Although it was believed that brass banding began in Wroughton in 1890, no records were kept and all we have to go by is an early photograph of the Brass Band with “1890” painted on the drum. However, there is reference to Wroughton Brass Band marching from Swindon railway station to Wroughton in 1874, on the return to Wroughton of 2 famous race horse, one of which, George Frdeerick, had just won the Derby.
In 1902 the Primitive Methodist Chapel formed a band under Mr. W. (Billy) Robinson and so for some time Wroughton had two bands. Again no records were kept. However, from reminiscences we know that the “Prim” band, as they were called, were particularly active on Sundays playing for open air services (camp meetings), chapel services, and marching through the village before the evening services.
Mr. Robinson was a devout Christian and was a prominent figure in Wiltshire Methodism being a local preacher, church leader and choir master for around 60 years He was also a JP and took this honour very seriously. To earn his living he made and mended boots and shoes and ran (with much support from his wife and daughter Vera) a small shoe shop and newsagent. His own two sons both died in infancy but he taught untold numbers of boys to play brass instruments and inspired in them a love of banding which has been passed on through many generations of families.
Between the wars the band was highly successful in competition. It earned the title Silver band and a Silver Cup was won outright. Mr. Robinson set very high standards of personal practice, attendance and appearance and the band usually walked off with the deportment prize. Those who remember Mr. Robinson with the baton will recall how he used to sing along at times when conducting. On one occasion, we are told, the adjudicator deducted a mark because he thought Mr. Robinson’s singing was unfair assistance to the cornets. Sadly it meant they were only second on that occasion!
A serious illness caused Mr. Robinson to hand over the baton to Mr H. Morse. Then Mr Fred Richards took over through to the outbreak of World War II.
After the war Fred Richards manage to salvage some of the instruments and with the help of former members and young lads and lasses started a learners class so that the band could be reformed. Owing to business commitments Mr. Richards relinquished the baton butt still took a great interest in playing and teaching the juniors. Several of our present members were taught by Fred.
John Birkin took the band until 1958,when Bob Grant took the reins. He, in turn, handed over to Neil Webb, our current bandmaster, in 1983.
Neil Webb, Musical Director, studied Piano and music theory under Josephine Hurd, joined the band in 1963 at the age of 8, and was invited to take up the baton in 1984. With Neil’s late grandfather, Ted Carpenter who was both an employee of Mr W Robinson, and former Bb bass player in the band, uncle and elder brother all having been members, the family tradition continues with his sister and all three sons all playing members. The link with Wroughton Methodist Church remains, Neil being organist there since 1971.