The Early History of Haworth Band
History records tell us that there was a brass band at Ponden as far back as 1854 with a body of excellent performers. It was founded by John Heaton who lived at Ponden. The band had the job of playing at a celebration in Haworth at the conclusion of the Crimean war. Also at this time there were some younger Haworth men and although they did not belong to a band, they were keen instrumentalists. On occasions some of them assisted the Ponden performers. One Christmas morning in the early 1860's, the much respected Mr Hartley Merrall, well known as a manufacturer at Springhead Mill and himself a keen musician, was on his way to Haworth Parish church when he met a party of these musicians out busking. Mr Merrall listened to their music and invited them to his house that evening. He was determined to have a brass band of his own with the result that shortly afterwards the Spring Head Band was formed. This was to be the forerunner of the Haworth Brass Band.
Jim Bancroft, better known as Jim O'Abes who had played with the Ponden Band was appointed leader and William Turner of Oakworth was the first conductor. The band enjoyed immediate success and went on to win the first of many awards in Keighley, Skipton and Trawden and also at Crystal Palace in 1863.
The Establishment of The Haworth Band
On the retirement of Mr Merrall from business at Spring Head Mill, the future of the band became very uncertain. Largely through the efforts of Mr J. T. Robinson, another well known local businessman, a meeting attended by many influential gentlemen of Haworth was held at the Black Bull Inn to consider ways and means by which the future of the band could be secured.
Negotiations were entered into for purchasing instruments and other essential properties and this in addition to the provision of new uniforms was accomplished by means of public subscription which raised the considerable sum of £200. Thus the Spring Head Band became the Haworth Band. Mr Jim Bancroft continued as leader, a position he retained with distinction for 40 years. Trustees were appointed and a Deed signed which stated that the band was formed with the object of promoting the knowledge and practice of instrumental music and affording musical entertainment for the inhabitants of Haworth.
Since its formation the band has been conducted by some eminent musicians among them William Turner, Edward Newton, John Paley, Percy Redman, Joseph Binns, John Crossley, Percy Shaw, Handel Parker and Arthur Rodgerson. The latter conducted the band from 1941 until 1963, the year of his death.
Haworth Band with Handel Parker
On Handel Parker's retirement, after 50 years of devoted service to the band, he was presented with a silver baton. Handel Parker of course achieved fame as the composer of one the greatest hymn tunes of the time, "Deep Harmony". Under the guidance of these dedicated musicians, the band developed a precision and artistic perfection which has been widely acclaimed.
In 1964, a Northumbrian, John Moor was appointed as Musical Director. He injected a degree of professionalism that did much for the band. He had been a former champion cornet player in the North of England and had played with many well known bands including the famous Wallsend Shipyard Band. He led the band to the highest achievement in the most recent past, lifting the band to contesting at Championship level. He was responsible for the centenary concert performed at the Ritz Cinema in February 1970, (although, strictly speaking, the band was already over 100 years old).
Marching at Keighley Gala during the 1970's
Also in 1970, the classic film 'The Railway Children' was made, featuring a brass band made up of members of the Haworth band. The photograph below was taken during filming and features three of our current members!
Filming The Railway Children in 1970
Over the years the world of brass band music went from strength to strength, during which time the Haworth Band went with it, contesting at the highest level, particularly under the baton of John Moor, who sadly died in 2007.
As with all voluntary organisations, times change and as well as people, other things came along to affect people's interests as well as time. Some organisations, as well as bands, have gone forever. Happily the Haworth Band, although like many other bands, has had its problems, is still in existence some 130 years after Mr Hartley Merrall's retirement. This is through the dedication of many bandsmen and women who have worked hard through the years to keep brass band music alive.
The Haworth Band remains a happy and popular band with a busy itinerary for the year
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