The band was formed in approximately 1849, and was probably first known as the Stretford Temperance Band as the rehearsal room was at a local church. Later on the band became Stretford Silver and was conducted by many, now famous, conductors and arrangers in the Brass Band world. In his book entitled ‘A History of Stretford’, Samuel Massey notes that at the end of the last century there were two local bands: one was the village band conducted by Tom Shawcross and the other was the church band conducted by Joe Rogerson, who also had two sons in the band. It may also be of interest that Alexander Owen, the once well-known conductor and adjudicator lived in Stretford Road, Stretford, and is buried in the Stretford Cemetery.
The Opening of the Manchester to Altrincham Railway
The first reported event that the band played at was the opening of the railway line between Manchester and Altrincham. This event was reported, as follows, by Frank Dixon in his book entitled ‘The Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway’:
“The special train flying blue silk banners left Manchester at noon on Whit Monday, May 28th 1849, fortunately a fine day. One coach carried Brogden, Kirkman……… The other carried the Stretford Temperance Band, clad in blue uniforms. At Cornbrook it was greeted by cheering crowds; at Stretford it stopped, the band played, and the excursionists amused themselves by inspecting the works and the neighbourhood. Onward, past throngs of lineside onlookers, to Sale where it was greeted with cannon salutes and cheers from the massed ranks of Brogden’s workmen. They stopped at Sale and Timperley before arriving at Altrincham where they detrained and the band, playing, led the way to the Unicorn where they ate and drank.”
Conductors of Note
Fred Mortimer, who played for the Fodens Works Band, took the band for many years and the band entered over one hundred contests under his baton. Other famous conductors were J.A.Greenwood who arranged many classical pieces for brass bands; Sam Westward who conducted the Fodens Works Band; Herbert Brooks who played with the Wingate Temperance Band and Harry Cheshire who played with the Fairey Engineering Band.
In 1908 and 1918 the band won the first prize at the Belle Vue Spring Contest.
In 1919 the first Stretford Pageant was held and the band was engaged to play in the Parade, the Crowning Ceremony and for the Morris Dancing Competition. The band fulfilled this engagement each year until 1982 with the exception of 1936. In that year the band attended a contest at Belle Vue, at which they won another first Prize.
Opening of the Stretford Town Hall
On 16 September 1933, the band played for the opening of the new Stretford Town Hall on Talbot Road. Stretford received its Borough Charter on that day and the band accordingly changed its name to the ‘Stretford Borough Band’. Most of the early history of the band was handed down via a Mr. Johnson who played with the band from an early age until the 1930’s. At eighty years of age he composed a hymn entitled ‘Ann Johnson’, which was dedicated to his wife who had just died. This was presented and played by the band in 1938.
In 1938 the band had a new conductor a William (Bill) Brophy from Cadishead. During an eighteen month period he lead the band in seventeen contests which resulting in fourteen first prizes, two seconds and a third. He then continued with the band until 1940. With this reputation the band were one of the first bands to complete a recording at the BBC Studios, at Piccadilly, Manchester for the first Brass Band radio programmes.
The War Years
During the Second World War, the band was the only one in the area that was not disbanded. Ernie Hughes conducted the band throughout those years and along with nine other members carried on as normal. Playing in the parks the ten members were supplemented by players from the Home Guard and Military Bands stationed in the area.
North West Brass Band Association
After the war in 1946 the band was a founder member of the Lancashire Brass Band Association, which later changed its name to the North West Area Brass Band Association. Contests organised by this Association were called the Daily Herald Contests and were held at the Sale Lido. In 1951 and 1952 the band won the contests and qualified for the Final at Belle Vue.
In 1953 Alf Smith started to conduct the band. Living in Timperley, he was an experienced player who started to play the cornet in 1905. During the First World War he was a Bugler and Bandsman with the Lancashire Fusiliers. His only contest success with the band was at the 1954 Belle Vue Marching Contest held on the Speedway Track, when the band played the B.B. & C.F. (Brass Band and Contesting Force) march.
More information about Alf Smith was found in this press report from the Manchester Evening News (Dated Thursday 6 December 1956), along with mention of the Mitton family who have been stalwarts of the band for many years.
“Being a ‘brass band widow’ has its compensations for the wives of members of the Stretford Borough Prize Band. Every ‘New Year each one gets a special band performance to herself and each year they all go on an outing with the band when it plays some distance away. ‘On New Year Sunday we go round to each member’s house and play to the wives.’ Says Mr. R.H.Mitton, secretary since 1940 and a member for 31 years. The Stretford Borough bandsmen, who are founder members of the Lancashire Brass Band Association, now the North-West Area Brass Band Association, have won prizes at over 50 contests, and in 1951 and 1952 won the North-West Area Section Championships. For their conductor they have a man of vast experience. Mr. Alfred Smith began playing the cornet in 1905 and during the First World War was bugler and bandsman in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He emigrated to New Zealand and won the Championship Gold Medal in 1928 and was three times a gold medallist in the West Coast Championships.” ”Brass banding usually runs in a family, and Stretford has two father-and-son teams. Richard Mitton, son of the secretary has just completed his National Service, playing with the band of the 22nd Cheshire Regiment on cornet and on the trumpet and drums with the dance band in Berlin. Trombone player Vincent Bratley has a son Keith, who is also a member but is at present doing National Service in the RAF band. ”
Jim Saynor and Dennis Dawson conducted the band up to 1968 when Harry Cheshire joined the band as conductor, having retired from the famous Fairey Engineering Band after twelve years as the principal euphonium player. Under his baton the Band qualified for the London finals in 1970 and 1971 at the W.D.&H.O.Wills contests that were held at Preston. C.1970 – The band at Sale Civic Theatre with Conductor Harry Cheshire
Move to Sale
During the latter part of 1971, the landlord of the Band’s rehearsal room died and all attempts to find suitable accommodation in Stretford failed. On the 10 October 1971, a letter was received from the neighbouring Sale Council offering accommodation on condition that the Band’s name incorporated ‘Sale’ in its title. The official change took place on 1 November 1971, when the band changed its name to the ‘Sale Concert Band’.
The old band-room premises are still being used today. If you are ever in Stretford, on Edge Lane opposite the Railway Station is a private service road. The bandroom was located in the first building on the right, next to the canal.
In 1973, the band formed the Sale Youth Band to allow the youngsters of the Sale area to be able to continue their musical studies outside school hours. Once again the Sale Council helped the band by offering music and instruments owned by the Council from the disbanded Sale British Legion Band.
In 1974 Harry Cheshire left the band and emigrated, with his wife, to New Zealand.
The band was then lead from 1974 until 1989 by William J.Corry. Bill Corry, a respected orchestral conductor and arranger who started his musical career on the drums at the age of fourteen and continued on the drums through his National Service. On leaving the forces he took up the trombone and studied at the Parr School of Music for five years. He then played with many of the local Brass Bands and Orchestral Societies in the area before taking over the Wythenshawe Band. Under his leadership the Sale Band maintained its high standards of musicianship and was a popular choice for concerts in the area.
In 1989 the Band appoint Robert (Bob) Richards to the position of Musical Director. Bob Richards is a very experienced musician and band teacher, having been a euphonium soloist with the famous C.W.S. Manchester Band under the baton of Alex Mortimer. Under his direction the band achieved many contest successes. Notable, among these was a hat trick of wins at the Kirkby Lonsdale Contest in 1990, 1991 and 1992.In 1992 Bob left the band which was then firstly conducted by Ian Wilkinson and then by Dr Lee Longden. Bob Richards then rejoined the band in 1995.
Steve Shawcross first joined the band between 1983 to 1986 on soprano cornet, and rejoined again in 1989. In September 2000, he was invited by the committee, to become the bands Musical Director. Under Steve’s direction the band achieved the fourth section prize at Carrbrook on the Whit Friday Marches, and a 3rd prize at the Kirkby Lonsdale Contest.
Modern Day Sale Brass
John Dickinson, took over conducting duties towards the end of 2007. John’s professional experience is renowned throughout the brass playing world, as a former principal trumpet of the Hallé Orchestra and former Head of Woodwind, Brass and Percussion at the prestigious Chetham’s School of Music. The band looks forward to a long and prosperous association with John.
Josh Hughes then followed and won the Butlins National 4th Section title in his brief time as MD of the band as well as some notable results at the Whit Friday Marches. He had another brief spell at City of Chester Band and is now MD at BMP Goodshaw.
Alan Seymour who is originally from the north-east of England then took over, bringing with him a wealth of playing and conducting experience. He managed to replicate the success of the previous year when the band once again won the Butlins National 4th Section title followed by a runners up prize at Buxton making 2016 a successful year.
In late 2017, John Anderson took over the reigns of Sale Brass having most recently been playing with Eccles. John’s tenure at the band began with further success at Butlins, with the band placing 2nd in the 4th section. The band continued this success with a 2nd place result at the Areas and an invite to the National Finals at Cheltenham, where a very respectable 6th place was awarded.
John Anderson continued his success with the band into 2019, where the band achieved a fantastic first place in the North West Regionals 4th Section contest, the first time the band had ever won at the regionals. This win secured another invite to the National Finals in Cheltenham, as well as promotion to the third section for 2020. Unfortunately John Anderson had to retire after the areas, but still keeps a very close link to the band.
The band invited ex-Foden’s bass player Matthew Hindle to join as Musical Director of the band, moving from Dobcross Youth Band. Under Matt, the band unofficially were the top scoring band in the 4th section on Whit Friday 2019 and then went on to achieve another fantastic sixth place at the National Finals in Cheltenham. Matt continues to lead the band in the 3rd section in 2020.