Thornbury Baptist Brass Band

Thornbury Baptist Brass Band with Rev. Walter Reed

The Thornbury Baptist Church Band was set up during the short time that Walter Reed was minster in Thornbury.  He was appointed in 1903 and such was his enthusiasm for music that he bought musical instruments for the band out of his own pocket.  He is in the photograph above with his band.  He is seated in the middle of the front row.  Sadly he died in September 1905.  His widow, then living in Cheltenham with her two daughters, contacted the Rev Young and said that she felt it was appropriate that the instruments should be offered to the church.  The church did not come to a decision and the matter was dropped until three years later she asked again and the church agreed.

Thornbury Baptists’ Brass Band with Rev Young

We assume that the band with band master Mr Phillips not only continued at this point but flourished.  The photograph of “Thornbury Baptist Prize Band ” shown above was taken when they won the Hawkes Challenge Cup at the Severn Valley Brass Band Contest, Fromehall Park, Stroud on 3 July 1909.  We know that one of the leading members of the band was Howard Knight who played both cornet and tenor horn and sometimes performed as a soloist.   He was an organist at the Baptist Church and became an organ and piano tuner.

Other members included Edgar Legge, Claude Higgins, Frank Williams, Ernest Phillips, William Liddiatt, James Hobbs, Hubert Baylis, Robert Underhill, Percy Liddiatt, George Phillips, Harry Phillips, George Hicks, Arthur Collins, Howard Baylis and William Champion.  The minister Rev Young acted as the conductor. Please click on the hyperlinks to read more about those members we have already written about on the website.

We believe that the image below on the left is a photograph that was taken in 1913 as the band marched down the High St in Thornbury. The photograph is clearly labelled “Baptist Band” which indicates that the Band may have continued under this name until the outbreak of World War I.

Thornbury Baptist Band in High St

It is likely that the outbreak of war that may have led to the demise of this talented band.  The church’s records show a correspondence between Percy Liddiatt and a Mr Shipton which seems to confirm that this may have been the reason.  Mr Shipton wrote in May 1918 asking if it was possible to contact the former members of the band who had bought their instruments privately so that they could claim them.  Mr Liddiatt’s response was that most of the band members were away serving their country in the Great War and it was not a good time to make plans for their musical instruments.

The theory that the outbreak of war was responsible for the demise of the band is supported by the fact that Prewetts trade directory for 1914 refers to the Thornbury Baptist Prize Band with Mr C W Poole as its secretary.  The same directory for 1915 says the band is called Thornbury Town Brass Band,conducted by P. Liddiatt and with W.T Liddiatt as secretary.

The Gazette of 3rd April 1915 had an article concerning Thornbury Town Brass Band at its annual general meeting.  By this time it was said that the band possessed a playing strength of over 20 members.  It seems that these members contained some of the original Baptist Band as the article mentioned the bandmaster Mr G Phillips, Hon Sec Mr W. T. Liddiatt, Hon Treasurer Mr H Bayliss, Committee Chairman Mr A Riddiford, and committee members were Messrs Champion, Matthews, Purnell, Stevens, Higgins, Poole, Bryant and Stockden.  The band had secured the services of Mr. Stanley Chambers of Alveston as conductor and had been the means of raising over £20 for various charities.

In 1917 a Mr Shipton wrote to Mrs Reed about her husband’s legacy, saying that he was concerned that the instruments were “lying by and spoiling” as the band had been broken up for some time.  Mr Shipton asked if she would withdraw the condition about not selling the instruments as Mr Knight wanted to buy his instrument for a band he was setting up for his company.  Mrs Reed’s daughter replied that she would have liked the church to have kept the instruments but that she would give her consent to selling.

It seems that even at the end of the war the original band was never reformed.  The short life of the Thornbury Baptist Brass Band was definitely over, at least under this name.  In June 1926 Mr Hoyes of the Orchards at Morton wrote to Sidney Dearing, saying that there had been a meeting of the old members of Thornbury Baptist Band at which it was decided to reform the band under the name of the Thornbury District Band.  The old members of the band decided to approach the deacons of the Baptist Church to ask about the musical instruments and about the Challenge Cup that the band had won.  We do not know if the new band ever actually got the musical instruments that Mr Rees had supplied.  In its turn Thornbury District Band also faded away in time but the town still has a brass band which was formed in 1980 and this went on to achieve honours throughout the country.