On September 27 1871 a group of villagers met at West Wycombe to discuss the formation of a handbell band. One hundred and fifty years later the brass band which developed out of that meeting is still going strong. This is its story.

The first conductor of the band was William Mead, a prominent member of the village community who was a baker and shopkeeper. He also played the cornet. Rehearsals were held in the old National School at the foot of West Wycombe Hill.

Among their earliest supporters was the West Wycombe Literary Institute, who at their AGM in November 1873 thanked the Band ‘for the services they had rendered to the Institute during the past season’. The Band soon started to broaden their horizon, playing at two events in Princes Risborough in 1875.

In the 1880 and 90s the Band regularly participated in the Christmas and New Year celebrations in West Wycombe. The Band were also regular visitors to the Wycombe Union workhouse in Saunderton on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

For the first sixty or seventy years the Band were not on a very sound financial footing and so were grateful for a very welcomed donation of £5 (worth £600 in 2021) from Lady Dashwood in February 1878. Until 1939 second-hand instruments, uniforms and music were used. In that year new uniforms were purchased for £50.

One of the first contests in which the band participated was in August 1888 when a competition was organised in West Wycombe Park as part of annual show of the local Horticultural Society. There were only three entrants West Wycombe, Chinnor and Wycombe Temperance Brass Band, the bands being placed in that order. The prize for coming first was £5.

The event was judged a success and seems to have been held annually after that, with bands coming from further afield. In 1890 the bands were the 2nd Middlesex Volunteers, Hayes, Watlington, Uxbridge & Hillingdon, and West Wycombe. Silver medals were awarded to the winners, one of which is still in the possession of the West Wycombe Band.

When a village hall was built in West Wycombe after the Great War the band moved there for rehearsals. The conductor at that time was Mr A Mead, the son of the band’s first conductor William Mead. For the first 88 years of its existence the band had only 6 conductors, A. Mead had succeeded H. Wooster in 1910 until 1929, then Jack West until 1964, Ken Stacey until 1969, and Doug Bird until 1979. Since then there have been various conductors, with long-standing member Ken Stacey, now deceased, filling any vacancy in-between. The present conductor is Ian Graves, who was previously with the band of Her Majesty’s Life Guards.

Like many Brass Bands, West Wycombe has always tended to be a ‘family affair’. Two, or sometimes three, family members have played in the band – the Meads, Woosters, Ings, Wests, Didcocks, Grays, Staceys, Gerrards etc.

In the 1930s the band rehearsed in the old Memorial Chapel in Cookshall Lane, now the site of the playing field. When WWII broke out the Band was put ‘on-hold’ as many members were called-up. When the rehearsals resumed in 1946 the old chapel had fallen into dis-repair so they were held in the Church Room in Church Lane.

A milestone for the band occurred in 1954 when they were able to acquire their own Band Hall. This was the former Congregational Chapel which was built in 1806 and was Grade II listed. It was put up for auction and the Band was eventually successful with a bid of £135 .

At this time the band entertained at many local fetes. Regular Sunday-engagements were to play at various local Chapels, followed by tea at one of the parishioners’ houses, and finally a service in the evening.

From 1966 to 1986, under the conductorship of Doug Bird, the band started to participate regularly in Brass Band contests. Doug was an ex-Brighouse & Rastrick player and manager, and moved south when he joined Broom & Wade. The contests were not only in the local area but also at National Championships. In 1974 the band won the 4th section of the National Championships held at Hammersmith Town Hall.

In the 1970s and 80s the band had a thriving junior section, who played at their own engagements, with Ken Stacey conducting. Since 1986 the band has stopped participating in contests and concentrated on providing entertainment at local events.

The band welcome new members, of all abilities. Instruments are available, and there is no charge. If you are interested please contact the Secretary via the website wwbb.co.uk or 01494 481589.

Cadmore End Local History Event

The pretty little village of Cadmore End is having its annual local history event on Saturday September 18 in the village hall. There will be talks and an exhibition of photographs, with refreshments served from 12.00 noon to 3.00pm. There is no charge and all are welcome to attend.