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Epping Forest Brass Band
In 1933 Epping Urban Council appointed a new clerk to the Council, a Mr. Benjamin Hiscott of Yeovil, Somerset. Ben Hiscott was an accomplished pianist, organist, teacher and conductor of brass bands. In the course of his legal duties with the Council, he sought the help of some of his councillors in introducing some music to the town. So in 1935 he invited members of the public, who were interested, to communicate with him. In a short time a class was started and the Epping Silver Band was reborn.
The word reborn is used diliberately because the first Epping Town Band was founded in 1894 by R.E. Rutland, an engine driver for the Great Eastern Railway. Many original bandsmen were railway workers based at Stratford and indeed, the first bandmaster was Tom Smith, another railway worker, whose two sons both played in the band. The first secretary and treasurer was Charlie Hills whose son Sydney still lives in Epping and is a well known local historian.
The bandsmen each paid an entry fee of one shilling and subscriptions of threepence a week towards purchase of music. Monies earned by the band were either divided among the bandsmen or put towards uniform purchase.
Engagements were many and varied at this time and included playing at the local cycling and athletic club sports meetings, football matches and on the stage of the old town hall when it was used for roller skating. One of the most memorable engagements was an ice carnival on the lake at Coopersale House in February 1895 when the lake was illuminated by small fairy lamps and Chinese lanterns. Hundreds of skaters were entertained by the lady of the House, Miss Archer-Houblon and the carnival was enlivened by the band's music and a firework display.
Other celebrations included frequent concerts in the market place and the two days of celebrations for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in June 1897. The Epping Band continued playing until the early 1920s when it ceased to exist. After a break of a dozen years the band was reformed by Mr. Ben Hiscott in 1935.
There were no halls available, only an old barn that had been loaned to the Boy Scouts for storage and drill purposes. This was not an ideal place but the enthusiasm of the class was such that they decided to obtain second-hand instruments from Messrs. Boosey & Hawkes at the rate of 6d. per week credited to the band when purchasing a full set of re-conditioned instruments.
In l936 the Epping Silver Band fulfilled its first public engagement at the Armistice Service and march past and in 1938 they made their first entry into contesting. When the war started, the band was reduced to a handful of older men and boys who rehearsed each week at each other's homes but they kept the spirit of the band alive.
After the war, they set about rebuilding the band and were soon accepting engagements again. VE and VJ days were great occasions for the band, who participated in the celebrations. The band organised a fete and carnival each Whit Monday, bringing in hundreds of pounds which were shared with other deserving organisations.
In 1945 the band, now fully reformed, decided to apply to the Essex Education Committee as an evening class in the local school. Ths brought new members and the loan of county property. Mr. Hiscott was appointed class instructor by the Education Committee and the band was asked to demonstrate at schools and colleges who were contemplating founding brass bands. This was about the time the Brass Band Conductors Class was formed and Mr. Hiscott became its First secretary.
This was of great assistance to the band as the conductor was in constant touch with Denis Wright, Harry Mortimer and Frank Wright who conducted the band from time to time as guests.
The demands on the band's services for fetes, agricultural shows, church services and playing in the parks were steadily increasing and the band contested frequently especially at Reading and the Daiíy Herald contests where it won several prizes. It further established a wonderful library which includes music ranging from the great masters to pop.
In 1967 Ben Hiscott, our founding father, retired and returned to his native west Country. But the good work he started and nurtured has been continued over the years. Today, the Band, now called the Epping Forest Band, participates in many and various engagement from fetes and shows to concerts in the London parks and Westminster Abbey as well as competing in local and national brass band competitions.