Culcheth Military Band

(Founded in Culcheth, Manchester in 1873)



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A brief history of the Culcheth Military Band,


In 1868, Mr. Thomas Goddard left his home in the village of Curbar, Derbyshire, in search of employment and came to reside in this district. He commenced work at Swift's Mill. Daisy Bank, under the supervision of The late Alderman Trevor, who was then then Manager.

During the time Mr. Goddard was employed at Swift's Mill, he made the acquaintance of Mr. John Swindell, the father of Mr. Charles E. Swindell, also Mr. J. Sellars, Boot and Shoe Maker, Droylsden Road, Newton Heath, both of whom were natives of Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire.

Mr. Goddard's father was a Trombone Player in the Baslow Band. which was famous in the middle of last century, and Mr. Sellars, when very young man, had been a Cornet Player in the same Band. Naturally, conversation very often turned to little incidents in connection with the Baslow Band, also other Bands which Mr. Goddard's father had assisted At various times. On one occasion, when having such a chat, Mr. Goddard suggested to Mr. Sellars that they should try and form a Band, there being none in the district at the time, and Mr. Sellars warmly agreed.

Mr. Goddard mentioned this to Mr. Thomas Blackwell and Mr. Robert Gradwell, with whom he then worked at Holt's Mill, Oldham Road. They also being in favour of the idea, a few others were approached, and eventually it led to a meeting being held at the house of Mr. Sellars. It was decided that a Band be formed, and Mr. Sellars kindly offered the use of his parlour for rehearsals.

The first members were:-

Original Band Members

Mr.Thomas Goddard, Mr. J. Sellars, Mr. Thomas Blackwell, Mr. James Blackwell, Mr. Charles E. Swindell, Mr. Robert Gradwell, Mr. Thomas Halpin, Mr. MaCaffie, Mr. Thomas Wignall, Mr. James Seel, Mr. Charles Maddock and Mr. H. Howarth.

A few instruments were bought second-hand from an Instrument dealer, at Miles Platting, and were paid for by weekly instalments. Mr. Sellars purchased a Cornet for his own use, and the wooden case for same he converted into a sewing machine cover. (It is understood that this is in possession of one of the family today as an heirloom).

An Ophecleide, together with a Trombone and Euphonium, were obtained from Stoney Middleton, whilst Mr. Charles Maddock owned a Trombone, he being a player in the Stoney Middleton Band, and having just having come to reside in the district.

Being fitted up with Instruments a man named John Tonge of Albert Street, was engaged as tutor, as he previously had been connected with a Band which at one time had existence at Taylor's Silk Mill, Newton Heath.

The Instruments were allocated as follows :-


Cornet Mr. J. Sellars
Cornet Mr. R. Gradwell
Cornet Mr. T. Halpln
Cornet Mr. C.E.Swindell
Tenor Valve Trombone Mr. C. Maddock
Baritone Mr. T. Blackwell
Circular Euphonium Mr. T. Goddard
Circular Bombardon Mr. J. Blackwell
Bass Trombone Mr. J. Seel
Ophecleide Mr. T. Wignall

The last instrument was christened "Sixteen String Jack".

As Mr. J. Seel was only a learner on the Bass Trombone, Mr. Sellars went to the trouble of marking off on the instrument the exact positions, to enable Mr. Seel to make progress.

Mr. Tonge did very well with the material under his control, and as the Band became able to play simple tunes, he considered that he had imparted all his knowledge, and advised that Mr. Edmund Whitehead be secured as Conductor. Mr. Whitehead was then the Conductor of All Saints' Choral Society, and had also been a member of the Taylor's' Silk Mill Band, previously mentioned. Ho proved to be a good Conductor, and also arranged music from some good old hymn tunes for the Band.

In November, 1872, the Band decided to venture to play at a few places on the approaching Christmas Eve. In order to ascertain how the playing would sound outside, the members went one dark night into Lily Lane, Moston, which was then bounded by high hedgerows. There, operations commenced. It happened a very short time before a well-known local resident, named Keighley, had committed suicide in one of the fields nearby. Probably the Moston people were at a loss to understand why a Band should be at such a lonely spot at night, or perhaps a bad impression was created by the playing. Anyhow, the story was invented and generally told that the Band had been laying Keighley's ghost.

The membership increasing, the room at Mr.Sellar's became too small for Band rehearsals, and it moved its meeting place to the Ragged School in the early part of 1873. Here the Band trained to march whilst playing by tramping around inside the school. The first parade on the street was then attempted, down Queen Street and round Leng's Field now Gaskell Street Park). A start was made with the march, "Men of Harlech." Unfortunately, the drummer did not know how to give the " Knock-off," or signal to cease playing, consequently most gave up from sheer exhaustion, but a few, evidently with greater wind power, managed to keep blowing whilst they hurried back to school.

The first public engagement was to play at the Laying of the Foundation Stone of Primitive Methodist Church, Newton Heath, in the summer of 1873. The stone was laid by the Late Elijah Dixon. The Band could then only play four or five simple- tunes, but as the National Anthem was got through at the close of the ceremony, the whole event was considered to have to have terminated very satisfactorily Services were gratis and thus, of course, highly appreciated.

Having laid a ghost and a Foundation Stone, courage was taken and greater things attempted, and thus a professional Bandmaster, called Joseph Buckley, from Oldham, was engaged, and fair good progress made, but the time came when the Band began to suffer from a falling away of members for various reasons, and other little drawbacks.

Then Thomas Blackwell, James Blackwell, and Charles E. Swindell who were members of Culcheth Sunday School, recommended negotiations with a view to the School taking over the Band. Arrangements for such were ultimately completed, and all retired, with the exception of the three before mentioned, who thus became the conneting link between The original and the present Culcheth Sunday school Band. They approached a number of young men, who attended the Sunday School, with invitations to join with them to complete the purchase of the instruments from the retiring members the money was borrowed from the Culcheth Sunday School Sick and Burial Society, also from the Culcheth Sunday school Penny Bank.

Thus the transfer was completed, and the Band was installed at Culcheth Sunday school in the year 1873, being formed as " The Culcheth Sunday School Temperance Brass Band."

The first Secretary was Mr. Thomas Blackwell, whilst his brother James became Treasurer, and the following were amongst the first members: Mr. Chas. E. Swindell, Mr. Thomas Taylor, Mr. M. H. Kenyon, Mr. J. Wilde, Mr. J. Rawsthorne, Mr. W. Turner, Mr. Richard Garner, Mr. W. Hewitt, Mr. C. Wilde, Mr. B. Blackwell, Mr. W. Poppleton and probably a few others, whose names at the present we have no record.

As the financial position became better, more instruments were purchased, to allow of the Band increasing by more players.

In the first year or two many changes in membership occurred, and it was some little time before the wheels got running smoothly again.

The first Conductor was a man from Woodhouses, named Fred Chadderton, and playing consisted chiefly of hymn tunes, able assistance also being given by the late Mr. Thomas Pollitt, who gave the Band its first lesson on the rudiments of music.

The first public appearance from Culcheth was in leading the Sunday School in the Whitsuntide Procession of the year 1874.

A time now arrived when it was found necessary for the Band to appear in a uniform of some description. This was for the first Whit-Friday morning visit to Stalybridge.

All kinds of uniform were discussed, and finally someone suggested " the tall hat and white waistcoat," as being very gentlemanly, and in addition, most easily procured, without affecting the finances of the Band. This was adopted as the uniform, and those not being the happy owners of "tall hats" or "white waistcoats" got busy scouring the district for the purpose of buying, or perhaps borrowing, what they found necessary. All were successful, and the Band eventually arrived at Stalybridge and fulfilled the engagement, resplendent in its new uniform. It is a fact that many of the " tall hats " either had the linings torn out, or packing put in, whilst various waistcoats had been "gathered in" or "gusseted" at the back to accommodate the wearers. Anyhow, such small details were evidently not noticed by the general public; the smart appearance of the Band being freely commented upon.

Philips Park 1913

About this year, 1875, Mr. James Frost was engaged as conductor, and good progress was made, so much so that it was decided that the Band should enter an open-air contest, to be held at Northenden. Drawn the last to play, it was so late that the performance was given in candlelight. The wind was continually blowing out the candles, thus making the conditions anything but pleasant. The Band did not get a prize, but the members got a long walk home, as they missed both the last bus and train.

On September 15th, 1877, the Band was engaged to play in the Trades Procession, which was held to celebrate the opening of the Manchester Town Hall.

By this time the abilities of the Band had greatly increased, also the financial position, and the balance sheet of the year 1818 shows that the loans were fully repaid to the School Sick and Burial Society and the Penny Bank.

About the year 1882 or 1883, the Band was engaged to play for St. Philip's Church, Bradford Road, to lead them in the Whit-Monday Procession, and this engagement was continued for about three years, after which an engagement was taken from St. Mary's Church, Beswick. This was in the same procession, and followed on for four or five years, the Band then returning to play for St. Philip's again. This engagement has been unbroken to the present day (1923), and is now looked upon as an Annual Event. The "Tall Hat Band" is certainly considered one of the features of the Manchester Whit-Monday Procession.

Band in 1924 with flat hats

An engagement was taken at Whaley Bridge in the year 1883. A Sick and Burial Society there, spent their surplus funds every six or seven years, and The Band had appeared at every one of these Teas and Field Days. The last one was held in 1923. The Band therefore has a great connection to this Derbyshire village. The original engagement was procured by Mr.and Mrs. Hallam, natives of this village. At that time their two sons played with the Band.

Early in the year 1886 one of two members bought Clarinets, and came to rehearsals. The tonal effect was considered very pleasing and a decision was made to buy more " Wood Wind " Instruments, and thus convert them into a Reed Band. This conversion was completed in November, 1886, and marked a change which has never been regretted.

In the year 1887, Queen Victoria's Jubilee, the Band was engaged by the late Mr. John Taylor J.P., of Brookdale. His grounds (now Brookdale Park) were thrown open to the public. He gave a treat to the residents of the district, including tea, dancing fireworks, etc.

In the old days of Newton Heath Local Board, an agitation arose, demanding open spaces for the district. The Band, with All Saints' Brass Band, played alternate weeks on the Blackfields for the public benefit, and to further the cause demanding open spaces. Newton Heath eventually became incorporated with Manchester and it was given its first recreation ground (Gaskell Street) in the year 1897 the Band performing at the opening Ceremony.

In the year 1897, the Band accepted an engagement to play in Queen's Park, to celebrate the event of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and the morning of this same day took part in a Procession at Ashton-under- Lyne of the Mayor Alderman, Councillors, and Freemasons of that town.

Mr. Frost having left the Band, many changes took place in the Conductorship, and eventually in the year 1898, M. Alexandra Vlacco was engaged. This Italian gentleman had served about 45 years as a Bandmaster In the British Army and whilst he was a man with a very eccentric manner, he proved very able, and under his tuition the Band made much progress.

When performances were commenced in the Manchester Parks, the Band was amongst the few who booked such engagements.

Again various changes occurred in the Condutorship and others, Including Mr. Coen, Mr. Millman, Mr. Hornby and Mr. Robert Pollitt, were engaged in these years of the Band.

About the year 1900, it became very obvious that the majority of the instruments were getting very unsatisfactory through old age, and it was found essential if the good work of the Band had to be continued, that new instruments would be required. These were bought, and thanks to the many friends, together with the great assistance of the members, the Band quickly disposed of its debt. The balance owing was cleared by the aid of a Bazaar, held in the year 1901.

In addition to this Bazaar, it might be mentioned that the Band have assisted the School in the several Bazaars, which have been held during the past thirty years "The Band Stall" always attempting to get to the top as regards receipts.

Coronation Day, June, 1902, found the Band again engaged to play in Queen's Park.

In the year 1905, a scheme was suggested by the Treasurer Mr. William Jones. This was that a "Reserve Fund" be formed for the future purchase of new instruments when required The sum of £4 to be voted yearly from Band funds to this account. The idea was adopted and the result has been surprising. Out of this fund we have been able to purchase Clarinets, New Tubular Bells, New Stands, Saxophone, Piccolo, Flute Cornet, etc.

About this time the Conductor was a Mr. A.J. Butler, a retired Bandmaster from the 2nd Sussex Regiment, who gave very good service for a few years.

Commencing in the year 1910, a Christmas Eve Service was held in the schoolyard. Suitable Christmas hymn tunes and carols were played, and a collection taken on behalf of the Newton Heath Ragged School Children's Christmas Treat. It has been continued every year since, excepting, of course, during The War. In all, it has enabled the Band to hand to the Ragged School Authorities a sum of over £46 for their worthy object. They are deeply thankful for this assistance, but the Band find great pleasure in performing this small service to help forward such a cause.

During the many years of the Band's existence, mention must be made of the fact that it has always endeavoured to cultivate the social side amongst it's members and friends. Consequently many Picnics have taken place from time to time. Many who read this history will look back with pleasure on the outings of later years to Styal, Lymm, Sharston, Siddington, the Motor Tour through Derbyshire, and many others.

The very old members still talk of their "Canal Boat Trips" during the early years, which no doubt were very enjoyable in those times.

Social Evenings also have always been held from time to time, when the Band members find themselves in touch with their supporters, who in turn get to realise more fully the work and objects of the Band. Many fast friends have thus had their interest aroused in this manner.

Every year a certain sum of money from Band Funds is always devoted to the purchase of music, with the idea of providing one of the finest libraries of Band Music that can be got together. Music for a Band is a very expensive item, but many friends have come forward asking if they would be allowed to purchase a Selection or Overture for us. Such offers are always welcomed with thanks, and in the past two-or-three years many additions to the Library have been made by such means.

On Coronation Day, June, 1911, the Band secured an engagment to play at the festivities arranged for the village of Styal.

Mention must now be made of the engagement of Mr.Thomas Hill as Bandmaster, he has held this position for a good many years, and great progress has been made under his tuition and able guidance. His care and painstaking interpretations of the music have in a large measure assisted the Band to its position of today, and the whole of the members greatly appreciate his work.

An article appearing in the "Manchester City News" March, 1913, read as follows: -

"This being the centenary year of the Silk Hat, a quite unique instance of loyalty to that style of headgear is perhaps worthy of record. More than thirty years ago, the members of a Manchester Sunday School Band adopted the Tall Hat and White Waistcoat as a sort of uniform for ceremonial occasions. The white waistcoat was unfortunately discarded many years ago, out the hat remains.

For thirty successive years (weather permitting) the Band, with distinctive Toppers, has been a feature of the Manchester Whit-Monday Procession. It is always looked for by the crowd, which knows it better as the " Tall Hat Band " than by its own name of Culcheth.

During the Great War, things, so far as the Band were concerned came to a standstill. Practically the whole of the members were with the Forces, and though several were wounded, one indeed very seriously, yet all came back on the termination of hostilities, to again take their place in the organization. The Band was engaged to play at Urmston for Peace Day celebrations, July 23rd, 1919.

It has always been a strong point in the management of the Band that all instruments be well kept, and renewed when necessary, thus giving the members every inducement for constant practice and attendance at rehearsals. In addition, the Library of Music is added to yearly, thus rehearsals made more interesting. Everything is kept well up to date, now appurtenances are being purchased. As a result the properties of the Band today, consisting of Instruments, Music, Stands, Uniforms and Appurtenances, is valued at round about £1,000.

The Band must always feel grateful to the School Authorities. Though for some years past a yearly grant has been made from Band to the School Funds, yet it is realised by Band members that this only in a little way helps to repay for the very many privileges granted by School Authorities, who have always granted the free use of School and free lighting for Rehearsals, Concerts and various Meetings. The Band fully appreciates this, and are more than grateful.

Many outstanding records in length of service have been made by some present day members of the Band. The few following will doubtless be of interest :-

William Jones, 35 years service (18 years as Deputy Bandmaster) Herbert Elliott, 29 years service (20 years as Chairman of the Band) Albert Taylor, 27 years service (14 years as Treasurer of the Band) James Elliott, 25 years service (10 years as Deputy Chairman) John T. Ogden, 22 years service (21 years as Secretary of the Band) Alfred Wilde, 24 years. Fred Simpson, 15 years John W. Swindell, 22 years. James Lindley, 14 years. Fred Hesketh, 20 years. Charles Lord, 13 years. Authur Lindley, 18 years. Alfred Bradbury, 12 years. Charles Lowe, 18 years. S. Hurst, 12 years. Charles E. Swindell, 18 years. Maurice Mason, 12 years William Healey, 17 years. William Lawson, 11 years. Arthur Hetherington, 17 years. James Bailey, 10 years. Charles Wilde, 16 years. Robert Houghton, 10 years.

This history is only a brief one, and notes of many bright and Interesting events have been crowded out for want of space, but in concluding, it might be said that the position of the Culcheth Sunday School Band (or Culcheth Military Band, as it is also called) has never been so bright ill the whole of its history as it is today.

Success has smiled on the Band; its name and fame are known well in many parts of the country. It has been blessed with an admiring and enthusiastic throng of supporters and friends, with good fellowship and sociability of its members, and with its intelligent management by capable officials.

This history will interest and give pleasure to past and present Band members. Let us hope it will also act as an incentive to the members of the future, and stimulate them in their endeavours to uphold the glorious traditions of the Culcheth Band.

Compiled by the Secretary, J.T. Ogden, together with assistance from Mr. Thomas Goddard and Mr. Chas. E. Swindell, Sen.

Present (1925) Members of the Culcheth Military Band.

Bandmaster - Mr. Thomas Hill.

PICCOLO AND FLUTE - James Dennehy.

OBOE - William Maddocks.

E-FLAT CLARINETS - Alfred Tootill, Samuel Hurst.

1ST B FLAT CLARINETS - Charles E. Swindell, William Healy, Arthur Lindley, Edward Marsh

REPIANO CLARINETS - Robert Houghton, Alfred Bradbury.

SECOND CLARINETS - James Preece, William Lawson.

THIRD CLARINETS - Fred Harpham, William Cooke.

SAXOPHONE - Arthur Hetherington.

BASSOONS - James Lindley; John W. Swindell.

1ST B-FLAT CORNETS - Samuel Buckley; Alfred Wilde.

2ND B-FLAT CORNETS - James Bailey; William Jones.

SAXHORNS - Issac Starling; Charles Lord; Ernest Oulton; Charles Wilde.

BARITONE - Fred Simpson.

EUPHONIUMS - Maurice Jones; James Elliot.

TENOR TROMBONES - William Jones; Albert Taylor.


BB-FLAT BASS - Herbert Elliot.

E-FLAT BASS - Charles Lowe; Alfred Logan; Fred Hesketh.

DRUMS AND EFFECTS - Maurice Mason; George Yabsley.


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