Godalming Borough Band held their first rehearsals in 1937 at Charterhouse School, but within a year had been granted permission to use the ‘shooting gallery’ under the Drill Hall in Hallam Road. They continued to use these premises until the outbreak of war.
During the WW2, the British Legion offered us use of the room at the rear of their own premises in Wharfe Street. If ever tempted to avoid watching the conductor, there was usually a snooker match taking place …
A Nissen hut was our next home and in 1946 we had use of one opposite the Borough Hall in the grounds of what was then the Co-op Dairy. This hut doubled as the HQ for the Home Guard and the Co-op social club. The band was reduced to half a dozen players around those years as a result of the war; unlike today, space wasn’t a priority.
1957 was an expensive year for the band. Through our MD, Wilf Garrett, who hailed from that area, we had connections with the town of Silchester, near Basingstoke, and their band offered us their “Hall & chairs” for the sum of £27.10.6d. To describe this tin hut as a “Hall” would fall foul of today’s trading standards but we were glad of the chance to have our own building and spent a further £16 to hire a lorry to collect it.
It was originally a WW1 Army hut, wooden framed with corrugated iron panels. Harry Coombes was a master carpenter and he cut the hut into manageable sections so it could be transported. Harry, Bill Fishlock, Bob Boxall, Henry Vickery and Ron Gray travelled over to collect it and after three trips, it arrived safely at the yard of Streeter’s Plant Hire. where it was to be stored until a suitable site could be found. Mr Streeter was at that time, our Band President.
After much negotiation with Bill Fishlock, Godalming Council supplied a small piece of waste land some land behind the Borough Hall, so the Bandhut was pieced back together and mounted onto 20 brick piers each 2’6” high. Charlie King, cornet player, laid the foundations and Harry was responsible for the majority of the reconstruction works. Ten years later, the council needed to erect some Portakabins, so the Bandhut was moved a few yards and turned through 90°.
Waverley Council wanted their land back in 1980 as they had plans for their new offices behind the Borough Hall. The Bandhut had been attacked with a Sledgehammer before it was pointed out to the contractors that the hut was to be moved and re-erected. The pieces were salvaged, but it was another four months before a suitable site was found and in the meantime, the band practiced at Broadwater School.
The new site was in the Wharfe, now Woolsack Way. The hut was patched together but by this time was showing signs of age. The wooden floor was covered with off-cuts of carpet and the lack of toilet facilities caused many problems!
Other damp patches also appeared and the roof had to be rebuilt; bindweed grew through the gaps in the wooden ﬂoor, seemingly interested in joining the trombone section for some strange reason. The hut, complete with its off-cuts of carpet trying to cover the floor, sat at the end of the cul-de-sac and watched as the land around developed into what we see there today; a new car park, Sainsbury’s supermarket and offices.
Few passers—by would have realised that the decrepit old tin hut was home to the famous Godalming Band.