Advice on further research 
    
 
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Advice on further research

The IBEW has a wealth of information about brass bands of the past, but that which is available for specific bands, in most cases, is fairly sparse - and this is even more the case for the people associated with the bands.

There are many other places you can go to try and get further information about bands and their members. A few suggestions and links are given below.

A more detailed guide, "Researching the History of Brass Bands - a guide to the resources available" can be found at gavinholman.academia.edu

I hope this page is useful - if you have any additional resources to suggest , or have any other comments, please email gavin@ibew.co.uk.

  • Books, articles and journals - much has been written about the brass movement, individual bands, and the history of bands. Printed publications include books, chapters within books, articles in journals and magazines, dedicated periodicals for bands - of which there have been nearly 100 over the years - and scholarly theses. These will be found in various libraries and individuals' collections across the world.

    • The Brass Band Bibliography is a comprehensive listing of published material about brass bands and associated subjects, and is available at IBEW, or the latest version as a pdf document at gavinholman.academia.edu
    • Brass Bands of the British Isles - a historical directory - This directory is an attempt to collect together information about the many brass bands that have flourished in Britain and Ireland over the last 200 years, with over 19,200 bands are recorded. This supersedes the earlier "British Brass Bands - a Historical Directory" (2016). A separate work is in preparation covering brass bands beyond the British Isles. Available as a pdf document at gavinholman.academia.edu


  • Local archives (country record offices & archives) - these often contain records of brass bands and even photographs. Not many of the collections have online access to their catalogues, though most have searching facilities within the offices themselves.
  • Museums and libraries - many of these maintain "local collections" or "local study libraries" of material relating to the town/area. Some of this is searchable via the internet, usually via the county library catalogues, but in most cases you will have to visit in person for a more detailed search. Academic and research libraries also may have relevant material.
  • Newpaper archives - for many brass bands local newspapers are the main source of information, in the absence of any other retained records. Mentions of the band's activities and achievements, some advertisments, obituaries, and more will be held in the newspapers of the past. Most current newspapers have physical archives, but these may not be easily accessible. Some are held on microfilm, quite often in the local library or record archive, others may be maintained by the newspaper itself.
  • Digitised newspapers - increasingly old newspapers are being digitised to preserve their content for the future. All of these digitised versions should support text searching for content and these are available on the internet or within various record archives. Some digitised newpaper services are only available through subscription or some other payment mechanism.
  • Local history societies - there are thousands of societies across the UK, with a range of publications, local records and information about their specific town, village or area. They are also useful in helping to locate people who may still have memories of past bands and bandsmen.
  • Personal memories (for the more recent bands) - where you can identify or find people who were involved with bands in the past, or possibly their families, then you can try to get them to relate what they know. They may also have access to other records, e.g. photographs, programmes, newsletters - any such information is valuable and should be recorded before it is lost. The IBEW is always happy to archive any or all such material.

    • The Mouthpiece - Brass band discussion forum - for the more recent bands, a query posted here may jog the memories of current or past bandsmen.
    • Bands themselves often have their own archives and records, some of which may also contain material about previous bands or other local bands. In addition some current members will have memories or links with other people with information. Find the bands via their websites in the IBEW directory

  • Industrial societies - many bands were set up by industrial concerns - mining and mills are typical examples from the 19th century in particular - almost all industries have sponsored bands in some way. The larger industries may have records of bands.
  • Records of individual companies - many of these have founded or supported bands over the years. Some famous ones include Black Dyke Mills, Fodens Motor Works, Fairey Aviation and Great Universal Stores. The records of current companies or those of the past, may also include details of the bands associated with them. This will probably be fairly scant, perhaps the odd picture and note in an annual report or company newsletter - but some were better represented, so it is worth looking into if a particular band did have a commercial sponsor.

  • People - genealogical resources - records of individual bandsmen are very difficult to pin down. It is rare to find records of a band, or photographs, that give details of individuals, and even then all you have is a name. Further research is possible using genealogical tools and archives. Family history research is very much easier today, with many websites offering access to digitised vital records, and a wealth of material available from other genealogical researchers online.
  • Children's Homes - From the mid-1800s children's homes and orphanages of many types were established, often by religious, philanthropic or civic organisations. Brass and other bands were often set up to help educate the children (mainly boys it has to be said), to provide another aspect of discipline and also, potentially, to give access to a musical career once they left the school. A useful by product at times were fees collected by performances of the bands, which helped the homes' finances. Other such institutions which had bands included Training Ships, Industrial Homes, Ragged Schools and Reformatory Schools. These catered for "delinquents" as well as orphans.
  • Trade directories - bands will often have had entries in local trade directories - e.g. Kelly's - with some details of their contacts and services offered, occasionally you can find bandsmen therein also - usually bandmasters or instrumental tutors, with their location and trade details. Copies of these old directories can be found in most large local reference libraries.
  • Other resources