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Gretton Silver Band
In 1877 a group of Gretton residents formed a drum and fife band. Unfortunately a full list of founder members is unknown but, T. Spendlove, brother J. Spendlove, G. Weston, E. Morris and W. Ingram are known to be amongst them.
In 1882 the band changed over to brass and the oldest photograph in the band archives, taken about that time, shows nine members who are assumed to have made the change. It is said that the remainders of fife & drum members, being of questionable playing ability, were not invited to the brass band.
The band flourished during the 1880's and by 1892 a photograph shows a membership of eighteen. Old records are somewhat depleted but do show during this period the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Winchilsea and Lord Burghley MP as patrons, J. Spendlove as secretary and T. Spendlove as conductor, a post he continued in until shortly before his death in 1942. Joseph Spendlove the elder of the two brothers was manager of the clothing factory in the village, while Thomas (always affectionately known as TS) was a master cobbler and hand shoemaker. Between them they played the organ at the Baptist church for over 60 years.
During the 1890's and the early 1900's the band was in great demand over a wide area for garden fetes and old time dancing. They travelled by train where possible but mostly by horse drawn vehicle. A member of the band, W. Wootton (farmer and baritone player) provided this, but unfortunately the band had to help the horse(s) and dismount and walk up steep hills.
The band hosted a contest for several years during the 1890's, the first believed to be in 1891as shown on a medallion displayed in the band room. Entrants came from a wide area; arriving by train and assembling on the village green, from where they marched to the contest area which was a field now included in the sports field. The contest was resurrected on August bank holiday 1932, the winner being Leicester Imperial. It was intended to again make this an annual event, but this didn't materialise.
In spite of members being called to service during both world wars a band was always available when required even with depleted numbers.
During the 1930's the band entered its most successful period from a contesting point of view. The annual Stamford contest was the greatest draw in the area and Gretton achieved distinction on several occasions, the march section being its greatest strength.
From its inception the band used a room at the Hatton Arms for practise until 1955 when a somewhat dilapidated wooden building once used as a public reading room was taken over. The rent was one pound per annum, repairs being the responsibility of the band. The hut was originally erected in the 1860's to
accommodate workers when the railway passed through this area. Many repairs were made but by 1990 we gave up the ghost and bought a second hand prefabricated building, which the parish council allowed us to erect on the sports field. This remains the current home.
In 1963 the band was recorded on the village green by Anglia Television for a programme on village life. The band played the march Arethusa.
Two traditions carried on for over 80 years now sadly lapsed was the feast Sunday evening concert on the village green and carol playing round the village on Christmas Eve starting at 10 p.m. The feast Sunday concert was looked forward to and several hundred people would turn up on a fine evening. Christmas Eve carol playing was discontinued when Gretton became too large to comfortably cover in one night. It was often a very cold night and instrument valves would freeze, the worst being the double bass. On one occasion this player arrived at the meeting place with a hot water bottle wrapped round his valves which he replenished as the night went on by knocking on doors (even at 2 a.m.).
Family traditions have always been strong in the band and today three generations of a founder member are playing. Young members are coming along all the time and have done so through many generations. Some of today's players have been with the band for many years and others have joined us from around the district, we are grateful to both. Until after the Second World War the band membership was always male, today there are ten female players.
Since the formation of the band there has only been eight conductors (the term Musical Director being a recent title). Joseph Spendlove, for a short period before handing over to Thomas Spendlove, who continued for about 50 years, Matthew Woolley, Fred Spendlove (son of Thomas), Jack Woolley (son of Matthew), George Spence, Ted Reynolds and currently Cliff Bland. The first seven conductors came from within the band. Cliff joined us in 1987.
Banding is far from always a serious business and a fund of amusing incidents have been collected over the years.
At one period the bass drummer being a very small man who, it was said, was unable to see over the top of the drum and much to the amusement of the onlookers turned in the opposite direction to the band when marching through the village.
On a rather prestigious occasion at a stately home, a kitchen maid peeled lemons in front of the band much to the consternation of the conductor, the band broke down.
At Oakley Hall the band played to celebrate the end of the Boer War - some kind soul spiked the band's refreshment with rum. Later, playing became decidedly rough and the concert had to end.
Gretton Silver along with Yarwell & Nassington Silver are the only two surviving village bands in this area. Times past it was common place for villages to have either a public subscription band or one associated with a church. Cottingham, Great Easton and Brigstock come readily to mind.
It is true to say that Gretton residents (former as well as current) are proud of the band and are most generous with their support. This is always appreciated by the band who in turn tries to help the village organisations.
There has always been close links with both churches and the band never refuses the opportunity to play hymns for either.