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Wotton & District Silver Band
Wotton Silver Band was founded as the Abbey Band in 1894 by William H. Armitage who was its sole sponsor. William Armitage was the general manager of Tubbs Lewis & Co., makers of pins, elastic fabrics, etc. The Band was then renamed in 1968 as The Wotton-Under-Edge and District Silver Band.
The Band's story is not one of uniform upward progress. In particular, there were two extremely difficult periods. Membership declined during both World Wars. The Gazette in October 1915, reported that twelve of the Band members were on active service. This rapid depletion of numbers meant that the Band soon became virtually inoperative. It gradually reconstituted itself after the war and this positive period lasted until 1939. The war of 1939-46 had a similar effect on the Band. The post war did not see a revival of the Band's fortunes. Owing to deaths and resignations, for much of the period from 1947 to 1966, the Band continued to struggle on and became inoperative as a body, although there was never a decision taken to disband.
From the late sixties, a renaissance has taken place in the fortunes of the Band. Since then its progress has been steadily upwards. Its membership has now become younger, more women have joined and its repertoire has broadened, increased and diversified.
The Abbey Band at Kingswood Abbey, circa 1895. The uniforms were black with cherry red facings on tunics and stripe on trousers. There was a cherry red bobble on the crown of the cap and its peaks were edged with brass. It is believed that the cap badges were brass. With the addition of clarinets, the Band became known as the Abbey Military Band. It reverted back to pure brass at about the end of 1899.
The Abbey Band circa 1924, with Bandmaster Maurice Brown. The Band posed in front of Kingswood Abbey Gateway, although post World War I they no longer rehearsed in the room above the Gateway. Instead, once weekly practices took place in Kingswood's Upper Schoolroom. As most members lived at Wotton, it was decidied to find a practice room in Wotton. This was achieved in May 1925 and was a result of Maurice Brown having purchased the original Shearmans Arms when its licence was transferred across the road in 1924 to the former Co-operative stores at the bottom of Ludgate Hill. Initially the band practiced in the room which had served as a public bar before moving into the outbuilding which had served as a coach-house. The late Harry Hinder, seen in the photograph, recalled the picture being taken to mark the Band's imminent move from Kingswood to Wotton.
This picture records three important events which took place during 1969. The Band's name changed to Wotton-Under-Edge & District Band. A change of bandmaster when Maurice Brown handed the baton over to his deputy Kenneth Nelmes. The Band also had its's first new uniform since 1928. The decision to change teh name of the Band was not taken lightly. It was unanimously agreed however, that in view of the unprecedented interest and support we were getting from the Townspeople. it was appropriate to adopt the name of the town in which the Band had been resident for 44 years. The photograph was taken in the Baptist Schoolroom, which had recently become the Band's new practice room.
At TV studios in Bristol for the "Best in the West" series in 1975 with conductor Kenneth Nelmes. Three teams from Wotton competed against three from Frome. Although Wotton Band beat Frome Band, other Wotton teams were not so successful and Frome Town were declared overall winners.