Reviews - Literary Reviews

Brass Bands in the Holme Valley - Jeffrey Turner

Brass Bands in the Holme Valley - Jeffrey Turner

Brass Bands in the Holme Valley

Jeffrey Turner JP, AVCM (hons.)

This book covers the musical life of brass bands in the Holme Valley which is a large civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees in West Yorkshire. It includes aspects of the early days of the villages and communities.

The book is sub-titled 'A Glimpse into the Brass Band movement and Bands in the Holme Valley'. For the author who has spent a lifetime living, working and making music in this area, has unearthed numerous historical facts about the brass bands that have been an intricate part of the cultural life of the local community for over 150 years.

An insight into the formation of the early brass bands is given, many resulting from the disbandment of militia bands following their return from the Napoleonic Wars. The development of the three valved instrument by Adolphe Sax in the middle of the nineteenth century helped manual workers with their rough hands to play the instrument. Certain mill owners provided instruments, music, uniforms and rehearsal facilities which together with their offer of employment attracted good players. In Holmfirth alone six bands were known to have been formed.


It is said that contesting is the life blood of brass bands. In the early days most contests were held outdoors and by the end of the nineteenth century hundreds of contests were being held in towns and villages, including in the Holme Valley.

The contest held in Holmfirth was in 1887 and the many contests subsequently held in the town and the rest of the Holm Valley, along with the bands who entered, are revealed. A contest is still held annually in the town to this day. Recently a new type of contest which was given the name 'Brass Factor' has been introduced which is also held annually in Holmfirth.

During the 1940s solo (slow melody) and quartet contests became popular. The Holmbridge Quartet contest attracted entrants from as far away as Scotland, with the event being recognised as the Championship Contest of the North of England.

The two main band contests are the National Brass Championships and the British Open Brass Band Championships. The qualifying systems plus the different venues in which the contests have been held along with the mus8ic and composers used are discussed.


Wooldale brass band was formed in 1864 and then a short while later the Wooldale Town End brass band was formed. The author highlights the rivalry between two local bands with an amusing story about the bands when they met in Holmfirth in 1871.

Hade Edge band is the youngest of the Holme Valley bands having been formed in 1908. Its early struggles to its eventual rise to the championship status along with the conductors who guided them is also given. Like many bands Hade Edge have also experienced lean periods but for all that they still compete regularly.

The Hepworth Feast is held on the last Monday in June and this important in the life of the village, in which the Hepworth band plays a significant role is described in detail. The band have enjoyed success under various conductors. The Kaye family have played an important part of the band's history. For the last sixteen years the band has been graded in the championship section. This continued success has seen the band represent Yorkshire in both the national finals and the British Open, make several CDs and broadcast both on the radio and on television.

Hinchliffe Mill band was formed in 1872 with family ties being an important feature of this band. Five brothers joined following their resignation from nearby Holme Silver band. In 1925 Noel Thorpe was appointed the band's new professional conductor and a highly successful period followed. However, by the end of the twentieth century with so many players leaving the band it was unable to recover and ceased to function.

Holme Silver band was formed in 1860 by the Broadhead family and were associated with the band until the 1980s. Other family ties included seven brothers from the Clough family who following a disagreement all resigned with five of them joining Hinchliffe Mill band. During the Second World War there was a shortage of players which saw the band joined together with the Hinchliffe Mill band and for the duration of the war changed its name to Holmbridge United band. Sadly, the current band is suffering from a shortage of players and considered now to be inactive. The few players that are left that meet monthly consider themselves just to be a rehearsal band.

The history of the Honley Silver band stretches back to 1865. During the early years the band secured the services of professional conductor John Gladney. He went on to lead the band to many contest successes which included the Belle Vue September contest (now known as the British Open) in 1884. To this day Honley Silver band is the only Holme Valley band to have won this prestigious event. Like all bands Honley had its share of personalities, which included Jack Micklethwaite, who held the position of secretary for twenty years. His embarrassing but amusing experience on a Whit Friday Walk is a wonderful story. In 1997 owing to a shortage of players the band merged with the Yorkshire Traction band, who also were struggling for players at the time. This merger saw the birth of a new band with the Yorkshire Traction Honley band.

About the Book

Completing the book is an explanation of the structure of a brass band and a description of the instrumentation.

This excellent book includes a brief biography of the author and is enhanced by over fifty photographs and a Forward written by Councillor Kenneth D. Sims. This book fills a void in the musical history of the Holme Valley and is a commendable addition to the growing literary world of brass bands. Priced at £8.85 plus postage and packaging £1.65 it is excellent value. It can be obtained direct from the author at Jeffrey Turner, 7 Carr View Road, Hepworth, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire HD9 1HX.

Sydney Swancott