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Haslemere Town Band
The Haslemere Town Band is believed to be one of the oldest brass bands in continuous existence, the first documented evidence being in 1837 when it played for the local celebrations for the coronation of Queen Victoria. Despite a report in the British Bandsman in the early 1960's reporting the Band's demise, it has never disbanded, and is still going strong. In the early 1800s, Haslemere was a small rural town with a population of about 1500 people. The main industry of the area was hoop making and wood turning.
In 1834, William Bridger, a wood and brush stock turner, and his younger brother, Charles, formed a small Band consisting of both brass and woodwind instruments. William had several sons and they all played in the Band in later years. Soon after 1834, two other brothers Edward and William Berry, started up a second band in Haslemere. In 1837 the two bands amalgamated under the leadership of William Bridger. The first engagement, and the accepted date for the official founding of the Band, was when it played for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837. During the Second World War, although the Band was 'silent' for six years due to national service, it was not disbanded despite an early 1960's report in the British Bandsman that it had been. This leads us to believe that the Haslemere Town Band is one of the oldest brass bands in continuous existence.
The next documented evidence of the Band was forty-five years later in in1882, and nothing to do with music, it being a report of a cricket match at Lythe Hill cricket ground between the Band and the Volunteer Fire Brigade. The main item of interest was that there were nine members of the Bridger family in the Band side. This explains why the Band went under the alias of the 'Bridger Band' until the turn of the century (no pun intended!).
It was not until 1907 that we know of the band, now renamed the Haslemere Town Band, playing competitively. In that year Sir Harry Waechter, High Sheriff of Surrey, who resided at Ramsnest, near Chiddingfold, instigated the Ramsnest Band Competition Silver Cup. In the initial competition there were four bands, including another band that had started in Haslemere, the Institute Band. Haslemere Town Band now owns the cup which was to become the outright property of any band that won the competition three years in a row or four years in total.
During the 1914-18 War, both the Institute and Town Bands lost many players, and so after the war the two bands amalgamated under the new president, Turner Bridger, son of Charles and with O J Langridge as conductor. After the second world war, the Band went into decline and was held together by Denny Clement who both conducted and played at rehearsals and engagements, not easy when you play trombone. In 1925 the Band entered the Southern Counties Amateur Band Associations contest and met with great success. Graham Wade held the baton as Musical Director from 1984 until 2006. The Band's current president, Tony Waddell, is a great great grandson of one of the originators of the band, Charles Bridger.
1997 was a big year for the Band. In February the Band took possession of a set of 'top of the range' brass instruments and percussion, purchased with the aid of a grant from the National Lottery. In May the Band travelled to Germany to visit our twin town, Horb-am-Neckar, and also appeared in concerts at Petersfield (with the Liss Band), and for the Mayor of Waverley's Charity Concert at Charterhouse (with the Farnham and Godalming. Bands). We also appeared at our annual concert, Sounding Brass, at Haslemere Hall .
The Haslemere Town Band is twinned with Bernay, France and Horb-am-Neckar, Germany. The Band has developed an arrangement with the Horb Band (concert formation) such that we visit Horb every 3 or 4 years, and they visit us in the intervening years. The Band also has occasional trips to Bernay. Peter Yarde became the Musical Director in 2006 when Graham resigned and was formally elected at the AGM in 2007. The Band is located close to the Surrey/ Hants/ Sussex Border and is 5 minutes from the A3 at Hindhead. We also present an annual concert, Sounding Brass, at St Christopher's church in Haslemere.