Early records of the band do not exist in any other than a fragmented form, but the earliest reports of Leyburn Band do go back to 1841. It was mentioned as playing on the Leyburn Shawl.
The Leyburn Shawl Tea Festival in 1841 was organised by the Wensleydale Temperance Society, and entertainment was provided by Leyburn and Masham Brass Bands.
The next record we know of is when they played at a concert given in Leyburn by a travelling musical company (Signor Jacobwitch and his family) on Saturday 11th March 1859.
Later in 1862, Leyburn was mentioned as being one of the bands in a Brass Band Competition organised by the Society of Oddfellows in Bedale. There were 14 Bands in the competition in two sections, a First Class and a Second Class. Of the four bands in the First Class, one was Leyburn.
There is no record of the result of the competition. There are other records in papers suggesting that for a time at least the band was quite competitive, but sadly only two results are known of Leyburn being placed in the winners’ list.
However, contests must have been taken seriously because there is a record of the band taking part in a contest the following year, in July 1863. The band entered a very prestigious competition at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, London. It was the ‘Great National Contest’ open to any Amateur, Yeomanry or Rifle Corps band. (The reference to military bands came about because so many amateur brass bands had enlisted in the volunteers.) The competition was organised in collaboration with railway companies which transported the bands and their supporters to London. The previous year the contest had seen an attendance of 12,000 spectators and an entry of 115 bands (Black Dyke won the first contest in 1860!) In the 1863 contest the entries were reduced to 12 after the preliminary trials of skill. Among those 12 were the Leyburn Band and Darlington Band which came fourth.
On 31st August 1863, the band came second in a contest at the Cheltenham Pleasure Grounds in Harrogate. The records show that Leyburn won £10 and also C. Joicey of Leyburn was awarded the first prize for Solo Cornet.
Two days later on 2nd September there is a record of Leyburn playing at a Gala (Ripon Flower and Horticultural Show) and Contest in Ripon. Perhaps they were worn out by Harrogate because they were not on the winner’s list!
The next mention we have is on the 8th August 1864 at a Band Contest in West Hartlepool. Thousands of people flocked to the town to see this event. Leyburn came fourth winning £2 (worth about £150 in 2009)
After this time Leyburn is mentioned in a few local Galas and the odd Contest held in various places over the next 10 years. Things must have gone a little flat.
No further mention is made of the band that we know of until 1889, when we learn from an old minute book that the band started playing again as Leyburn and District Band, with 18 members. Its president was The Lord Bolton. The band was such a flourishing concern that it held an Annual Ball in the Town Hall, as well as other dances. The last entry for that is in February 1897.
However, it is believed that the band continued off and on in the early 1900s under a variety of names ranging from the Town Band to the Leyburn Military Band and it was decided to name it after the latter title. In 1911 the band launched an appeal for funds for new uniforms – its bank balance stood at £8. It was felt that new uniforms were vital to keep up their appearance in context with their name as Leyburn Military Band, and to be absolutely necessary to their standing and appearance. Sadly the 1914-18 war curtailed the activities of the band.
The next entry in the minute book declares that “after a long lapse it was decided to restart the band”. This was in 1921.There were spasmodic entries – for example about Christmas Playing in 1931 and the final one reporting in April 1936 to let the band lapse because of a lack of players.
After the Second World War in 1953, for the occasion of the Coronation of Her Majesty, there are newspaper reports of people trying to resurrect the band for the celebrations. This came to nothing.
Then in 1989 Mrs Mary Sanderson was involved in a campaign to revive the band again. It was restarted and named the Leyburn Centenary Band to mark the 100 years since the band first restarted. Mary’s late husband’s family had been involved as bandsmen and even Bandmasters through the 100 years. It is even thought that her husband’s great uncle was the conductor when the band went to the Crystal Palace. She spearheaded a campaign to raise money from the community to buy new instruments. The band was restarted but unfortunately folded in 1994. Mary did not give up hope and in 2002 put a notice in the local paper to ask if anyone was interested in reforming the band. The following year (September 2003) at a public meeting the ‘new’ Leyburn Band was formed.
We had a dozen salvageable instruments, five pieces of music, 20 or so people interested in learning to play and terrific enthusiasm. Of those who signed up to play, 65% of them hadn’t played a brass instrument in their lives and could not read music.
Thanks to their unstinting commitment, a truly tremendous support from the local community and the earnest and hard endeavours of our bandmaster Emma Lundberg, we are where we are now. In the ten years we have been learning and playing we have replenished the instruments with top class second-hand or new replacements (including nearly a full percussion section), acquired a library of over 1500 pieces, bought a set of 43 entirely new uniform jackets for our members, as well as waterproof over jackets, new banners, stands etc. and of course helped in raising thousands of pounds for charity, local events and organisations.