The Story of Watford

Our History

Band Origins

The band was started up in 1894 by a Mr. J. Hutchinson, in conjunction with Mr. A. Mead. Originally they had several estimates for second-hand instruments but no funds, so they decided on the cheapest set and (determined to make a start) each of the 32 members bought their own instrument by paying 2 shillings per week to the Band and Instrument Fund (to put this in context: in 1894, the average wage of a tradesman was 16 shillings per week). With instruments but nowhere to practice, Mr J. Hutchinson invited members to his home, a few at a time, to learn the elementary rudiments of music and scales. After about 8 weeks he managed to find a practice room and the players came together as "The Band"; shortly afterwards they were marching around the streets playing. The band could only play two easy marches but it was out to collect subscriptions and funds in order to buy more instruments and keep improving.

This photo was taken of the band back in the 1920s

This photo was taken of the band back in the 1920s

The first proper name of the band was "The London and North Western Railway Band" (there is a reference to some members being employees of that company), and after a while the band began contesting. Trophy-worthy performances eluded them until a few years later, when the band gained their first Third place prize.

The band then engaged a professional conductor, Mr. Randolph Ryan from Kettering, and eventually won more Second and Third prizes but a First-place eluded them so it was decided to buy a new set of instruments. These were purchased from Besson and Company of Euston Road. It was around then that the Band decided to change the name to the "Watford Artisan Silver Band" (adding "Silver" to band names was common at the time).

Despite all efforts and rehearsal the band still could not get any further than second placing. Mr. Willie Greenwood was subsequently appointed as professional conductor and he held the honour of conducting the band when they won their first "First" at a Gravesend contest in 1899, competing in the second section. On the back of this, the members then decided to change the name again to the "Watford Silver Prize Band".

Mr. J. Hutchinson had by now a son in the band, Mr. R. Hutchinson who, after spells with the St. Albans Band and the world famous Besses O' The Barn Band later returned to become resident conductor in 1933. The founder retained a life-long association with the band (later in an advisory/elder statesman role) his aims having been rewarded with the winning of a major First Prize in 1922 at the Crystal Palace.

The 20th Century

The full band in the 80s, under the name "Hosier and Dickinson (Watford)" as shown on the drum

The full band in the 80s, under the name "Hosier and Dickinson (Watford)" as shown on the drum

The Second World War brought disruption to many lives and organisations with men away in the Forces but the band survived despite changes in accommodation and name. The Minute books of this period have disappeared with the passing of time and addresses but it is known that the band had an association with the Home Guard, the British Legion and the United Ex-Service Men's Club. Records do show the band being known variously as "Watford Silver Prize and British Legion Band", "Watford United Ex-Servicemen's Band" until reverting to the name "Watford Silver Band" in 1967.

The highlight of this era was the winning of the Romford Contest, Friern Barnet Contest (Championship Section), City of Leicester Brass Band Festival (Championship Section) and placing 8th in the British Open, all in 1946 under the direction of Reginald Hutchinson.

Until this time they had been entirely self-sufficient, receiving no grants or subsidies from the Local Authority or Arts Council, but in 1980 they attracted commercial sponsorship from the construction company Hosier and Dickinson, adopting the name "Hosier and Dickinson (Watford) Band".

In 1979, the band finally acquired their own rehearsal premises, at the site of Glen Miller's last appearance with the American Air Force Band, Bushey Hall (then US Fighter Command Headquarters). The Band Club, which is part of the historic site now known as The Lincolnsfield Centre, was renovated by the band members themselves. The occupation of their own premises facilitated their rehearsal programme and allowed the development of a tutorial section for the coaching of young people and adult learners.

Early 2000s

Skipping forward to 2003 saw the band under new direction with Martyn France taking the helm. A Euphonium and Trombone player, Martyn's background in banding runs right through his family and their Salvation Army roots.

The band's logo in about 2003 after giving up the Hosier and Dickinson stamp

Also in 2003, Hosier & Dickinson went out of business and the band changed their name once again, returning simply to the "Watford Band" to reflect this unfortunate change in circumstances. The band are still known under this name today, and are extremely grateful for the continued support of our President Geoffrey Hosier.

In August of 2004 the band successfully registered as a charity. Its new found status attracted funding for the continuance of brass banding in the Watford area in the future and allowed us to develop ties with the local schools. The band also recorded a number of CDs in this period, of popular Band music and of Christmas carols, distributing them at events to raise funds.

The band returned to contesting with renewed vigour and progressed to the National Finals in 2006. In 2009 the band even won the Oxfordshire and District Brass Band Association Entertainment Contest. You can see our full contesting results (and the list of band names!) here.

The Present

The full band that got through to the Nationals, 2017

The full band that got through to the Nationals, 2017

In 2012, Ian Graves took over as the band's conductor. The band continues to go from strength to strength and now regularly performs at local events, bandstands and care homes. We continue to compete at regional contests and in 2017 the band successfully got through to the National Championship.

In the near future, the band hopes to make a return to other contests in the area, as well as more concerts throughout the year. You can find out more about the current members on our players page, and you can support the band to keep us going by coming along to one of our performances or even by booking the band for an event or joining us!

125th Anniversary

In 2019 the band celebrated their 125th Anniversary. The band celebrated by having a masterclass and a concert at St Luke's Church in Watford with guest appearance from international soloist Steven Mead. A souvenir programme was created for this event which includes the order of music, musicians in attendance and an extensive overview of the bands history among other things. You can view this below:

Registered charity number 1105301