Farnworth & Walkden Band
Firstly, FARNWORTH BAND had it’s origins in 1848. The celebrated Shapcott Family Brass Band came to Farnworth to give a series of three concerts at Queen Street School. Employees of Barnes' Mill who attended these concerts were so impressed by the music that they approached Thomas Barnes about starting their own band. The Barnes family was noted for its generosity to the people of Farnworth (one act being the gift of Farnworth Park to the people in 1865). Thomas favoured the idea of a band; most likely as a way of keeping his employees from the lure of the pub! £120 was spent on instruments etc and the Band was formed under the name of the Band of the Farnworth Cotton Mills, membership being restricted to the employees of the firm.
Few of the men had any practical knowledge of music and the Barnes family donated operatic arrangements for the use of the band. Musical arrangements for bands where few and far between at this time and the band had a shaky start. They changed their name to Barnes’ Band and Mr J R Barnes recruited a Mr J Irving to conduct the Band.
Nothing is recorded of the band’s progress until around 1860, when it was engaged to play under a different guise as the regimental band for Tapps Rifles (who later became the 27th Loyal Regiment Volunteers). The band members were allowed 5 shillings a day when undertaking parades and whilst at training camp in Lytham and 1s 8d for playing for Saturday afternoons.
Unfortunately and unknown to the Band, a flute band from Darcy Lever offered to cover the military parades for less pay. One Sunday when Barnes' Band was assembling in Bamber's yard, Albert Road for a parade to Farnworth Parish Church, the officers came to them to say their services would no longer be required. In the words of John Wallwork, a member of Barnes' Band, “If ever there was a time in history when Barnes' Band looked soft it was on that particular Sunday morning. Most of us did not go to church, and something different to prayers was said!” With the end of the association with the regiment the band made the decision to convert to all brass instruments.
In 1862 several members of the St John's band (Farnworth Parish Church) decided to join Barnes’ and their reputation grew.
In around 1866 some members of yet another local band, William Owen's from Dixon Green, including William Owen himself, joined Barnes' Band. Thomas and James Barnes continued to support the band in various ways, notably purchasing, in the early part of the 1870's, replacement instruments and new uniforms at a cost of £300 and £120 respectively. The bandsmen were required to "sign their hand" as a guarantee that this money would be repaid, though there is no record whether the whole of the amount was ever cleared.
The earliest newspaper article involving the band is from the Bolton Evening News of 19th May 1873, the band leading the procession of "cutting the sod" for the construction of St Gregory's Church. The next mention is in 1876 when "An impromptu band from Barnes' Mill arrived at Moses Gate as the clock turned midnight. They played Auld Lang Syne to celebrate the removal of the toll gate and thus serenading the first free traffic to pass through the town.”
We are not sure when the band left the umbrella of Barnes Mill. The rehearsals were changed to the Bridgewater Arms in 1875, the year the company became Limited. By 1884 the name Farnworth Old (Barnes) Band was in regular use. Whether the ties were still there or whether nostalgia left the Barnes name in brackets, we may never know. Farnworth people still referred to the band as "Barnes Ale and Bacca Band" right into the 1950's.
The early 1990's saw many changes to Farnworth Old Band. The band was a strong band but did not have satisfactory rehearsal rooms owing to the loss of the ‘Old Mortuary’ in the Park, which was slowly collapsing around the Band. However, Eaton Works Band, (previously Kearsley Band) had excellent rehearsal facilities but was short of players. A merger seemed to make sense to everyone. This took place in 1990, the name of the band being amended to Eaton Farnworth Brass Band. The merger was a great success from the start, marked with the band making the National Finals at London in 1991, for the first time in nearly 40 years. They were placed a healthy seventh in the 4th section.
The conductor at the time was Robert (Rob) Taylor, who helped the band achieve excellent contest results. Rob chose to move on at this time and after auditions in early 1992 the Band appointed Stephen Booth, a fine baritone player with Black Dyke. Although young and with little conducting experience it was clear from the start that his ability to inspire the band was second to none and this brought even better results. The first contest entered with Stephen was the North West Regional Area at Blackpool; a fine first prize was achieved, meaning a return visit to London. A second place at Pontins, Southport, ensured the band also made the Pontins final for the fourth year in succession.
In October of 1992 the Band attended the National finals at Wembley Stadium Arena. By mid afternoon the band had played and according to their supporters and others in the audience the performance had been excellent. Eaton's Farnworth were placed first; a fine achievement and the high point for the Band. It may only have been the Fourth Section, but the Band had beaten over a hundred other Bands in the country.
Later that same month it was the Pontins Final at Prestatyn; a win giving the Band the equivalent of the treble, being the Regional, National and Pontins titles. Band morale was unstoppable and again victory was theirs.
A professional air exuded the band, and press coverage brought the band extra concerts to play. For the following Whit Friday contests it was agreed that no drinking would take place until the eighth village had been played, a great sacrifice on this normally big social event! The results once again proved the class of the Conductor.
Sadly in 1994 Stephen Booth decided to move to another band. This put an end to a successful partnership, the band never having been placed lower than 4th under his baton until the last contest at Preston.
WALKDEN BAND can trace it’s origins from around the 1850's being formed as part of the Duke of Ellesmere Yeomanry band. In 1890 they became associated with Walkden Workingmen's Mission but broke away and became independent in 1893.
Various conductors took the band over the next several years including Fred Lee, Thomas Lee, William Fletcher and finally John Stubbs who retired in 1933. He was succeeded by his top cornet player Cliff Lightbowne.
Cliff was the MD from 1933-1963 and assembled a group of men returning from the war together with some local young talent. Backed by a strong ladies committee headed by his wife Annie (a local JP) the band flourished and became one of the leading bands in the Manchester district.
Wakden band was well known in the brass band fraternity as a family band with players from the Mather, Rothwell, Rowson, Roscoe and Angell families all playing their part in making a successful band. A double Brass concert with the Black Dyke Mills band conducted by Alex Mortimer was arranged in the Palace cinema in November 1952.
The highlight event for the band was winning the 3rd section National Finals in London in 1956. Clifford retired from the band in 1963 and passed the conductor’s baton to Jim Lovatt a local Salvation Army musician from Tyldesley who remained for a further 3 years.
During this period the band were fortunate, through Mrs Lightbowne, to acquire a plot of land previously occupied by a row of old colliery cottages called Blackleach Row, demolished in 1946. After a lot of fund raising a purpose built brick band room was completed.
Harry Rowson, who was manager of Mortons local builders, led a team to dig the footings and build, decorate and furnish the band room in 1962. The band room was officially opened in January 1963 by the Mayor of Worsley and band chairman Mr Joseph Pennington, father of the present long serving Counc. Bernard Pennington.
Jim Lovatt was replaced in 1966 by Ernest Vint a well respected euphonium player with Wingates band. Ernest was perhaps the most successful MD in the bands history, winning many prestigious contests, including the Radio Manchester Blow by Blow entertainment contest featuring 32 bands and raising the band’s standing in the brass band movement. He presided over a series of double brass concerts at the Pembroke Halls Walkden, starting with the Black Dyke mills band in 1972.
Ernest Vint remained for seven years before retiring in 1973. He was followed by John Golland a professional musician and Walkden Band produced 2 LP records which included arrangements by John himself. The double brass concerts continued under John Golland with guest bands including Ransome and Pollard, Besses, Hammonds Sauce , Wingates, Carlton Main and even the Oldham Tinkers Folk group in 1975. John left in 1976 to become conductor of the famous Fodens Motor works band.
The next few years saw a succession of conductors come and go including Gordon Higginbottom, the famous Kearsley born horn player, and Mike Cotter, a former euphonium player with the Walkden Band; lately with the CWS Manchester Band. Mike conducted the band during their epic wins at the National finals in 1989 and the Isle of Man Entertainment contest first prize.
John Hinchley from Bolton who was also a member of the Brighouse and Rastrick band then join the band as MD. John brought to the band a wealth of first class banding experience as well as players including his wife Gillian and David Reddyhough a fine Bolton born flugal player. During John's tenure the band again competed in the IOM entertainment contest this time in the first section.
Following John, in the mid 90’s, Mike Cotter came for a second spell as MD followed by Graham Smith from Manchester, composer and arranger Darrol Barry, and ex Walkden junior member, Jonathon Davies, who had played in Fairy Aviation Band and the YBS band. The last MD before the merger was David Ashworth who had conducted British Aerospace Manchester before their demise.
The Walkden and Eatons Farnworth bands merged in 2005.
Eaton Farnworth and Walkden bands had worked together since March of 2003, helping each other with concerts and on the contest stage. The merger was formerly completed at the AGM in January 2005, the band taking the name of Eaton Farnworth and Walkden Band.
In 2007, due to the closure of the Eatons Transmissions factory and loss of sponsorship, the band again faced a change of name and is now the Farnworth & Walkden Band. The Band has no sponsorship if anyone out there is interested in having a band named after them! The closure meant a move to Walkden's former band room at Hill Top, Walkden. In 2010 the band was promoted both national and locally to the 3rd section. Briefly in the 2nd section the band then achieved 3rd place at the Regional contest in 2016, back in the 3rd section and will attend the National finals again in October. The challenges go on.