History of Brass Bands 
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 The Thousand Guinea Trophy

This "Thousand Guineas" trophy was awarded to the winners of the National Brass Band Championships until the Second World War.

In 1872 the Crystal Palace Company, who ran the building and all works concerned with it, commissioned, via a competition, a new Challenge Trophy. It had to be in silver, gold or other precious materials, be portable and not cost more than 1,000. The winning designer, SJ Nicholl, created the trophy in silver-gilt to a Victorian-Gothic design.

The Crystal Palace Challenge Trophy was to be awarded to the Class 1 winner during a National Music Union event lasting five days, where any Choral Society of between 200 and 500 members could compete. At the inaugural Union in July 1872 only one choir entered in Class 1, the Cor Mawr sponsored by the South Wales Choral Union, with 460 members. The following year the criteria for Class 1 were altered to attract more entries, but only one additional choir competed, losing to Cor Mawr. The National Union was not held again and the Challenge Trophy was returned to the Crystal Palace Company, where it was placed in storage.

In 1900 John Henry Iles obtained the co-operation of the Crystal Palace Company to present and organise the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, together with the complementary Festival Concert. Agreement was reached to use the Challenge Trophy for the overall winning band and it was removed from "moth-balls" where it had languished for twenty-seven years.

The Trophy was awarded annually, excepting those years during the Great War when there was no Championship contest held, until the outbreak of the Second World War. By this time the Crystal Palace Company was no longer in existence (the Palace itself having been destroyed by fire in 1936) and the Trophy was handed on to the Company's successors - London County Council, later the Greater London Council. It was not released by the Council except on a few occasions on temporary loan for display.

click for larger pictureThe trophy now resides in the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagan's, Cardiff where it is on permanent display. It was placed there following a successful campaign to return the trophy to the roots of its original winners in South Wales. Ownership of the trophy remains with the London Borough of Bromley who received all the Crystal Palace trophies following the break up of the GLC. (The inscription on the Trophy reads "Crystal Palace Trustees Challenge Prize, National Band Festival")

This magnificent Trophy was replaced by the somewhat more modest, yet still excellent Champion Band of Great Britain Trophy which has been awarded annually since the National Championship Finals were restarted in 1945.

For larger versions, click the pictures below

The Crystal Palace - built for the Great Exhibition of 1851

John Henry Iles conducting the massed bands during the National Brass
Band Championships Festival at the Crystal Palace - early 1930s?

For an account of the establishment of the National Brass Band Championships by its founder, John Henry Iles, see the First National Championships page.