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Wetherby Silver Band
We have a photograph in the bandroom of a bass drum which is inscribed "Presented to Wetherby Brass Band by Messers. Riley-Smith, Tadcaster, 1878". There is a bass drum in the bandroom which we believe to be the original, but has been renovated and now bears the Wetherby Coat of Arms and is inscribed "Wetherby Silver Band, established 1878, reorganised 1919"
From this we assume that 1878 was the birthday year of our town brass band. Prior to this date there had been a drum and fife band formed by one David March. He was to become one of the founder members of the brass band. The brass band was formed by John Dawson (a tinner by trade, who had his premises at the corner of Horsefair opposite the Angel Hotel) and for some years was bandmaster and conductor. After leaving Wetherby, he was to hold some important appointments in the South of England.
Information in respect of the bands activities during the period 1878 and 1920 is sparse, but it can be assumed that the band was present at many local functions and especially on Royal occasions when the town was celebrating Queen Victoria's Jubilee and the coronations of King Edward VII and George V. Photographs in the bandroom confirm this. However, like the present day, the band was engaged to play at the Wetherby Agricultural Show (for the first time) in 1893.
During a very severe winter in 1895, the river Wharfe was frozen to such an extent that skating was possible for some time. The band played on the frozen river for the entertainment of skaters, while lamps were hung from the trees and people set up stalls for the provision of refreshments. Local men in 1902 returning from the Boer war were met at the station by relatives and friends together with the band, and were marched into town to a heroes welcome. When war broke out in 1914, most of the bandsmen had volunteered for service with the armed forces and the band ceased to function.
Arthur Garforth 1886 - 1959
In the year 1886 a boy of eight years old joined and played with the band until 1914, when he went to serve in the army, under the wing of Mr. Weston Nicholls, a composer of military music. This man was a Mr. Arthur Garforth, (left) who was to serve the Wetherby Silver Band for over 56 years. When he returned in 1919, he rejoined the band, and in 1923, became bandmaster and conductor, a position he would hold until his death in 1959.
In the 1940's and 50's the band made the annual pilgrimage to the Belle Vue Contest in Manchester. This was remembered by many, if only for a certain Mr. Maurice Burnett's custard pies and a liquid refreshment which accompanied the band on the coach. It was at this such contest that the band played such pieces as 'O'er Hill and Dale', 'Homage to Pharoah' and the march 'Slaidburn' - all are still going strong! During preparations for contests, rehearsals were held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, and on some occasions on a Sunday morning.
Rehearsals under Mr. Garforth were held twice a week with scores of youngsters learning to play instruments through tuition from him. He gave hours of individual attention to the earnest and sincere pupil, requiring them to practice hard for as many hours as possible. If a pupil did not respond, he was told to leave his instrument in the bandroom and forget about ever becoming a bandsman. The success of the Wetherby Silver Band is in no doubt due to the untiring efforts and determination of Mr. Garforth. He led the band, shortly before his death to the National Finals in London, a feat not repeated until recently. Music was his life and brass bands his first love. His photograph, and his baton hang framed on the wall in the bandroom as a mark of respect and memory. He was truly a man of music.
The band has always required a place to practice. The Drum and Fife band began rehearsals in an outbuilding behind the Three Legs Inn, and when the brass band was founded, a room behind the Angel Hotel was used, this was known as 'The Albert Hall'. The Band has since then practiced on Bank Street, a room behind Church Street, and in the 1920's, the Town Hall. The Band then moved for quite a time to an outbuilding at the rear of a cafe in Wetherby, on the 1st floor, an old hayloft. It was known as 'The Upper Room', but later had to be demolished to make way for road widening. The Band finally obtained the tenancy of a room in the Hallfields Mansion (now demolished also), still not owning their own bandroom. In 1978 however, the band were given some land on Bank Street by Messers Fitzgerald-Hart, upon which the band built their current bandroom. It was opened by the late Harry Mortimer OBE to celebrate the bands centenary and has remained 'standing' ever since!
In 1978, also to celebrate the band's Centenary, a concert was held in Wetherby High School with Harry Mortimer OBE conducting. A fantastic evening in the company of one of the world's most prominent brass band musicians was enjoyed by all with an experience never to forget. The Band went on from their Centenary year to attract more players and continued to improve to the present day.
Some other highlights include; Presenting the YHBBA with the 'Wetherby Silver Band Centenary Cup, playing at the Wetherby Weir Lighting Service in 1985 to commemorate its preservation and gaining Charitable Status in 1988. In 1989, John Scruton celebrated his 25 year anniversary as bandmaster, while the band accompanied Charles Hindmarsh for his BBC audition for 'That's Life' playing the musical saw. In 1996, the band was honoured to have it's President, Colin Wardman, awarded the MBE for his services to Wetherby and the community. The Band received a Lottery Grant of £50,000 in 1997, buying a new set of instruments and setting up a Junior training band, our first CD was recorded the year later.