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The History of Sale Brass Band
Stretford Band - 1935

The band was formed in approximately 1849, and was probably first known as the Stretford Temperance Band as the rehearsal room was at a local church. Later on the band became Stretford Silver and was conducted by many, now famous, conductors and arrangers in the Brass Band world. In his book entitled ‘A History of Stretford’, Samuel Massey notes that at the end of the last century there were two local bands: one was the village band conducted by Tom Shawcross and the other was the church band conducted by Joe Rogerson, who also had two sons in the band.

It may also be of interest that Alexander Owen, the once well-known conductor and adjudicator lived in Stretford Road, Stretford, and is buried in the Stretford Cemetery.

The opening of the Manchester to Altrincham Railway

The first reported event that the band played at was the opening of the railway line between Manchester and Altrincham. This event was reported, as follows, by Frank Dixon in his book entitled ‘The Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway’:

"The special train flying blue silk banners left Manchester at noon on Whit Monday, May 28th 1849, fortunately a fine day. One coach carried Brogden, Kirkman……… The other carried the Stretford Temperance Band, clad in blue uniforms. At Cornbrook it was greeted by cheering crowds; at Stretford it stopped, the band played, and the excursionists amused themselves by inspecting the works and the neighbourhood. Onward, past throngs of lineside onlookers, to Sale where it was greeted with cannon salutes and cheers from the massed ranks of Brogden’s workmen. They stopped at Sale and Timperley before arriving at Altrincham where they detrained and the band, playing, led the way to the Unicorn where they ate and drank."

Conductors of note

Fred Mortimer, who played for the Fodens Works Band, took the band for many years and the band entered over one hundred contests under his baton. Other famous conductors were J.A.Greenwood who arranged many classical pieces for brass bands; Sam Westward who conducted the Fodens Works Band; Herbert Brooks who played with the Wingate Temperance Band and Harry Cheshire who played with the Fairey Engineering Band.

In 1908 and 1918 the band won the first prize at the Belle Vue Spring Contest.

Stretford Pageant in 1969

Stretford Pageant

In 1919 the first Stretford Pageant was held and the band was engaged to play in the Parade, the Crowning Ceremony and for the Morris Dancing Competition. The band fulfilled this engagement each year until 1982 with the exception of 1936. In that year the band attended a contest at Belle Vue, at which they won another first Prize.

Opening of the Stretford Town Hall

On 16 September 1933, the band played for the opening of the new Stretford Town Hall on Talbot Road. Stretford received its Borough Charter on that day and the band accordingly changed its name to the ‘Stretford Borough Band’. Most of the early history of the band was handed down via a Mr. Johnson who played with the band from an early age until the 1930’s. At eighty years of age he composed a hymn entitled ‘Ann Johnson’, which was dedicated to his wife who had just died. This was presented and played by the band in 1938.

William Brophy

The Band in 1938

In 1938 the band had a new conductor a William (Bill) Brophy from Cadishead. During an eighteen month period he lead the band in seventeen contests which resulting in fourteen first prizes, two seconds and a third. He then continued with the band until 1940. With this reputation the band were one of the first bands to complete a recording at the BBC Studios, at Piccadilly, Manchester for the first Brass Band radio programmes.

The War Years

During the Second World War, the band was the only one in the area that was not disbanded. Ernie Hughes conducted the band throughout those years and along with nine other members carried on as normal. Playing in the parks the ten members were supplemented by players from the Home Guard and Military Bands stationed in the area.

North West Brass Band Association

After the war in 1946 the band was a founder member of the Lancashire Brass Band Association, which later changed its name to the North West Area Brass Band Association. Contests organised by this Association were called the Daily Herald Contests and were held at the Sale Lido. In 1951 and 1952 the band won the contests and qualified for the Final at Belle Vue.

Alf Smith

Alf Smith

In 1953 Alf Smith started to conduct the band. Living in Timperley, he was an experienced player who started to play the cornet in 1905. During the First World War he was a Bugler and Bandsman with the Lancashire Fusiliers. His only contest success with the band was at the 1954 Belle Vue Marching Contest held on the Speedway Track, when the band played the B.B. & C.F. (Brass Band and Contesting Force) march.

More information about Alf Smith was found in this press report from the Manchester Evening News (Dated Thursday 6 December 1956), along with mention of the Mitton family who have been stalwarts of the band for many years.

M.E.N. article - 1956

"Being a ‘brass band widow’ has its compensations for the wives of members of the Stretford Borough Prize Band. Every ‘New Year each one gets a special band performance to herself and each year they all go on an outing with the band when it plays some distance away.  ‘On New Year Sunday we go round to each member’s house and play to the wives.’ Says Mr. R.H.Mitton, secretary since 1940 and a member for 31 years. The Stretford Borough bandsmen, who are founder members of the Lancashire Brass Band Association, now the North-West Area Brass Band Association, have won prizes at over 50 contests, and in 1951 and 1952 won the North-West Area Section Championships.  For their conductor they have a man of vast experience. Mr. Alfred Smith began playing the cornet in 1905 and during the First World War was bugler and bandsman in the Lancashire Fusiliers.  He emigrated to New Zealand and won the Championship Gold Medal in 1928 and was three times a gold medallist in the West Coast Championships."

"Brass banding usually runs in a family, and Stretford has two father-and-son teams. Richard Mitton, son of the secretary has just completed his National Service, playing with the band of the 22nd Cheshire Regiment on cornet and on the trumpet and drums with the dance band in Berlin. Trombone player Vincent Bratley has a son Keith, who is also a member but is at present doing National Service in the RAF band. "

Harry Cheshire

Jim Saynor and Dennis Dawson conducted the band up to 1968 when Harry Cheshire joined the band as conductor, having retired from the famous Fairey Engineering Band after twelve years as the principal euphonium player. Under his baton the Band qualified for the London finals in 1970 and 1971 at the W.D.&H.O.Wills contests that were held at Preston. 

C.1970 - The band at Sale Civic Theatre with Conductor Harry Cheshire

The above photograph (taken in the early 1970’s), is probably unique as it contains four ‘bandsmen’ who each served the band for over fifty years. On the third row fourth from the left is Richard Mitton. Seventh from the left on the same row is John Richardson who was the principal cornet player for many years. Third from the right also on the third row is Richard's father ‘Dick’ Mitton and in front of him is Ernie Hughes.

Move to Sale

During the latter part of 1971, the landlord of the Band’s rehearsal room died and all attempts to find suitable accommodation in Stretford failed. On the 10 October 1971, a letter was received from the neighbouring Sale Council offering accommodation on condition that the Band’s name incorporated ‘Sale’ in its title. The official change took place on 1 November 1971, when the band changed its name to the ‘Sale Concert Band’.

The old band-room premises are still being used today. If you are ever in Stretford, on Edge Lane opposite the Railway Station is a private service road. The bandroom was located in the first building on the right, next to the canal.

In 1973, the band formed the Sale Youth Band to allow the youngsters of the Sale area to be able to continue their musical studies outside school hours. Once again the Sale Council helped the band by offering music and instruments owned by the Council from the disbanded Sale British Legion Band.

In 1974 Harry Cheshire left the band and emigrated, with his wife, to New Zealand.

Bill Corry

1978 - Sale Band with Bill Corry conducting

The band was then lead from 1974 until 1989 by William J.Corry. Bill Corry, a respected orchestral conductor and arranger who started his musical career on the drums at the age of fourteen and continued on the drums through his National Service. On leaving the forces he took up the trombone and studied at the Parr School of Music for five years. He then played with many of the local Brass Bands and Orchestral Societies in the area before taking over the Wythenshawe Band. Under his leadership the Sale Band maintained its high standards of musicianship and was a popular choice for concerts in the area.

The above picture was taken circa 1978 in Longford Park, for the Stretford Pageant. On principal cornet is Ernie Watson who at the time was still a professional trumpet player. 

Bob Richards

The Prize-Winning band of 1991

In 1989 the Band appoint Robert (Bob) Richards to the position of Musical Director. Bob Richards is a very experienced musician and band teacher, having been a euphonium soloist with the famous C.W.S. Manchester Band under the baton of Alex Mortimer. Under his direction the band achieved many contest successes. Notable, among these was a hat trick of wins at the Kirkby Lonsdale Contest in 1990, 1991 and 1992.In 1992 Bob left the band which was then firstly conducted by Ian Wilkinson and then by Dr Lee Longden. Bob Richards then rejoined the band in 1995.

2005 - with MD Steve Shawcross

Steve Shawcross

Steve first joined the band between 1983 to 1986 on soprano cornet, and rejoined again in 1989. In September 2000, he was invited by the committee, to become the bands Musical Director. Under Steve's direction the band achieved the fourth section prize at Carrbrook on the Whit Friday Marches, and a 3rd prize at the Kirkby Lonsdale Contest. 

John Dickinson (2007 - 2013)

John Dickinson
John Dickinson

John Dickinson was appointed Musical Director in 2007 - John is a legendary player and teacher, having been Principal Trumpet at the Halle Orchestra for 17 years, as well as being Head of Brass, Wind and Percussion at Chetham's School of Music and teaching at the Royal Northern College of Music since 1977.
The band were extremely fortunate to appoint John, his audition came about because he plays golf with 3rd cornet player Mike Welch!

Under John's direction the band developed both technically and musically, drawing upon John's extensive knowledge of the classical repertoire and also resumed competing in the North West Area Contests.
The band achieved a number of prizes including second place at Brass at the Guild in Preston and twice at Kirkby Lonsdale.

There were numerous 4th section prizes on Whit Friday including 1st places at Friezland, Lees, Scouthead and Denton , and second places at Lydgate , Drolysden, Denton and Greenfield. On two of the Whit Fridays the band played the Cossack.

In the rehearsal room, John provided technical advice as well as musical direction and also a regular supply of annecdotes from his time with the Halle Orchestra including having met an amazing array of famous composers and musicians.

A favourite phrase when encouraging the front row with a tricky fast passage was "it's all under the fingers"!

On several Remembrance Sundays John played the Last Post and Reveille.

A number of high profile concerts also took place during his tenure, including joint ones with Foden's and Wingates. Due to John's connections, at one of the concerts the band were delighted to welcome as guest soloist Matthew White (now Principal Euphonium at Cory), BBC Radio 2 Young Musician of the Year.

John also took over as Musical Director of the training band, bringing his wealth of knowledge to a new generation.

As well as the high profile concerts during this era there were also regular concerts in Worthington Park, Sale Waterside Theatre as part of the Sale Festival, The Mayor of Traffords Charity Concert, playing at the Manchester Marathon as it came through Sale, Timperley Country Fair, Carolling at Tatton Park and at the Trafford Centre

During this time the band also decided to support a charity each Xmas season, the charity was voted on each year and often was a charity with specific significance to the band such as Bliss - for premature babies and their families, North West Air Ambulance, The Christie Hospital and MacMillans.

After 6 wonderful years, John decided to retire from the band in 2013 and pass the baton onto the next generation.

Many thanks go to Clive Robinson for collating, studying and piecing together much of the above information.


©2008 Sale Brass Band