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New Mills Brass Band (1812) is the oldest brass band in the country & still thriving today. Ages 8-80+, new members of all ages are always welcome to play.
New Mills Old Prize Band is the inheritor of a proud tradition going back 200 years. Its origin lies in a brass and reed band formed in 1811 or 1812 by Timothy Beard and can lay claim to being one of the oldest, if not the oldest, brass band in continuous existence in the country. Beginning as a brass and reed band, it was also at times both an entirely brass then a reed band (in 1869), before finally reverting to a brass band around the turn of the century
The origins of New Mills Old Prize Band are inextricably linked to the Beard family. The Beards of Beard Hall had been resident in the district for 600 years but it was their arrival in New Mills from the Hayfield area in the early 1800s that marks the beginning of the Band. Timothy Beard (1780-1864), the founder of the Band, was one of five children and two of his brothers, John (1781-1872) and Stephen (1787-1831), were to join him in the Band. When Timothy Beard died in 1864, aged 84, he left behind a flourishing and successful band and a family of musicians who were to enrich the community of New Mills and its surrounding villages for many years. For in almost every Methodist Chapel in the area would be found members of the Beard family, both men and women, as conductors, choirmasters, composers, instrumentalists and vocalists. Timothy Beard was also to bequeath the popular tune ‘Ransom’, believed to have been composed in 1838.
Timothy’s son, John Beard (1805-1876) had joined his father’s band in 1819. When he died in 1876 his son Stephen (1844-1911), a stonemason’s labourer, had already succeeded as conductor and was to continue in this role for a quarter of a century.John (1893-1937), Timothy’s great-grandson, was to lead the band during its most successful competitive era before the First World War. Four of his brothers were also in the band at this time – Alfred, Stephen, Walter and Thomas. Between 1895 and 1914 New Mills Old Prize Band was to accumulate more than 130 prizes, besides trophies and individual medals, with ‘Johnnie’ Beard as either conductor or Bandmaster. He was to serve the Band for more than 60 years and was the conductor at the Band’s centenary in 1912.
The Beards long association with the band was to continue into the next generation. John’s sons, John and Arnold and their cousins Tom (euphonium), Herbert (trombone) and John and Samuel Marsland continued to play in the Band. This tradition was only to come to an end with another Timothy (1879-1949), great-great-grandson of Timothy Beard, who was the Band’s deputy conductor.
As with so many other brass bands New Mills was caught up in the patriotic fervour that greeted the declaration of war against Germany in 1914. By November of that year those members of the band who had not already been called up as Territorial or enlisted had decided to volunteer en masse in a reserve Territorial Battalion in the hope that they might become the battalion band. Reinforced by half a dozen players from Thornsett Band they became the 2nd/6th Battalion band of the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment). They continued to play under the direction of their own conductor Johnnie Beard. The Band was not to escape the tragic losses that were to afflict all of British society. Seven New Mills and two Thornsett band players were to be victims of the war.
Rebuilding the band after the war was not to prove easy, but it was achieved, initially as a brass and woodwind military band. By 1934 it had reverted to a brass band and within a year it was winning prizes at the Bellevue contests. But progress was interrupted by the advent of the Second World War and again the Band was to serve the Sherwood Foresters, but this time as a Home Guard band.
Throughout the post-war period the Band struggled for survival in the face of financial difficulties and the general decline in interest brass band music. But with the recruitment of younger players, the involvement of particular families and, from 1974 until 2012, the financial support of the United Norwest Co-op, the Band has successfully continued in its role as the town’s community band.
At the centenary celebrations in 1912 the Chairman had commented that “there could be but few Bands in the country which had weathered all the adversities of 100 years”, that will be even more true as it celebrates its 200th birthday.
New Mills Carnival
A 40 minute parade through the town of music, dance, theatre, stilt walkers, carnival floats, Derbyshire Royalty and many vehicles followed by an afternoon on the recreation field with fairground, entertainment arena, food court and market stalls.
A fantastic family afternoon
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