The History of the Brass Band in Frome
The tradition of Brass Banding in the UK goes back a long time. Most of the
instruments used in brass bands had been in use for some time in village,
church and military bands, and the 1840s and 1850s saw the creation of many
Brass bands were in part a response to industrialisation, but also an expression
of local solidarity in rapidly growing communities. Many UK bands were
originally either works bands, or sponsored by various industrial concerns.
Between 1853-1857 there is known to have been an Amateur Brass Band in
Frome as well as Frome Volunteers Brass Band between 1863-1901, the Frome
Selwood Brass Band in 1870 and the Frome Union Brass Band between
1890-1895 (the boys’ band of Frome Union Industrial School).
In 1911 a few musicians in the town formed themselves into a band under the title Frome Town Military Band. The first conductor of the band was Mr Billy Stokes, a Kneller Hall trained bandsman, and the practice rooms were located at 21 King Street, Frome.
In January 1912 the Frome Town Military Band accepted their first engagement, playing at the Odd fellows Flower Show on August Bank Holiday Monday, for a fee of 12 guineas. They also played at Nunney Empire Day celebrations. Records show that orders were placed at this time for four brass
instruments costing £21, three second-hand clarinets and a string bass for £5.00.
It was agreed with the Council that for a fee of £20 a year, the band would perform concerts in Victoria Park on alternate Thursdays and on alternate Saturdays in the Market Place.
The band was always short of funds and in 1913 borrowing from the Bank had reached £90. Income from summer concerts was £30 for 20 concerts. It was decided something had to be done about the finance and a “Collector” was hired to go around knocking on doors asking for donations to support the band. In those days players were paid a fee for playing in the band! In 1917, during World War 1, 21 members of the band joined up in the armed forces and were replaced with boys who required lower payments for their services, thus reducing the strain on the band finances.
At the beginning of 1920 the band was back to full strength playing at a fete in the Victoria Park in aid of the new War Memorial Hall, which was then being built in Christchurch Street West.
In 1924 uniforms were purchased at a cost of £3.20 for jacket and trousers. The money was loaned by Lloyds Bank.
In 1929 a Bandstand was built in the Victoria Park, which is still there to this day. This was used every week in summer Frome Town Military Band played regularly at the park bandstand throughout the summer during the 1920s and 1930s. It was seen as fashionable to meet friends whilst strolling in the park and listening to the band. There was even music for dancing on a Thursday evening, at a charge of 3d (1.5p in todays money) in a special roped off area. The bandmaster for these dance events was Mr Ben Davidge as Mr Stokes refused to conduct (he believed music was there to be listened to and sodid not permit any other activity at the same time!) The band also played at football matches under the direction of Mr Davidge.
In the Second World War many members went off to the front, and the band became part of the Home Guard from 1939-1947. Every Sunday afternoon they could be seen marching round the town and could also be seen playing in the Market Place to welcome home different regiments.
After the war, the band was led by clarinet player and conductor called Reg Pickford. He was followed by Sidney Lewis who was succeeded by Major Henwood (the then landlord of the Masons Arms). Brian Dingle was another Band conductor, who was “ headhunted” and persuaded to come and live in Frome by obtaining a job for him at Wallbridge carpet factory, as well as house to live in and payment of his removal expenses!
With the second World War long over, the Military Band converted to brass band in 1956.
The band has had various practice rooms over the years, including the Blue Boar Yard (behind what is now WH Smiths) St Johns School, Badcox Lane Chapel (now housing) before finally moving to their present band room at Randolph Road.