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Article compiled by Karon Rice
Rushden Mission Band 1898-2004

Formation and History up to 1940

During the Christmas season of 1897, the brass band of the Rushden Salvation Army Corps had a grievance lodged at them concerning the usual practice of allocation of the Christmas “Waits” collections (the Band parading the town and neighbouring district and playing seasonable music, and soliciting money contributions from the public).  This Army core band had been accustomed to giving a gratuity, or a Christmas gift, out of the total collections taken during the “Waits” visitations, to their local Corps officer, and the remaining funds were spent upon the general upkeep of the band – such as instruments, repairs, new music, etc., this being their only source of income throughout the whole year.  At this particular Christmas (1897) the local Corps officer desired the band to give the whole amount of the Waits collections to himself.  Naturally, the bandsmen, not wishing to set up a precedent, resented this and became “conscientious objectors”.  Remonstrations, heated discussions, and painful incidents resulted from this attitude.

However, the bandsmen, although firmly believing their actions to be justifiable, were commanded to relinquish their bandsmen’s commissions, and surrender to their Corps officer their entire equipment, and this they did.

At this time a Free Church Missioner was visiting the various churches of the town, and Sabbath after Sabbath, conducted services, preaching in different pulpits.  These ex-Salvation Army bandsmen, now without a spiritual home, still remained banded together, and attended “en bloc” the churches in which this Free Church Missioner was preaching week after week.  However, this “Man of vision” based at the Queen Street Independent Wesleyan again stepped into the town’s limelight by inviting this roaming band of ex-Salvation Army musicians to meet them at a convened meeting when certain proposals were laid before them.  Instruments were purchased personally by most of the bandsmen, and those being unable to purchase instruments received them at the church’s expense, and thus a new musical combination came into being.

A further meeting was called, trustees appointed, officers elected, headquarters offered, rules made and a proper constitution drawn up: thus, the Rushden Independent Wesleyan Reform Band was officially formed.  At a later date this became “Rushden Mission Band”. 

The “Tin Tabernacle,” an iron building erected in 1895 in Station Road , was already established and thriving as a Sunday School, the parent church being “The Queen Street Independent Wesleyan Reform”, and the band decided to accept this building as their headquarters.

The "Tin Tabernacle" in Station Road

The band came into its own as “The Rushden Independent Wesleyan Mission Band”. 

The band became entirely self-supporting and the initial debt of the purchase of some instruments was soon wiped off.

Very useful work and playing was done to preach the word, and extend the Kingdom of God by “proclamation in the open-air”.

All bandsmen were to be members of the “Church”, or those eligible to become such (the latter phrase being in reference to lads joining the Sunday School, being under sixteen years of age but leading to eventual Church membership).

Several “Stalwarts of  non Conformity”, who were also well to the fore in building up the highly-capitalised boot and shoe industry, and had established for themselves leading businesses were the instigators of the formation of the Band and became its first trustees.  These included Mr. George Denton (son of Mr. Benjamin Denton, who had founded one of the first boot businesses in Rushden in 1840); Mr. John Clark (Boot manufacturer) became the Band’s first President; Mr. John S. Clipson (boot and sundry trades, engineering and supplies business), who was the legal advisor and instrument purchase expert at the Band’s inauguration, and Mr. John Spencer (a Swaysland Diploma Boot Technical student).

The first Bandsmen in 1898-1899 were: George Dawson (soprano cornet), John Wildman, John Pogson, William Sharp, William Lingard (solo cornets); William George Partridge (second cornet); Elijah West (flugal horn); Harry Leighton, William Tompson (third cornet); Benjamin Cooper (solo horn);  Robert William Mackness (first horn);

James W. Panter (solo baritone); Jabez Cowley (second baritone); Thomas Cattel (solo euphonium); Ernest C. Bandey (bass euphonium); Samuel Peck (solo tenor trombone); George Sharp (second tenor trombone); Horace Mackness (bass G Trombone); Frank Bandey, Arthur Simpson, Walter Seamark (Eflat bombardon);  John Blades (Bflat bass);  William Mackness (the drum).  There were twenty four members in total.

From March 1899 Charles Holmes and James W. Panther were associated for many years as secretary and treasurer whilst Mr. John Wildman was the Bandmaster and Mr. William Lingard the spiritual Leader.  Officers were elected every year.

In 1901 the Wellingborough Road Mission Hall was completed and opened, the band by this time had greatly increased and so this became (and still is) their home base.  Eventually the bandsmen purchased their own uniform, at their own expense.

June 1902 declaration of peace in South Africa was celebrated with the pealing of the bells of  the Parish Church , and the playing of The Mission Band.  The following day was treated as a holiday and a torchlight procession was organised for the evening.

In August 1902, 3,000 children were part of a procession with The Mission Band to Mr. Skinner’s home field for tea under the trees to celebrate the Coronation of Edward the Seventh.

Mr. Ernest A. Panter in his memoirs recalls his first experience, as a young bandsman, playing at the first out of town weekend engagement which was at Rothwell, in February 1910.  The band travelled there by horse drawn carriages.  They arrived at their destination safe and sound, having dismounted several times en route to give the horses a rest on the steeper gradients.  However, whilst they were at Rothwell during the week-end, a very heavy snowfall was experienced, and to return by horse transport was ruled out; so on the Monday morning they had to “shank’s pony” (walk) to Kettering Midland Road Railway Station and proceeded by rail to Rushden, arriving home by 7.30am in time to go to work.

After this out-of-town visit other invitations followed, and the band, in addition to fulfilling its own duties to the Mission , undertook half-yearly visits to Kettering , Wellingborough, Irthlingborough and Cambridge .  Also assistance was rendered to the churches at Wymington, the Primitive Methodist annual camp meetings at Wollaston, and participation in many hospital parades and benefit collections in Higham Ferrers and Rushden.

The years of 1914–18 were more or less of a regular, routine nature; the activities of the Band chiefly consisted of the Sunday open-air services, morning and evening, and an occasional out-of-town visit in the immediate locality, and concerts rendered in the Council Field (the only park in Rushden) at infrequent intervals.  The Band continued to lead open-air Sunday services until 1930.

The personnel changed continually, but no fewer than sixteen members continued faithfully in regular membership.  These were: William Clark (soprano), John Wildman (conductor), William Lingard, Harry Benning, George Wildman, Benjamin Cooper (cornets); Robert Mackness, Charles Holmes (tenor horns); James W. Panter (baritone): Samuel Peck (euphonium); Edward Clark, Fred Knight (trombones); Ernest Young, Walter Knight (bass); Edward Mayhew and William Mackness.

The newcomers were eventually (all too quickly) called to serve for King and Country in the 1914–18 Great War, as great hopes had been centred upon these young men to carry on the Band’s future.

These members were: Harry Cumberpatch, William Knight, William Lilley, Len Sears, William Rich, Jack Panter, William Sears, Ernest Panter, Arthur Page and Austin Abrams.  The toll of war hit the Band very hard, for no fewer than fourteen bandsmen served during those war years, and of that total six paid the supreme sacrifice.

During these critical years the Band was kept in existence by the unwavering loyalty of the older, original founder members and very young lads from the Sunday School, especially two youngsters, Denis Young and Maurice Clark, who by force of circumstances, sheer integrity and striving, rose to the solo cornet positions at a very early age and were the definite lead of the Band.  In 1919 the Band was faced with the problem of recruiting new players, for only three of the war-service bandsmen returned to definite membership, and two of these lapsed after three years’ association.

A recruiting campaign was launched into the Sunday School, and soon there came along lads from the age of eight to twelve years, with familiar names of previous bandsmen: two Youngs, three Clarks, five of the Panter family, Benning, Mackness and Holmes; these with two other Underwood brothers, three Wiggins brothers, two Valentine brothers and two Golding brothers.  These boys and youths became the nucleus of a new combination that was to seek nation-wide fame as subsequent events were substantiated.

Having secured personnel upon which to build a musical combination to enhance the work of the Mission Church , next came the launching of the very necessary money-raising schemes for new instruments to replace some of those originally purchased at the Band’s inauguration twenty years previously, and also a set of new uniforms in blue and gold.  By a series of monthly efforts over a three year period a sum of £300 was raised.

The Band over this period of existence had a Band President who, as ever, exerted a fatherly or motherly concern or interest.  The first president was John Clark who set a precedent when, at the commencement, he invited the whole “family” – bandsmen, officers, and vice-presidents to have a feast together, prior to the annual business meeting.  Not only did he provide this annual fare, but also at every Christmas-time when the Band completed the day’s “Waits” visitation and finished up at Heatherbrea House for final musical greetings to the residents.  Brother Clark presented every Bandsman with a choice apple for the Christmas stocking next morning.

He continued to do this until his death in 1924, when Mrs. Clark, his widow, was asked to fill the Presidency, which she most graciously accepted and continued to hold this position for many years.

The same kindly invitation to take tea together as a family was extended at each November A.G.M.  The Band also celebrated their anniversary in February every year, where upwards of two hundred friends of the band gathered and partook of the ever-popular birthday tea party.

The female relatives of the Band-family were indispensable to the Band’s success by their never failing interest and untiring support by arranging jumble sales and similar events, at which hundreds of pounds were raised to enhance funds.  At this time there were no female players.

Rev. Edgar CushingA Congregational church in Lincoln was visited for three consecutive years; this was due to Rev. Edgar Cushing who was a former Wellingborough Circuit Minister and Vice President of the band and who had moved there.  These visits were great occasions for the visited as well as the bandsmen.  Welcome teas were extended to the band and were the equivalent to a civic reception as they were usually greeted by a local dignitary.  Following this a conducted tour of some historical interest venue or industrial works took place.  These tours included the Cathedral and Rushton Engineering Works.

On other occasions the Band played at Bedworth, near Coventry , and several times at Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

The repertoire became more extensive and included items such as the test pieces ‘Lorenzo’, and ‘The Bohemian Girl’ from the Belle-Vue Contest in Manchester .

A service by the band was performed in Spencer Park led by the current Mission Minister on Feast Sunday , this continued until the early 1960's.

The years 1920–1928 were times of up-hill hard work and service, but very rich in experience, for having built up a useful combination of players again, invitations were forthcoming from causes in cities and large towns away from the immediate locality, and those visits enhanced the Band’s funds.

In 1925 the Rev. E. E. Bromage became Minister of the Mission Church and he took an active interest in the band for his twenty years as pastor.  His daughter Vera married Ray, one of the Clark brothers.

Next, in the desire to serve the “larger community”, they competed with the worldly brass band combinations at the leading National Brass Band Contests at various centres, including the famous Crystal Palace Festivals.  In the past there had been a drain on the Band’s musical abilities as one or two of the Mission-trained proficient players left, chiefly by “poaching” from other bands.

However in 1931 the Band decided to enter and was accepted for the Junior Shield “C” Section at the September Crystal Palace Contest.  Mr. F. Robinson, a professional band trainer and old friend of the band, was engaged.  Rehearsals in real earnest were the order for the one month that elapsed between receiving the test piece and actual date of the contest.  Thirty other bands were entered for this section, among them was Black Dyke second band.  After the contest, the results in a sealed envelope was opened and announced. The band who played number twelve were the winners being RUSHDEN WESLEYAN MISSION BAND.  Rushden Temperance also won Section III.

After the contest a London daily paper reporting on the Crystal Palace contest published a picture with the caption “A Family Affair: three fathers and three sons who are members of the Crystal Palace Band, which competed in the National Festival”, with a question appended: “Can you beat this, Bandsmen?” Accepting this challenge, Mission secretary Ernest Panter straightaway submitted the following: “In the Mission Band we have no fewer than seventeen members connected by family ties as follows:

Three brothers Clark – M. F. Clark (bandmaster, cornet), S. Clark (cornet), and R. Clark (bass):

Two brothers Underwood – A. W. Underwood (euphonium) and deputy leader, H. Underwood (baritone):

Two brothers Knight – F. E. Knight  (trombone), and W. Knight (bass), who are also band librarians:

One father and two sons Young – E. D. Young (bass), and leader, D. B. Young (cornet), and M. Young (trombone).

The Panter family which is represented by seven members – J. W. Panter (baritone) and treasurer, C. Panter (soprano), E. Panter (horn) and secretary, A. Panter (horn), W. Panter (horn), P. Long (euphonium), E. Mackness (flugel)”. 

The Panter family
Left, back - Eric Mackness, Albet Panter, Percy Long, Bill Panter,
Front - Chris, Jim and Ernest Panter in the 1930s

Due to the contest results, The Town, Temperance and The Mission Bands massed to give a celebration concert at The Windmill Hall.  A few of the pieces on the programme were:

‘Tancredi Overture’, conducted by Mr. Fred. Robinson ( Mission ).

‘The Desert song Selection’, conducted by Mr. T. Young (Temps).

‘The Soldiers Life’, conducted by Mr. M. Roberts (Town).

The bands also played their own individual contest pieces.

In 1934, the Band won the Fourth Section Trophy at Crystal Palace playing Denis Wright’s Symphonic Legend, ‘Princess Nada’, a piece typical of its day and representative of class and standard test compositions, as contrasted with specimens of the old classification of brass band contest music of the very earliest period.  Even up to 1924 the test pieces were entirely operatic selections.  Mr. Maurice F. Clark was the trainer, bandmaster and conductor.  He was one of the youngest bandmasters to take a combination to this venue.  On subsequent visits to the Palace, the band competed in a higher grade.

By 1933–34 the Band had seven trophies and two cups in their custody, as well as a dozen or more gold and silver medals also won by individual soloists at open contests up and down the country.  The cash awards were substantial too.

At a competition at Harpole the Band beat The Rushden Temps in a march selection, and aptly chose the ‘Victor’s Return’ for the next contest piece at Banbury.  This time they entered the First Section and were beaten by half a point by the Rushden Temps.  However, as well as the second award in the First Section, five gold (soloist) medals, and the trophy awarded for best soloist of the day and £30, was presented to the Mission Band.

Mr. John White (one of the largest manufacturer of boots and shoes) presented The Hall Park with a splendid bandstand.  The Mission Band performed an opening concert.

In the 1936 Festival they had the unique favour and distinction of becoming film stars, for as they arrived on the doorstep of the “Palace” a car with a camera on the roof awaited them.  Representing Pathe Gazette, a cameraman made arrangllements to take pictures as they were mounting the North Tower Band Stand and actually playing their test piece which was appropriately titled “Pride of Race”.  The photographer secured close-ups of the members of the ‘Panter’ family.  This episode had a sequel when the photographs taken from the cine reel were published in America and Canada, and when viewed in the periodicals “over there” by Rushden emigrants, were promptly cut out and posted back to Rushden, the “Home Town” for interested people’s perusal.

That was the last Crystal Palace Festival as, on Monday November 30th 1936, it was completely gutted by fire.  On that evening ‘The Mission Band’ were assisting ‘The Rushden Citadel S. A. Corps and Band’ by giving a grand concert, and the news filtered through to everybody at the end of concert.

The Band under the baton of Mr. Maurice F. Clark also made regular broadcasts for the B.B.C.  Stanley Clark (cornet) and Albert Underwood (euphonium) were soloists, and Ernest Panter was the secretary.  These concert broadcasts continued on a regular basis until the outbreak of war in 1939.

Mr. Stanley Clark was killed in action in 1941.

Mr. Ernest  A. Panter was secretary of the band for over twenty years and much of this history was extracted from his book ‘“Memoirs”: Leaves From A Bandsman’s Dairy’, printed in August 1943.

To see more photographs of The Rushden Mission Band,
click here.

Click here to read about the Reunion in 1947, and for the Centenary Concert, click here.

To read Geoff Wiggins' memories of the band in the 1950s and 60s, click here.

Click here to see a list of the Band Officers from1975-2006.

Rushden Echo, 27th February 1948, transcribed by Kay Collins

Been With the Band 50 Years

At least two of the instruments purchased at the inauguration of Rushden Mission Band, 50 years ago, are still in use today.

This surprising information was given by the secretary (Mr. Ernest Panter) at the band’s jubilee birthday party on Saturday evening.

“The ‘G’ trombone was a second-hand one 50 years ago”, said Mr. Panter, “and has been in the custody of various bandsmen during the half century”. Two of those veteran trombonists were at the party, William G. Partridge and Samuel Peck.

The other instrument with a similar period of service was the Hawkes cornet, now relegated to the band’s “learners”.

Mr. W. G. Partridge, aged 80, spoke of his 65 years in the Salvation Army and Mission bands, and Mr. Sam Peck referred to other foundation members of the Mission Band who were still living – W. Seamarks, T. Cattell, C. Holmes, A. Simpson, W. Lingard and J. Wooding of Woburn Sands.

The party was organised by the ladies’ committee, and a dinner at the Waverley Hotel was followed by games and dancing, with Mr. C. Jones as M.C.

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