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 He was a pupil at Waterbarn Baptist School, where he took an interest in music. 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) 
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)
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.
Foden’s Band, a partner of RNCM from Sandbach, Cheshire, was founded in 1900 and rose to prominence in the brass band world prior to WW1. Here is part of its rich history.
Foden’s Band was founded in 1900, initially as a consequence of celebrations of the Relief of Mafeking. After a few growing pains and fall-outs, the band was temporarily called the Elworth Band. Prior to the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, the band was adopted by Edwin Foden (1841–1911), the proprietor of a local steam wagon works. He eventually re-named the ‘Foden Motor Works Band’ which, after some modest beginnings, improved drastically and achieved Championship Section status, winning the British Open Championships in 1912 and 1913. Since then the band has consistently ranked amongst the best brass bands in the world. Its rapid rise in standards was due to the Foden family appointing the best band trainers of the day, William Rimmer and William Halliwell. To this day the Foden’s Band’s calling card is a William Rimmer march, The Cossack (1904).
Higham’s of Manchester: Brass Instruments, Retail & Military Imagery in an Empire-Building Society
Dr Stephen Etheridge: Follow me on Twitter, @DrGtrombone
This week I thought it would be useful to reflect upon Joseph Higham’s Instrument Catalogue that was published in 1896, some 18 years before the outbreak of hostilities. Higham’s provided most of the bands in the Manchester region with instruments. Using the reflective method of ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘in what context’ will help us understand the Victorian and Edwardian mind-set in the years leading up to the Great War. On one hand militaristic imagery inferred that all things moral, stable and reliable were reliant on an Empire-building society, but, on the other,this self -assured dominance could only be usurped by modern warfare.
Who Wrote It?
Answer: Joseph Higham’s of Manchester
Joseph Higham established his factory in 1842 near Strangeways in Manchester. Entries in the Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford describe the company as, “wholesale brass musical instrument makers to the trade and for export, electroplaters and gilders.” Within ten years of the company’s foundation it was supplying musical instruments to the British Army and later they added the British Navy to their list of customers. For much of the time Higham’s factory was located at 127 Great Ducie Street just across the road from the Assize Courts and the Prison. However, according to the various Manchester and Salford Directories, this wasn’t always the case. In 1850 Joseph Higham, musical instrument maker, had premises at 73 Chapel Street in Salford. And, by at least 1896, and probably before, we can see that they had a London showroom on Oxford Street. (Source: <manchesterhistory.net>accessed 20.07.2016)
The Belle Vue Brass Band Contest, 1915: The Creation of Musical Heroes on the Manchester Stage, by Dr Stephen Etheridge
This blog examines the creation of local heroes on the Belle Vue stage through reporting in the local press. The winners of the 1915 contest were Foden’s Motor Works, from Sandbach in Cheshire. One of the other contestants was Irwell Springs, from Bacup, in East Lancashire’s Rossendale Valley. It is the press reporting of these ‘crack’ bands – especially Irwell Springs – that reveals how fierce local musical rivalries could be in the regions surrounding Manchester. Apart from Biddulph Brass Band, from North Staffordshire, and Harton Colliery, from South Shields, the contesting bands in 1915 came from, or very close to, the Southern Pennine manufacturing districts. It was at the Belle Vue ‘Open’ Contest where northern musical rivalries were given public voice. In addition the Belle Vue Contest occurred when volunteer recruitment was at its height. What did this mean for the September Contest?
From 1914-1918 the Crystal Palace National Brass Band Contest in London was suspended. The only large contest left was the British Open Brass Band Contest, held at Belle Vue Gardens in Manchester. For the war years Manchester became a hub for the continuation of brass band identity.
From 1914-1915 there was a swift and unparalleled expansion of Britain’s land forces. As Peter Simkins has written, this ‘was a gigantic act of national improvisation which helped to create not only Britain’s first-ever mass citizen army but also the biggest single organisation in British history up to that time. These first months of recruitment and mobilisation are the subject of this blog and the ones that follow. They describe how the editors and correspondents of band periodicals reacted to civilian bandsmen becoming soldiers. How did bandsmen react to the ‘rush to the colours’ that gripped the nation? How did the bands and bandsmen in and around Manchester react to a conflict that, due to enlistment, could have destroyed a well-established working-class cultural tradition? Answering these questions not only reflects the national picture of the brass band movement but also embraces older Victorian values that illuminate aspects of tradition, class and gender found in the brass bands of the Manchester region.
After the First World War the government gave grants out to returning soldiers to go back into education, including music.
It’s 1919, right? You’ve just finished a war that took four years to end when you thought it was going to take four months. The country is shaken and an incredible number of people, families and livelihoods are destroyed.