Bretforton Silver Band is a friendly village brass band based in the Vale of Evesham in the county of Worcestershire. Affectionately known as ‘Bret’, the band is the only surviving village band in the county. Their first mention in public records is on the 28th September 1895 where reference is made in the local ‘Evesham Journal’ newspaper to a public tea and concert in the village schoolroom to raise funds for the newly formed village band. Further research has revealed that the band was formed sometime between 1894 and the summer of 1895 evolving out of the temperance movement which was popular at that time.
Band Rules – 1900
Known then as ‘Bretforton Band of Hope’ the band performed in the following few years on several occasions in local parades and the village chapel. Records indicate that in 1900 the band was officially known as ‘The Bretforton Temperance Band’. One notable performance was in 1897 as the band played a fanfare from the top of St. Leonard’s Church tower, Bretforton, to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. This fanfare feat has been repeated on only a few occasions, including marking the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and most recently her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
1904 brought a change with the band leaving the temperance movement and carrying on under the title ‘Bretforton Brass Band’. This remained until 1937 when due to the number of silver instruments in the band it renamed itself as ‘Bretforton Silver Band’ – still continuing up to the present day.
Subsequently following it’s founding in the late 1890’s the band performed at a mixture of events in the following decades, ranging from brass band contests to village fetes. Particularly in the 1930s and 1940s the band often played as a dance band and it’s often recalled that much of the success and the survival of the band during these times was due to the work of the late Stan Archer who was bandmaster between 1931 and 1960. He encouraged many young musicians to join the band as in 1931 there were only 10 members, today there are 35 playing members. This encouragement and support of young musicians has continued and is reflected in the fact that the band has its own training band that is completely free for all players (any age!) which over time has provided new players into the main band.
Marching at Scuttlebrook Wake, Chipping Campden 1968
The band has a very busy calendar particularly during the summer months. In addition to playing in local parks and at fetes the band organises large events of its own. One of these is its annual ‘Asparagus Auction and Draw’, a unique event held in May each year at the village pub, ‘The Fleece Inn’. It has been one of the bands main fund raising events since it was first organised in the 1970’s to help raise money to purchase new instruments. Locally grown asparagus, including large exhibition bundles, are auctioned to members of the public and traditionally very large sums of money are bid. This event is often reported in the national media and has been featured several times on television.
Another reason for the success and longevity of the band was once summed up by the late Michael Trollope, another former bandmaster who said there is a spirt of ‘togetherness’ in Bretforton village – a community feeling and everyone has an interest in the band. As a result of this community support the band decided in 1999 to hold a free outdoor ‘The Last Night of the Proms’ concert as a means of thanking local people for their support of the band for over 100 years. The first proms concert was such a success that the band felt compelled to make it an annual event becoming one of its major events (still free to attend!) and in recent years attendance has been several thousand people.