The National Brass Band Archive (20-08-2018)

Hello Music Librarians!  I am writing to you today from BBE’s HQ in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.  We’ve had a bit of a hectic couple of months of late, not least because in May we took on the custodianship of the National Brass Band Archive – which includes an extensive music library.

The National Brass Band Archive was born out of the collection of North West bandsman, Walter Ainscough. Embracing his Uncle’s passion for collecting programmes and music from the Belle Vue contest (now the British Open), Walter had steadily built up his own collection of interesting brass band artefacts and memorabilia. Prof. Nicholas Childs visited Walter’s Garage of Band treasures some time in the 1970’s and sowed the seed of an idea for formally constituting the collection and the Archive was born shortly after.

After a spell housed in a spare room in the Doyen Centre in Oldham, the Archive moved to Wigan above a Funeral Directors in Leigh, and over the years the collection has grown and grown; providing a place for bands to donate music and artefacts to. Unfortunately, last month they received notice on the building causing it to close with immediate effect and the imminent closure prompted the Archive’s Trustees to trigger a clause in the constitution passing custodianship of the National Brass Band Archive to Brass Bands England (BBE).

The collection consists of well over 8,000 music sets (as can be seen above and below), hundreds of vinyl recordings, rare instruments, trophies, photographs, contest programmes, publications, stand banners, historical artefacts and memorabilia/ephemera, which is now all in storage here in Barnsley.

Contained within the music sets, we are led to believe, is every set work (or ‘test piece’ in Brass Band speak) from the British Open contest (the World’s oldest brass band contest) going back to 1853! Brass Bands play a diverse repertoire and although they do play a lot of arrangements and transcriptions from the orchestral or pop genres, they also have a substantial amount of repertoire of their own; often as a result of set test competitions and ‘entertainment contests’.

We’ve not had the chance to delve into anything properly yet but there are certainly some gems hidden within the collection. Amongst some of the treasures include: The Granada ‘Band of the Year’ trophy and banner, an echo cornet, a Memorial book of remembrance for all bandsmen that died in service in WW1, Harry Mortimer’s pipe and conducting baton, 4 Besses o’ th’ Barn silk programmes and much more.

The Archive, really, consists of an Archive and a Music Library and we hope to be in a position to apply for funding shortly, which will allow us to take on staff to catalogue and curate the collection, as well as raise its profile and open it up to the general public. We hope to work in partnership with IAML (UK & Irl) once we have a better idea about the collection’s future and we look forward to meeting many of you at next year’s Annual Study Weekend to give you an update about the collection and our future plans for it.

If you would like to find out more about the collection please contact us at:

Tel: 01226 771015


Sophie Anderson, National Brass Band Archive