The first recorded Bandmaster had been Mr H. Norris, who led the Band on numerous parades and concerts around the Wilton area. Mr Norris' efforts culminated in a successful dinner given to the Band by the generosity of Mr F. V. Beynor, during which sixty-two people sat down to dine at the Pembroke Arms in Wilton. The Band was accompanied by Lord Pembroke and other dignitaries of the day, including the Mayor, Councillor V. H. Moore.
The proud tradition of mutual support within our local community is clear still in 2009, as the current Lady Mayoress is amongst the players of today's Band.
During the 1930s the Band's physical surroundings and musical style both developed. In 1931 the Bandstand was built in the Recreation Ground, of which the material cost for the project was recorded as £11.1/-6d. At this time, a Bb Cornet and case could be purchased for seven guineas (£7.7/-0d), and a fee of ten guineas (£10.10/-0d) was paid for a performance at the King's Silver Jubilee celebrations in Wilton on Monday 6 May.
Over this period of time, the Band gradually changed its musical character and established itself as a Brass Band.
Things progressed well until 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Due to the loss of the Band room and difficulty finding alternative premises in which to practice, the Band was forced to cease playing.
Practices only recommenced in 1946, under the guidance of Bandmaster Mr F. Elliot of Salisbury.
Just two years later, in 1948, a proposal for the Band to play carols in the town at Christmas was presented and accepted, the performance of Christmas carols each year continuing to this day.
Despite this, during the mid 1950s attendance at practice slumped and the recorded minutes indicate that there was concern as to whether it would be possible for the Band to continue. A 'Friends of the Band Group' was formed to raise funds at this difficult time, during which no jobs could be accepted due to player shortages.
During 1962 Mr Robert Hardy (of the earlier-mentioned Hardy family) was asked to take over as temporary Bandmaster due to the illness of Mr Elliott. Mr Hardy took over this role permanently in 1965 when Mr Elliot sadly passed away.
Under Robert Hardy's influence, and the introduction of more modern music, the Band's fortunes began to improve. The following years are considered 'golden' in the Band's history: they played in front of the Earl of Pembroke on the lawns of Wilton House, led parades in Salisbury, and appeared at leading venues around the area and in adjoining counties.
The 'Friends Group' funded the purchase of new uniforms via the organisation of jumble sales and other money-making initiatives. In 1968 efforts were made to replace ageing instruments, some of which were over forty-years-old. Then, in July 1971, all of the instruments held by the defunct Salisbury City Silver Band were transferred to the custody of the Wilton British Legion Band Committee.
In the early 1970s the charge for the Band's appearance was set at £10.0/-0d, and the Band had a busy decade. In 1977 the Youth Band toured Norway, and in the same year ex-Police suits were purchased as the Band uniform, augmented by a yellow lanyard (this continued to be the Dress Uniform until 2009). Band practice was also moved around this time to its current location, resituated to the Community Centre following the closure of Wilton Town Hall.
1979 saw the introduction of a Corps of Drums, heralding a decade of predominantly marching parades such as carnivals. The Band led parades through the streets of Salisbury, Reading, Portsmouth and Southampton. Despite concert performances diminishing during this period, the band also played at venues such as Windsor Castle, The Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Wilton House and Romsey Abbey.
The Band received a further make-over in 1991, when new stand banners and jumpers were purchased for all the players. On a more foundational level, a unanimous vote was also cast in 1995 for all Band members to become members or associate members of the Royal British Legion.
The end of the twentieth century was proudly marked by Robert Hardy receiving a presentation in 1998 for fifty years service to the Band.
The Millennium, however, brought with it a new challenge to the Band's fortunes, as the number of players slumped and the Committee made a decision to no longer march as a band. Due to ill health Robert Hardy reluctantly decided to stand down as Bandmaster in 2007, and his departure was marked with a presentation ceremony celebrating his sixty years' loyal work for the Band. Mr John Rayner was appointed as the replacement Bandmaster, with Mr Vernon Cousins as his Deputy Bandmaster.
As is the fickle nature of these things, membership has gradually increased, as have the bookings. The current band has appeared in the Bandstand at Dartmouth Royal Regatta day, during which time police estimated that there were over 64,000 people in the town. The Band has also appeared at fêtes and carnivals around the area, including performing at Bygone Days.
Change continues in this year, 2009, as John Rayner became Musical Director and Bob Scott was appointed the new Bandmaster. Another new uniform has been adopted, with burgundy blazers, and black and burgundy striped ties, and this website has been created.
The Band now anticipates steady growth, and looks forward to achieving many new goals due to the member's skills and enthusiasm which can enhance any event.
Allied to this cause will continue to be the commitment of the friends of the Band who help to raise funds for any worthy cause or charity.
29 July 2009