A major new book has recently been written by Gavin Holman, a long-time member of the Harrogate Band, which documents the various brass bands, and similar groups, that have entertained the inhabitants of Harrogate and its many visitors over the last 180 years.
This is available as a free PDF download via this link: Spa Brass document
Much more about the history of brass bands in general can be found at the IBEW Historical Research page
A few selected pieces of information about historical Harrogate Bands can also be found in the paragraphs below.
A brass band existed in Harrogate in the 1860s. It competed in a contest at the Rifle Barracks in Hull on Monday July 20, 1868. A newspaper account read: "there was as numerous a gathering as we remember to have seen there since the place has been let for galas. The prizes offered for the contest, were as follows: 1st, £14 in money, and a magnificent euphonium presented by Messrs. Henry Distin and Co. (who exhibited some first-rate instruments on the ground); 2nd, £10 in money; 3rd, £5 in money; 4th, £3 in money; and 5th, £1 in money. Thirteen bands entered, out of which twelve put in an appearance. The Bradford band, conducted by Mr. J. W. Dodsworth, won the first prize; the Scarborough band (6th North Yorkshire Volunteer Rifle Corps), leader, Mr. John Peel, carried off the second prize; the Black Dike Mills band, Mr. W. Rushworth, leader, and. Mr. S. Longbottom, conductor, won the third; the Heckmondwike Albion band, Mr. J. Parker, leader, and Mr. J. Brooke, conductor, the fourth; and the Bingley Volunteer Rifle Corps Band, the fifth. The playing of all the bands was exceedingly good. The judges were Herr Raskoff, bandmaster 15th Hussars; Mr Goode, bandmaster East York Militia; Mr. J. Taylor, late bandmaster Royal London Militia; and Signor Garraffold, late bandmaster 56th Regiment. A solo euphonium contest, for a splendid seven-guinea euphonium, was won by Mr. Dodsworth. This prize was given by Mr. F. Besson, of London. During the day there were a variety of entertainments, and the fete was brought to a close with a grand display of fireworks and a ball." Other bands which entered were: Eccleshill, Batley, Knaresborough, Denton, Shelley, Dodworth, Harrogate, Cawthorpe, Morley. Entrance to the contest was 1 shilling and at the end there was a grand display of fireworks by Mr Seaman, Pyrotechnist, of Hull.
By the early 1930s, the Band had changed its name to the Harrogate Silver Prize Band and the financial position was very similar - although there was a significantly reduced number of subscribers. The Band's income and expenditure was not much increased (around the £130 level)
A highlight of this period was the Band's two visits to the Crystal Palace in London to compete in the National Brass Band Championships Finals in 1929 and 1930.
The Band was renamed Harrogate St. John Ambulance Band during WW2, reverting to its Silver Band name in 1947. It disbanded finally in 1956. Members of the Committee safeguarded the instruments which were ultimately used by other bands. The Band's sheet music was acquired by the Summerbridge & Dacre Silver Prize Band, where it still resides. The last surviving member of the Harrogate Temperance Band, Bill Jewitt, originally euphonium, lately baritone, was 96 in May 2002 and until the beginning of 2002 was Britain's oldest active bandsman, playing with Summerbridge & Dacre Band. Another veteran member of the Harrogate Silver Band is Arthur Layfield, who joined in 1947, and who now conducts the Summerbridge & Dacre Band. A new history of the Summerbridge & Dacre Silver Prize Band has just been published.
This was Harrogate's second brass band and was roughly contemporary with the Harrogate Temperance Band - being in existence from the start of the century until it too disbanded at the outbreak of World War Two. One instance where the band was somewhat partisan in its playing is recorded here:
In 1901, the impending County Council election resulted in some colourful exchanges between the supporters of Harrogate's Conservative candidate, Samson Fox, and Liberal candidate JH Wilson. Although both men exercised punctilious politeness to each other in public, their supporters were less fastidious, and the newspapers reported that respective public meetings were being interrupted with "unseemly behaviour". Both men had served terms as Mayor, and both were experienced businessmen, Wilson having been a skilled dispensing chemist, and Fox running the Leeds Forge and having amassed a multi-million pound fortune.
A claim by Fox's men he had been the inspiration behind the building of the Royal Baths was countered by a reply from Wilson's men that the idea had been that of the late Alderman, Richard Oliver, and Messrs Carter, Fortune and Ward, and moreover, that Fox had not even been a councillor when the matter was first introduced. In the event, the public supported Fox with 2,067 votes. Wilson receiving a close 1,875 votes, and a triumphant Samson Fox addressed the public from a window of the Conservative Club.
It had been rumoured before the election, that JH Wilson's plan to give a big outdoor speech had been thwarted by the sudden appearance of the new Borough Brass Band which, by coincidence, had just been provided with smart uniforms by Samson Fox, who had also given the band the large and valuable music library of the late Leeds Forge Brass Band. Apparently the band had played the national anthem, Rule Britannia, Hearts of Oak, and other patriotic airs, whenever Wilson tried to begin his speech.
Out of 4,967 burgesses with voting rights, 3,954 actually voted, and a clearly disgusted Herald editor noted that two persons had attempted an electoral impersonation, such a thing only having been recorded once before in the town's electoral history.
Alfred Leeming was treasurer of the Harrogate Borough Band when the band gave a programme of music in the Bogs Field, on Sunday afternoon, 9th June 1901.
Harrogate Borough Band