The Richmond Brass Band has a rich history, though documents are sparse. Records of a band in the area date back to 1937, however it is thought that there was a brass band of sorts since the late-1800’s. Going through many iterations over the years, the band has adopted more than a few identities:
- Barnes Borough
- Borough of Barnes Brass Band
- Richmond (Watney)
- Richmond Band
- Richmond Watney
- Watney Band
- Watney Mann
- Watney Mann Band
- Watney Silver
- Watney’s Silver
- Watneys Silver Band
- West London
- West London Silver Band
The Internet Bandsman’s Everything Within website comments briefly on the formation of the band:
Formed in 1937 and loaned its instruments to the Home Guard during the War, reforming in 1946 as Borough of Barnes Brass Band. Became the Watney Band in 1959. Jimmy Edwards, the comedian, once played tenor horn with the band.
Aside from community concerts the band attended many competitive contests, weaving up and down through the ranks. The details of many contest outings in the band’s history can be found on the Brass Band Results website.
Perhaps the most famous period for the band is during the time it was sponsored by Watney Mann brewery in the 1950’s and 60’s. Producing recordings and winning contests, the band was in full stride. Popular brass band website 4barsrest reviewed a recording from 1969 describing the somewhat unconventional brass band:
…[the band] were conducted by Albert Meek, a former Bandmaster of the Regimental Band of the Royal Scots, and were looking to make a name for themselves. On this recording they tried to do it by bolstering their ranks with a string double bass and three French horns. The result was mixed to say the least.
Nigel Horne, writing for The Brass Band Portal also noted this alternative arrangement:
The french horn is the most difficult of all-brass instruments to play. In the 1970s the Watney Band, under the baton of Albert Meek, experimented with french horns (along with a string bass). I consider the experiment to be a failure, showing that the sound of the french horn does not blend with that of the brass band. Also I suspect it was done less for musical reasons and more because Mr. Meek came from a military background and could not convert.
When sponsorship from the brewery came to an end, the band seems to have carried on (or should we say ‘and the band played on…’?) until finally reaching the point in it’s history that it faded out in the 1980’s.
If you have any information, photos, anecdotes about the former band, please contact us!