Godalming crest

Godalming Band

Brass band in Godalming since 1937

Our early years - 1937 to 1939

History shows that the anticipated coronation of Edward VIII on 12th May 1937 didn’t happen because of his abdication in December 1936. The country had to change Its plans but the date of May 12th was still to be used for the coronation of Edward’s brother, King George VI and for this event, the Band of the 2nd Dragoon Guards, known as the Queens Bays Band, had been booked.

Early in 1937, the Queen’s Bay Band informed the council that they had been ordered to play elsewhere and so would be unable to fulfil this booking. The council then approached Mr W J Radlett, the bandmaster at Charterhouse, and asked him to form a Special band for the occasion. Thunderstorms on the day completely washed out the event so it had to be rescheduled for one week later, Whit Monday.

To assemble his band notices were displayed locally, announcements made in the press and at a meeting in March 1937, 25 musicians volunteered their services, including four who had previously been members of the now-folded Godalming Town Band. Practices began at the Charterhouse School under the leadership of Mr Radlett.

Prior to the Coronation Day event, the new band undertook two public performances, one in the R.A.O.B club in Farncombe, the other in the Phillips Memorial Ground. On Whit Monday they marched in the parade (see photograph) and played at the festivities held at Farncombe Recreation Ground.

Mr Radlett’s band was a success; the players wanted to continue with this new band so they appointed a secretary and called themselves ‘Godalming Borough Band’ (sometimes recorded as Godalming & Borough Band).

As various public engagements followed, mention was made in the local press of the band performing on the existing town bandstand.

‘could not the local council do something towards providing a bandstand at the Phillips memorial, there is already in existence a low concrete base’

Their performance standard was considered sufficiently worthy to enter the Junior Section of the Reading Brass Band Contest in October 1937, and their rendition of IA. Green- woods ‘A Welsh Garland’ earned them second position out of six bands, an extremely commendable result.

Funding the running costs of a brass band proved hard. It’s likely many players belonged to other bands and were using instruments belonging to those bands, so it was agreed that the new band should purchase their own instruments and uniforms and for this purpose a sum of around £340 was borrowed—an amount that proved difficult to repay.

Most of the band’s income was being used for the new Instrument and Uniforms Fund, so Alderman P.C. Fletcher who was Mayor at that time started an special appeal fund that eventually raised £58. 95 4d to help the band. The players then organised various door to door collections in the Borough by delivering envelopes and soliciting letters themselves, then returning to collect any donations a few days later.

Soon after the band’s public performance for Coronation Day, they retrieved the original uniforms worn by the earlier Town Band, but they were not fit for purpose. A new set was purchased during the summer of 1938; smart navy blue with scarlet facings and brass buttons. They had their first public airing at a July concert at the Phillips Memorial bandstand where a regular season of summer concerts was being performed by the band — something that continues to this day.

These concerts were well attended by the public and at the July council meeting of that year it was agreed money should be put aside to turn the existing concrete base, built many years earlier by the Godalming Corporation, into a finished bandstand. With WW2 fast approaching, work on the bandstand did not take place. The base was repaired and even extended but it was to take a further 71 years before the bandstand was finally completed, during the summer of 2009.

The annual Reading Band Contest was the next to be entered and ‘Kensington’ by J.A.Greenwood earned the band 5th position out of 10 bands. Regular and well attended winter concerts were being held in the Regal Cinema, (this long demolished cinema was next to today’s telephone exchange). In Feb 1939, the concerts attracted an audience of over 1000 people.

March 1939 brought a Visit from BBC’s Mr Denis Wright, who came to assess the band’s suitability for broadcasting. Whether successful or not is not known. All money raised was still being put into the ‘Instrument & Uniform fund’ but in August 1939, the band’s finances prompted the secretary to write a begging letter to the Surrey Advertiser.

The cash held in the bank barely covered their next instalment to Boosey & Hawkes, the instrument manufacturer. In October there was still a debt of £180 and so the letter was a plea to the Godalming people to continue their support for the band. They had also wanted to enter the ‘National Brass Band Championships’ held at Alexandra Palace on the 23rd Sept’, but for that a further £10 would be required.

Whether they cleared their debt, or entered the Nationals we don’t know. Research so far takes us to the outbreak of WW2. What happened to those bandsmen during the war and learning about the earlier Godalming Band are subjects for further research.

Our early years - 1937 to 1939 | 1937 to 1950→