‘The Man Fro’ Lancashire’: Prisoners of War and Lancashire Musical Donations

‘The Man Fro’ Lancashire’: Prisoners of War and Lancashire Musical Donations

Dr Stephen Etheridge

Figure 1. French, Belgian and Russian Prisoners of War forming a band. Including, with the baton, ‘the man fro’ Lancashire’. (Rossendale Free Press, 3 June, 1916)

On June 3, 1916, the Rossendale Free Press published this picture which included an unknown ‘man fro’ Lancashire’, who, the photograph and the newspaper suggests, was the conductor of a ‘scratch band’ of musicians in an unknown German prisoner of war camp. The piece intrigued me not only because it tells us a little about the nature of these camps, but also because the local reporting from Rossendale, in East Lancashire, informs us about the musical nature of people in the regions surrounding Manchester, the very people that would have attended concerts, park events and brass band contests in the city.

Continue reading “‘The Man Fro’ Lancashire’: Prisoners of War and Lancashire Musical Donations”

The Potsdam Musicians

Just before WW1, a photograph of five members of the London Symphony Orchestra returning from the 1912 tour of USA on the liner SS Potsdam reveals very close connections with Manchester.

Prof John Miller


Jesse Stamp, Harry Barlow, John Bridge, Walter Hatton, Arthur Gaggs (front) on board the SS Potsdam in 1912.[i]


Jesse Stamp (1885 – 1932) was without doubt the virtuoso trombonist of his day. He was brought up in Chorlton, a son of a professional musician (at times a circus musician), studied and graduated at the MRCM 1904 – 1907, and by 1911 was the breadwinner for three brothers and two sisters living in Southport. At this time he appears to be a boarder in Brixton when undertaking work in London.[ii] He joined the LSO in 1909 and was made principal trombone in 1911. He was on the board of directors for the 1923-24 season and left the orchestra in 1928. In addition he played in the orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society at its centenary in 1912[iii] and was a founder member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1930.

Jesse Stamp, like Ernest Hall, fellow trumpeter from Liverpool, moved south and stayed south. On the outward voyage to USA in 1912 he was subject of a practical joke. The diary of LSO timpanist Charles Turner reads:

“Monday 1 April 1912

I forgot to mention this is the 1st of April and at breakfast 7.30am someone called out that war ships were to be seen. Jesse Stamp (trombone) bit and getting up from the table got his glasses and getting on the couch gazed earnestly over the sea for the ships which of course he did not find, In the meantime, all the people in the dining room found it out and Jesse received a great storm of laughter and applause much to his discomforture and he sat down very sheepishly to resume.”[iv]



Harry Barlow (1870 – 1932).

The composer Havergal Brian wrote: “I was sorry to read of the death of Harry Barlow, the well known tuba player. As long ago as 1906 I heard the late Dr. Richter, while talking of the personnel of the Hallé Orchestra, refer to Barlow as the finest tuba player in all Europe. He was sure to be found in the London Symphony Orchestra, or in the Covent Garden Opera Orchestra, when Richter was conducting. Barlow’s genius lay in focusing the tone-colour of his tuba into the three trombones, and making it sound a real trombone bass: this is impossible to the ordinary trombone player. […] Barlow was a native of Besses o’ th’ Barn, and was possessed of a fine sense of humour, which undoubtedly helped him along life’s way. […] Like the late Jesse Stamp, the well known trombonist, Barlow had been playing recently in the BBC orchestra; it is curious that he should have died so soon after his fellow-Lancastrian.”[v]

Barlow first shows up in the Hallé Free Trade Hall programmes in 1893, playing ophicleide, and he continues until 1895 conducted by Adolph Brodsky, just after Hallé’s death. He first appears playing the tuba in 1896, under Frederick Cowan. He can be regarded as one of the first great modern tuba players, and amongst his many activities he designed several models of instruments, including one played in the Hallé by Stuart Roebuck until retirement in 1984. Barlow has been described as a “man of many parts”, for example directing the Oxford Road’s Grosvenor Picture House orchestra from the piano, or conducting Besses o’ th’ Barns Band.[vi]


Arthur Gaggs (1879 – 1961)

Arthur Gaggs came from a Manchester musical family. His father Joseph (described as a Professor of Music in the 1891 census) played 2nd cornet with the Hallé from 1868 – 70.[vii] Arthur probably studied with Franz Paersch (1857-1921) who was principal horn of the Hallé and also the Royal Italian Opera (Covent Garden) from 1883 – 1914. Paersch certainly took Gaggs under his wing as second horn in Manchester before WW1. Gaggs had a long career as a horn player in Manchester and moved to the BBC Northern Orchestra in 1934.

I wonder whether the photograph was taken by Joseph W. Gaggs, a Mancunian violinist in the LSO on the USA tour?


John Bridge (1872 – 1945)

John Bridge became a member of the Hallé in 1893, the year of the foundation of the MRCM, and rose steadily through the orchestra’s ranks. Richter took him (along with Barlow) to the ROH for the 1904-5 spring season, and he was appointed principal second violin of the Hallé in 1914. During WW1 he stayed in Manchester and in addition to his orchestral activities was most notably a member of the Catterall Quartet, playing for the Ancoats Brotherhood, in the Midland Hall, Leighton Hall, The New Islington Hall and other venues. Two of his brothers enlisted for the services; Harry served with the Machine Gun Corps., and his younger brother Herbert was killed in Belgium whilst serving with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Later in his career, in 1928, John Bridges joined the MRCM staff.[viii]


Walter Hatton (1869 – 1939)

The most senior member in the photograph had perhaps the most distinguished career. Hatton was the cellist in the original Brodsky Quartet from 1915 – 1925 and a highly regarded Manchester teacher.[ix]


What became of the Potsdam?

The five musicians in the photograph all survived WW1, but what became of the ocean liner? The Dutch liner, the SS Potsdam was to experience a wartime fate at a later date. It was renamed the Stockholm in 1915 by the Swedish American line, and later renamed the Sonderburg when captured by the Germans in 1941. It was finally scuttled in Cherbourg in 1944.[x]

[i] Permission LSO Archive.

[ii] The 1911 census shows him as the family head at 30 Myrtle Grove Southport, and as a boarder at 13 Robert Road, Brixton (with a birthdate of 1886 recorded).

[iii] Robert Elkin, Queen’s Hall (Rider & Co, 1944) pp 49, 55.

[iv] Courtesy LSO archive.

[v] Musical opinion, August 1932, p.901.

[vi] See Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family (Piccolo Press, 2000), pp 378 – 382 for information on Harry Barlow. A portrait of Stuart Roebuck with his “Barlow F tuba” is found on page 383.

[vii] The 1891 census shows the family living in Chorlton when père Joseph is age 45 and Arthur is age 12.

[viii] For more detailed information see Stuart Scott, John S Bridge, A Manchester Musician in www.musicweb-international.com written December 2011, accessed 10/09/2016.

[ix] See Michael Kennedy, The History of the Royal Manchester College of Music 1893 – 1927, pages 74 – 79.

[x] www.norwayheritage.com accessed on 10/09/2016


John Robert Fielden: Soldier, Bandsman or Quarryman? Questions of Working-Class Identity in the Rossendale Valley

John Robert Fielden: Soldier, Bandsman or Quarryman? Questions of Working-Class Identity in the Rossendale Valley

Dr Stephen Etheridge

Private John Robert Fielden (1882-1916) S/13191 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders




John Robert Fielden was born in 1882 in Blackwood, near Stacksteads, in East Lancashire’s Rossendale Valley. He was the only son of James and Eliza Fielden[1] He was a pupil at Waterbarn Baptist School, where he took an interest in music.[2] Being interested in instrumental music he was for a long time associated with the Bacup Change Brass Band, and for some years held the post of secretary. He was employed as a quarryman at Rakehead Quarries in Rossendale up to October 1915. In 1908; he married Clara Wood, from Bacup, and lived at Queen’s Terrace. In 1915 he was one of the last employees to leave the quarries of Messers Lovick and Sons, and, via various regimental transfers, he served as a signaller with the 1st Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. In 1916 they took part in the Actions of The Bluff and St Eloi Craters then moved to The Somme for The Battle of Albert. He died of leg-wounds inflicted from machine gun fire on the 26 August, 1916 and is buried at Abbeville Communal Cemetery (Reg V.A. 17) [3]

Continue reading “John Robert Fielden: Soldier, Bandsman or Quarryman? Questions of Working-Class Identity in the Rossendale Valley”

Manchester’s Patriotism during wartime

In a previous blog post entitled ‘patriotic passion or anti-German ranting?’ I discussed columnist Strephon and his patriotic rants in the Manchester Programme. In 1916 after air raids had killed 44 and injured 67 he recalled a conversation he had with a pacifist. The pacifist claimed that the people in Germany do not know the truth, they only know what the bureaucracy tell them and the papers only print what they are allowed. Strephon replied that “ALL Germans rejoiced when the Lusitania was bombed, the whole race gloats when children are bombed limb from limb, including the workers, men and women, young and old, …these people love killing for itself alone, they are happiest when cutting throats, homicide is their trade. It is civilisation vs the caveman”. Strephon certainly wasn’t one for mincing his words, shortly after this his column disappears from the programme for a while, however the patriotism and sense of duty was still present in the pages.

The programme regularly reported on charity concerts in aid of wartime needs and there were several reports of people playing to the wounded soldiers to lift their spirits. In May 1915 the Gaiety theatre put on a free concert for soldiers and nurses. They then began raising funds and by January 1916 had raised enough to buy an ambulance for Ancoats hospital, and promised to pay for the upkeep of the vehicle throughout the war. Robert Marshall also put together an orchestra to play at the hospital every Sunday.

It was not just the Gaiety theatre that raised money for the war effort, the Manchester Hippodrome put on a charity matinee in April 1916 with half the proceeds going to the disable soldiers fund. They put on another charity matinee in August that year with all proceeds going to the wounded soldiers fund. Also in April 1916, it was reported in the Programme that the Red Cross society had been performing concerts for the wounded soldiers in hospital up to 3 times a week. In July 1916 the Lena Ashwell firing line concert took place at the Manchester Hippodrome. It was called the firing line concert as the performers had just returned from the firing line where they had been entertaining the troops and sometimes being under fire themselves.

These concerts to raise money for wartime charities continued with 3 performances given at the Theatre Royal in 1917 by Manchester Amateurs. The proceeds were split between Dover House Hospital; Supply workrooms at Manchester; and the Belgian Red Cross and hospital funds. In April 1918 another performance was given at the Theatre Royal in aid of the nations fund for nurses. In December 1917 the Programme also reported that Fred Muriman’s ‘seven aces and a joker’ had been putting on regular concerts for wounded soldiers.

One columnist said that Manchester had an established reputation for patriotism of which we should be justly proud. Even though Strephon was no longer appearing in the programme with his ‘patriotic rants’ it was clear that Manchester felt a sense of national duty. Actions do speak louder than words.


by Katrina Ingram

Indicative Brass Band Bibliography


Indicative Brass Band Bibliography

Dr Stephen Etheridge: Follow me on Twitter @DrGtrombone

The blogs I have written about brass bands, and other subjects, on this site have been driven by an interdisciplinary approach to research. The approach taken bridges a gap between musicology and social history. It is worthwhile examining this approach and listing some of the canon of work that deals with the research surrounding brass bands as the interdisciplinary nature of this approach only began to reach fruition in the 1990s. Moreover, as Patrick Joyce has argued elsewhere, the industrial areas surrounding Manchester, and the city itself, are a region that historians have studied to understand the nature of class that emerged from industrialisation. (Joyce, P. Work, Society and Politics: The Culture of the Factory in Later Victorian England (Brighton, 1980, this edition, London, 1982) As such the concentration of brass bands and other musical groups in the region are not just an expression of music-making but they become the agency to explore the social networks that emerge as a result of increased leisure time. Recently this has given musicology and social history a distinctly Northern hue. As musicologists and social historians the more we move away from the printed score and the accepted narratives of class the more the waters become muddied, yet this is where we can find some good fishing.

Continue reading “Indicative Brass Band Bibliography”

Holt, Hoyland and Old: The ‘Unsurpassed’ Trombone Section of the Hallé Orchestra


By Dr Stephen Etheridge

 The Royal Manchester College of Music’s (RMCM) student records reveal two graduates who would become members of the Hallé Orchestra in a period when the trombone section built a reputation for excellence. When we examine the lives of these players what emerges is that the RMCM was the agency that gave them access to self improvement and status. 

Samuel Lomas Holt (1887-1968)

Early Life

The 1911 Census shows that Samuel (Sam) Lomas Holt was born in Rochdale, in about 1887, but, apart from his army service, he lived in Oldham for his lifetime. In 1911, the year of his entry to the college, Holt was living at 57 Ripponden Road, Oldham. His father, Samuel Henry Holt, aged 51, was also a musician. His mother, Eliza Ann Holt, aged 42, was a shopkeeper. He had two step-siblings, Harry Illingworth Bradshaw, aged 11, and Marjorie Bradshaw, aged 10.

 Brass Band Connections

kingston 1899
Kingston Mills Brass Band, Accrington, 1880s.  Permission Gavin Holman: http://www.ibew.co.uk

Continue reading “Holt, Hoyland and Old: The ‘Unsurpassed’ Trombone Section of the Hallé Orchestra”

An ode to chocolate

In 1917 there were sugar shortages in the UK as a result of war. New columnist, Mr J Sanders, writes his thoughts about this and the adverse effects it is having on society in the Manchester Programme and as a chocolate lover myself, I completely agree.

He begins by discussing why sugar is so important by saying, “there is scarcely a food in existence that stands as high in nutritional value as sugar. It is useful and necessary, it pleases the palate, supplies a known need and yields value for money”. He then leads into chocolate and is outraged that at a conference someone claimed toffee shopkeepers to be the most unnecessary persons in the world. He says this is nonsense as “chocolate boxes play a tremendous part in starting many happy unions”. He then goes to talk about how chocolate is useful in everyday life, “millions of people know from experience how a piece of chocolate will appease hunger when one’s lunch happens to be in the wrong place”. He ends the column by giving his thoughts on why the toffee shopkeeper is so important, especially in wartime. “The toffee trade supplies sweetness and joy around, even in these sad times it nourishes and eases the burden of the harassed and over-worked, and it ministers in a million ways to make duties lighter, life merrier, and better worth living”.

Well Mr Sanders, I could not have put it better myself.

by Katrina Ingram