The origins and early history of Longridge Band are lost in the mists of time. Was it formed in the era of Victoria in the 1840s or a century earlier in the time of George ll or his grandson George lll. First reports of the band playing in public came in 1845 when the Longridge (New) Band was on duty at the Goosnargh Club Day. ‘New’ as in newly formed or ‘New’ as in replacing a predecessor?
To add to the confusion another newspaper of the time records them as ‘the Longridge Brass Band’. Then to further muddy the waters, church records in Longridge in the mid 1700s speak of buying new reeds ‘for the band’. A mystery that may never be resolved.
What is clear however is that a Longridge brass band has been deeply embedded in community life for decades. In Victorian times newspapers reported on performances by the Longridge Old Band, the Old Longridge Brass Band and Longridge National School Band.
The eternal quest to raise funds featured a hotpot supper in 1903 at the Durham Ox and in the now converted barn, which has long provided our bandroom. As today there were raffles, concerts and regular rehearsals, at one stage with a conductor coming from Bradford.
The Band was making its mark in the contesting world. There was a second in section and a fourth in the Order of Merit at Crystal Palace in London in 1904. The village turned out in force on a special train leaving at 5am for a Whit Monday competition in Caernavon. The band duly rewarded them by taking first prize, a silver cup and £20. This was big money in those days. Two years later came a £50 prize for winning a contest in Morecambe and another payday at Hawarden.
As World War One began more somber duties fell to the band, regularly playing off volunteers from the village as they departed for war. Funds were raised to help ‘those serving with the colours’. Ten members of the band signed up to fight in the Great War. Two were killed in action. When peace came, a band was put together to play at celebrations in Longridge, Goosnargh and Preston.
Similarly time was needed to resume normal activities fully after WWll. But a makeshift 20 strong band of members returning from active service and ‘youngsters coming through’ entertained 600 people at a Christmas concert in the Co-op Hall. The Fairey band from Stockport also gave two concerts for £50 to help Longridge raise funds.
One near casualty of WWll was the beloved bandroom itself and not as a result of German attentions. The bandroom was earmarked for demolition, and only saved by the timely intervention of a band member who happened – by chance – to be at home on leave. It was again threatened with closure in 1956 when the brewery wanted to convert it into a function room. The change never happened…..and we’re still there today.
Women have been more involved since the last war. Band records suggest the first woman member as Isobel Eddleston in 1952. Her parents kept the Ox. By 1968 there were three. That year also saw band president John Smith win an OBE in the New Year Honours.
Foreign travel for the band began in the 1970s with trips to France and Belgium. By 1980 Albert Wilson had served in the band 52 years and was duly honoured. He was following a family tradition. His grandfather, father and two grandsons had also been in the band and he was followed by grandson Robert Tomlinson.
The 100 year connection between Longridge Band and St Lawrence’s Parish Church was marked with special celebrations in 1983. Longridge also won promotion to the second section of of the NWABBA and in 1989 won the second section.
What many would argue was the band’s proudest day came in 1996 when the band took first place in the first section of the National Championships of Great Britain. The banner from that day enjoys pride of place in the bandroom.
Since then Longridge has won the French Open and several local contests, and is steadily moving up the rankings under MD Mark Peacock, who took over in 2010. Others who have wielded the baton since we entered the 21st century include Mike Cotter, Brett Baker, Darrol Barry, Peter Lockett and Steve Tarry.
Recent years have seen performances in France, Germany, Holland and Spain, a far cry from the trips to play in Pooley Bridge and Ullswater in 1911. Perhaps the band is no longer made up exclusively of local players. Current players come from Bolton, Leigh, Wigan, Morecambe, Chorley and Preston as well as Longridge itself. The band continues to be at the heart of the community, financially helped by local businesses, individuals, patrons, Ribble Valley Borough Council and Longridge Town Council. Longridge is the only band to have played at every Preston Guild since 1862 and we were there again at the most recent Guild in 2012.
*With thanks to Peter Vickers and his book ‘Longridge Brass Band – from Schoolyard to the Albert Hall’. Much of the information in this article is drawn from it. Copies of the book are available to purchase at most of our concerts.