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Walsingham's Brotherhood Band
By Howard Fears, M.A.
When interviewing Walsingham residents of an older generation several have recalled, directly or as spoken of by their parents, the Brotherhood Band. With reasonable certainty we can plot its birth and decline, although additional detail would be welcomed.
The Salvation Army was established in Walsingham in 1885, their Barracks, or meeting place, being the barn which they would have described as their 'Citadel', accessible from Knight street, across a short yard. This body continued in the village until about 1909. During these years an important element would have been their brass band, a means of attracting and encouraging support, whether through the appeal of the uniform or the opportunity by the vicarious making of noise to give young men an outlet for their suppressed energies. Rose Howells, for example, recalls that the band included a big drummer and a little drummer. Evidence for the existence of the "Army" band and its appeal suggest that a number of males accepted the discipline of music making and the necessary attendance at citadel services.
When the "Army" ceased to have a presence in Walsingham its band, whose functioning had included the 'drumming up' of supporters, would have become redundant. Yet for those who had found pleasure in playing a musical instrument and who enjoyed the comradeship of joining with others of a like mind, disappointment at the "Army" band's dissolution would have been considerable. Evidence that the replacement organisation was a deliberate "Army"-encouraged body is lacking, and those who recall the Brotherhood Band do not remember it as having any religious associations. But the name 'Brotherhood' carries an overtone of association, suggesting strongly that those previously in the "Army"'s band formed at least the nucleus of the Brotherhood.
A posed photograph of the Brotherhood Band, as attached, has several revealing characteristics. Probably at its peak in 1913, nineteen males are depicted. Since most adults at the time still displayed the hirsute evidence of manliness, i.e. a moustache, it may be inferred that many of the bandspeople were young, probably teenagers, with a 'hard core' of older, dedicated musicians. The big drum (or drummer) and its smaller counterpart, as described by Rose Howells, would seem to be prominent in the foreground. Other visible musical instruments do not suggest that some members were without provision: an extended or even younger community of players may have existed, but were not included in the posed picture. The hand held stick of the heavy drummer in the front and the drumsticks in the possession of the central second-row figure suggest that thought has gone into its composition. The range of brass instruments is also indicative of the Band's seriousness: they aimed to present themselves as a proud body.
Maureen Edge, who donated the original photograph, identified her father, Herbert Frary, at that time a farm worker, as fifth from the left in the back row. He appears to be holding a trumpet. The late Charles Woodcock of Great Walsingham, when interviewed in 1998, spoke enthusiastically of the Band, believing it continued to meet in the old citadel, but without recalling any association with religion. Several of those interviewed linked the name of Lou (?) Newton, who occupied the shop at the corner of the High street and Common Place (now the Pound Shop), with the Band. All nineteen members in the 1913 photograph are in uniform, which included a peak cap: doubtless this added to their attraction.
In the other illustration, gathering opposite the Hearn premises, at least ten bandsmen can be distinguished, not least by their distinctive head-dress. The occasion and the date of their photograph, with its original held by Steve Stanford, is uncertain. A political meeting is suggested, perhaps associated with the resurgent Liberal party; there may have been an appeal by Labour supporters. The curious bystanders include children with Eton collars. For most men cloth caps are very evident. The bandsmen's uniform seems a little different: in the few visible differences, buttons can be discerned in the front of the jacket. Apart from occasions such as this the Band gave concerts and when the annual anniversary procession of the Oddfellows Lee Warner branch took place this was always described as being led by a band. In the course of a year a number of events warranting a band's presence could be anticipated, apart from special concerts for pleasure, perhaps for fund raising and, for example, at Christmas.
It is unknown whether the instruments were owned collectively, or by the individuals. The Salvation Army may have agreed to a sale of their band's accoutrements when they vacated the village. Bandsmen would almost certainly have been responsible for the provision of their own uniforms. Considering the hardships of the years before World War I, especially in respect of poorly paid arable farm workers, purchasing a uniform would have been a financial problem and, once possessed, its good condition would have been a matter of continuing care.
Assuming the use of the Brotherhood Band to be from the time of the Sally Anne (i.e. Salvation Army)'s withdrawal suggests its formation some time in 1909, although preparation for an independent existence, and in anticipation of the "Army"'s action, may pre-date this. Styles of clothing in the crowd photograph point to a date late in the reign of King Edward VII or early in that of King George V: probably 1909 to 1912. The proud posed photograph of 1913 may have marked its apogee, the height of its appeal, since within a few years all references to the Band have ceased. The manpower demands of the war from 1914 depleted rapidly the numbers of young men, a process which continued throughout the long war years. As the armies, especially in France, absorbed continuously increasing numbers, and when conscription made vulnerable those without specialist skills, village males became demonstrably less. Those for whom the Band had its particular appeal, the late teenagers and men in their early twenties, were most obviously those required for military service. Whilst the Band may have accepted younger candidates and encouraged older men, beyond conscription's remit, the loss of playing members would influence the Band's capacities and morale. In later years the Salvation Army accepted female bandspeople, but the Brotherhood Band did not, and at some point during the war years its demise occurred.
This short episode in time, perhaps little more than five years, was nevertheless sufficient to place the Band in the memory of villagers. Its appeal seems predominantly to have been to the 'ordinary' working people, typical of those who would have been sought and encouraged by the Salvation Army and, before them, the Primitive Methodists. There is no evidence that they received support form the squire and his family and certainly none linking the Band directly with any religious organisation or activity, other than in its probable succession from the "Army"'s band appeal. Perhaps, therefore, the nucleus from the days of the "Army" band was small and under an enthusiastic, perhaps charismatic, bandsmaster or leader they came to occupy for a short time a major option in the limited range of activities available at the time to young people in the village. But for further, positive, evidence we must rely on the contributions of those with direct or family memories: can you help?
Source: Apart from outline details supplied by the Salvation Army's Heritage Centre concerning that organisation's village life, most of this account is based on interviews with older villagers. The imperfections of memory may have clouded some recollections and in most cases the data has been at least second hand, having involved directly older parental memories. Any reader able to loan a contemporary concert account or programme details, or able to reveal more of the minutiae of the Band's existence is urged to contribute accordingly.