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Cranbrook Town Band
POPULAR WEALD BANDMASTER: COMMENDABLE RECORD OF MR. H. HINKLEY, CRANBROOK
In these days of band contests and other forms of musical activity, it is difficult to realise that less than a decade ago Cranbrook, the old capital of the Weald did not possess a brass band.
True, at one time it had a drum and fife band, but that was in the old volunteer days and was attached to the then "A" Company of the 2nd (Weald of Kent) Volunteer Battalion East Kent Regiment, the headquarters of which were at Cranbrook. Then followed a lengthy period when there was no band, and it was entirely due to the enterprise and enthusiasm of Mr. Harry Hinkley that the present town band came into existence. Within nine years this band has emerged from a nucleus of raw material into a band of which the town has every reason to be proud.
Mr. Hinkley, who is fifty-four years of age, has devoted all his spare time to the study and practice of music. He comes of a musical family - his father having been a member of the Benenden Band for many years - and was for some time a member of the Benenden Band. He left Benenden at the age of nineteen and came to Cranbrook, where he was employed by the late Mr. Charles Evernden, saddler, as shop boy and in the garden. He then took up garden work entirely and was in the employ of Mr. E. T. Stone, the local florist and nurseryman, up to 1901 when he volunteered for active service in South Africa, going out as a bugler.
After serving for a time in the Orange Free State, he joined the 2nd Buffs in the Transvaal and was with Benson's column at Middleburgh. He served till the close of the campaign, and has the 1901-02 medal with five bars. On returning to England, Mr. Hinkley went back to his gardening work with Mr. Stone and about a year later took over the care of the Cranbrook cemetery in the laying out of which he was engaged for some considerable time. He was next employed in the garden at Northlands by the late Misses Clarke, and in 1904 was appointed caretaker of the Vestry Hall - a position which he still holds - and shortly afterwards entered the service of the late Major C. D. Murton as gardener at Cranbrook Lodge, where he is still in the employ of Mrs. Murton
At the time of the outbreak of the Great War he was with the Territorials in training at Salisbury Plain, and on returning was at once mobilised and served with the 5th Buffs until their departure for India, when he was transferred to the Royal West Surrey Regiment.
With Mr. Harry Picton (The present bandmaster of the Ashford British Legion Military Band) as first cornet soloist, in 1915 Mr. Hinkley took part as assistant concert soloist under bandmaster W. Thorne in the recruiting march under the command of Lord Goschen.
During the whole of the time he was in the Territorials, and since, he has devoted all his leisure to his one great hobby-music. He started the first bugle band in Cranbrook and also the local scouts' bugle band. In May 1919, he took over conductorship of, and re-formed the Goudhurst Band, with which he continued to be associated until he founded the Cranbrook Town Band in February 1924. The founding of the later was the outcome of a few kindred spirits whom he had got together in the autumn of the previous year.
Difficulties there were in plenty, but Mr. Hinkley's personality and zeal surmounted all obstacles, not the least of which was the members – with few exceptions – entire lack of musical knowledge. He taught them their notes and scales and out of this raw material has evolved a band which has shown marked efficiency in sight-reading and has a long list of successes. The band's first success was at the Tunbridge Wells Musical Festival in 1926, and since it first entered the competitions it has secured in prizes two firsts, four seconds, two thirds and one fourth. The band also holds eleven medals for solo and quartette work.
In addition to the successes by the Cranbrook Band, Mr. Hinkley is the possessor of the first bandmaster's medal presented at the Tunbridge Wells contest, and which he won while conductor of the Goudhurst Band. The family musical trait is handed down to the rising generation, for his son is a member of the band and also plays the organ and piano, whilst his two daughters sing and play.