Brass Bands

“Brass bands are all very well in their place – outdoors and several miles away”
– Sir Thomas Beecham

This quote from the famous conductor illustrated ‘a schism between [brass] bands and elite art culture which many in the movement would argue has existed ever since.’ 69Among the bands that may have been heard in the vicinity of the George & Dragon were:

  • Manchester Victoria Brass Band, active 1851
  • Ancoats Perseverance Band, active 1882
  • Manchester Police Band, active 1880

The first brass band British Open competition was held at Belle Vue in 1853. Bandsmen could earn fees for performing at social engagements and concerts. There were also cash prizes to be won at the contests. In the 1890s instrument manufacturers Silvani & Smith were offering a reward of £50 to the first band to win a first prize using a complete set of their instruments.69 Brass band Competitions were also held at old Pomona Gardens, Trafford, Greater Manchester. First prize was £50.

Though the brass band movement stressed the virtues of diligence and discipline, occasionally the financial implications of the outcome of contests would lead to disharmony:

it is likely that the unsavoury scenes that followed disputed results at contests in the latter part of the century were caused as much by injuries that the bandsmen felt to their wallets as to their pride’69

In 1895 there were 222 brass band competitions held in Great Britain.

Into the 20th century, in Manchester and area, a number of the region’s best dance band, jazz and symphonic brass players received their musical grounding in brass bands.


69Trevor Herbert, ‘Nineteenth-Century Bands: Making a Movement’