The latter charged the band at the rate of 20 guineas per annum and but immediately returned the money as a donation to the band. At one rehearsal in the Fire Station on Sunday 3rd, May 1942, Harry Mortimer took his first rehearsal since being appointed the band's professional coach.  About 70 people attended and Band President Mr. Herbert Wood said in his welcome speech that he hoped the people present would make a contribution towards Mr. Mortimer's fee.  In all £13 was collected. It isn't known how much of this was paid to Mr. Mortimer.

On the 19th December 1945, the Band Secretary, Mr. F.J Roberts wrote to the secretary of Order of Odd Fellows stating that he understood that “the Odd Fellows Hall is being derequisitioned by the Corporation,” and applied for permission to use the building for rehearsal purposes. In his reply Mr. Henry Hall, secretary of the Peace Lodge, commented, “It is just as the Military have left it and nothing can be arranged until the assessors have come to a decision regarding damages.” A delegation from both sides met on the 7th January 1946 and negotiations started, but it was not until early March that an agreement was reached. The President and Vice-Presidents were called to a special meeting and the facts of the transaction were put before them. It was then decided to purchase the property at a price of £2,500. A building fund was set up and a series of concerts were given in the Savoy Picture House in aid of the fund. It was reported to the 1952 A.G.M. that the mortgage with the Halifax Building Society of £2,500 on the bandroom property had been further reduced and now stood at £573.16s.2d.

In 1966 Brighouse Corporation put plans forward for road improvements including the Ludenschied Link Road, which was to go through the middle of the Odd Fellows Hall. Eventually a compulsory purchase order was served and alternative accommodation had to be found by the band. This was eventually achieved with the purchase of St. Martin's Parish Hall in Church Lane in 1970.  A great deal of renovation and preparation work had to be carried out. In a report of the official opening of the new facilities, the “Brighouse Echo” picked out a few names of volunteers who had helped - Messrs Lakey, Lord, Merrifield, Murray, Noble and Smith, as well as members of the Brighouse Light Opera Society. The Mayor of Brighouse, Coun. W. Stanley Firth, carried out the official opening of the new bandroom - now named “Rydings Hall”, on 25th September 1971.  The proceedings concluded with a concert given by the band with contributions from members of the B.L.O.S. This hall provided not only rehearsal facilities but an auditorium that could seat almost 500 people. The band could now promote its own concerts in its own hall, and several other local organisations benefited from this facility. Many fine recordings we made in the hall by B & R and some other bands including the Virtuoso Band of Great Britain, which was a combination of players drawn from all the top bands in the country. (These recordings have recently been re-mastered and re-issued on CD's).

In the late 1980's problems began to occur with the building and its management. The handful of people who looked after the hall for the band were not getting any younger. Some lived locally but others lived out of town and were not often readily available at short notice.  Most regrettably, vandalism was on the increase. It was therefore decided by the committee and to sell the property and look for suitable smaller accommodation elsewhere in the town.

In 1989 agreement was reached for the sale of Rydings Hall to a local doctor's practice who were wishing to expand their services. The agreement included a proviso that the band could use the rehearsal room for a further 12 months, giving them a breathing space to find new facilities before they were required to move out. Searches continued around the districts of Brighouse and Rastrick for a suitable building but without any success. As a short-term measure the band moved across Parsonage Lane from the Rydings Hall into the old canteen building of the Brighouse High School (formerly the Girls Grammar School). In May 1991 they finally said goodbye to Rydings Hall when they played at the official opening of new surgery. Their former home had now undergone major refurbishment in order to serve its new function in the town and was to be known as 'Rydings Hall Surgery'

Several buildings and locations were explored by the band committee around this time, but nothing suitable came to light, and so the band continued to be based in Parsonage Lane. However in early 1992 the possibility that some land may be available on the campus of the new Brighouse High School at their Finkil Street site was investigated. Discussions took place and these led to plans being drawn-up and planning permission sort from Calderdale Council. It must be said that there was some strong local opposition to the scheme for the proposed construction of a purpose-built band headquarters on the site. Planning permission was granted and the land bought from Calderdale Council, but a much stricter building specification being put on the building. Of course this increased the cost considerably. An appeal was made to the Band's Patrons, friends, local industry and the town in general to help raise funds towards the cost of the new building.  This building fund finally totalled £7,800, which was of great benefit in view of the additional costs.

A major setback came two weeks prior to the commencement of construction. The band were 'instructed' by the local authority-planning department that four 22 metre deep boreholes should to be drilled on site to test for any possible old quarry workings! These were duly carried out - fortunately no voids were found.  Work could start at last!  The first “sod” was cut at Finkil Street on 24th April 1994 by the band's oldest member, and Treasurer, Eddie Noble. The construction crew moved in. Work started. On the second day, the earth-moving machine broke through an unknown 4ins. water main passing through the site.  This was not recorded on any plans provided by Yorkshire Water or Calderdale Council, which was surprising since this pipe supplied the High School's fire hydrants! and so had to be re-routed around our property. Building work then continued steadily without any further major crisis.

At last the Brighouse and Rastrick Band were able to move into their new property in January 1995. The official opening of the new headquarters, named “West Ridings” after the band signature tune, followed later in the year on Saturday 25th April 1995. It was carried out by the Rt. Rev. Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Wakefield, in the presence of large numbers of Patrons, invited guests, donors, ex-players and friends. Due to the large numbers of people witnessing the event, a celebration buffet and concert followed in the Ritz Ballroom.

Since that time, 'West Ridings' has more than proved its worth. The low-maintenance, purpose-built facility with its large rehearsal room, music library room, uniform/instrument store, committee room, recording room, with easy access for people, their cars and coach transport, have led to many visitors, from home and abroad saying that 'we have the best in the country'.