The Shirley Band - A West Midlands Brass Band

The History of The Shirley Band


The Shirley Band

The Shirley Band was formed in 1919 by W H Hodesdon Senior, the grandfather of the band's last President, the late Donald Hodesdon. Mr Hodesdon had moved to Shirley from Spalding in Lincolnshire where he had run and conducted a band and had also been the choir master.

When he arrived in Shirley he decided to form a Brass Band for local men returning from the fighting on the front in the First World War. The first personnel consisted of his two sons, his son in law and other local men using instruments provided by Mr Hodesdon.

The first rehearsal took place in a cottage in School Road, Shirley and the band then began to rehearse at member's houses. Shortly after Mr Hodesdon and his wife opened a greengrocers shop at the side of the Saracen's Head Pub in Stratford Road, Shirley which had an old barn at the back and the band soon moved into the barn for their rehearsals. Gradually the membership began to build and with W Hodesdon senior conducting, the band started to perform at local engagements.

In 1934 William (Billy) Davies took over as conductor of the band and with Mr Jack Moulds as President, the standard rapidly progressed. In 1937 the band asked the BBC for an audition to play for a BBC broadcast and so Denis Wright came from London to hear the band play at the Saracen's Head Connaught Rooms and afterwards stated to be very impressed by the standard of the band. By now the band were accepting engagements as far afield as Alton Towers and Shrewsbury, as well as playing at local concerts, carnivals and fetes.

The Shirley Band

When war was declared in 1939 the band soon had members called up to the armed services and their then bandroom at the Robin Hood Inn was turned into a barrage balloon centre by the RAF so the band had to find a new home once again. At the end of the war they moved to the Jack Moulds Pavillion in Shirley where they were to stay for a number of years.

Around the war years Christmas morning became somewhat of a tradition of the band where from 9am until noon the band would play on the back of a lorry travelling all around Shirley and Olton, stopping on the way to play for the nuns in the Convent. One year whilst the band was at the Convent on Christmas Morning the Mother Superior came out to the band and took them to the side of the building to play Christmas Carols under the window of the Music Mistress who was very ill and deteriorating rapidy but had asked to hear the band play on Christmas morning.

During the war Leonard Windridge became conductor of the band, followed by Reginald Beddis but the end of the war saw the return of William Davies as conductor. Members soon returned to the band after the war and in 1946 the band entered it's very first contest. This was the fourth section of The Daily Herald National Brass Band Championships in Leicester. They were awarded first prize and went on to compete in the National Finals at Belle Vue, Manchester later that year. With this success brought the need for new uniforms and although the war was over, clothes rationing was still in force and so rumour has it that some clothes coupons were purchased from demobbed soldiers in order to fulfill the need to purchase the uniforms, although of course this is merely rumour and has never been proved!

The Shirley Band

In 1949 a new era for the band began when they accepted an offer to play at all the home matches of Birmingham City Football Club. All the members had to be in full uniform with hats and uniform raincoats if necessary. They played in the centre of the pitch prior to the match, marching round the ground and finishing in front of the main stand until the teams appeared. They were also required to march and counter march during the interval and play again after the match.

This regular engagement, which continued until 1959, put the band on a firm financial footing and allowed a huge amount of progress to be made including the formation of the Junior Band just prior to 1951.

In 1952 Raymond Lugg was appointed as conductor who stayed with the band until 1957 when George Allen was appointed and who was suceeded by Charlie Wilford in 1959 with John Yard taking over in 1960. Conductors since then have included Hugh Watkins, Bert Power, Philip Cooper, Mike Hutton, James Cooper, Geoff Barber, Alwyn Green, Richard Adams and Bryan Hurdley.

The Shirley Band

Notable achievements include second place at the Finals of the National Brass Band Championships in the second section in 1987 followed by becoming South Midlands and East Anglia Champions in 1988 under the musical direction of Bryan Hurdley.

The band's success was repeated when they came third at the Finals of the National Brass Band Championships in 2002 and then became Midlands Area Champions in the Second Section in 2003 both under the direction of Dave Lea.

More recently the band came third in the First Section at the Midlands Area Brass Band Championships in 2015, qualifying for the Finals of the National Brass Band Championships and also, following several years of consistently high placings in the First Section, achieved promotion to the Championship Section from January 2016.

The band is fortunate to have a number of loyal members who have been with the band for many years with currently three members who have played with the band for more than fifty years and a number of members who have played with the band for over thirty years as well as many friends who have played with and supported the band over a long period.

Today the band is still thriving and plays at many events throughout the Midlands but is particularly proud to continue to support the local community of Shirley whenever possible such as leading the hymns and playing Last Post and Reveille for the annual Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph at St James Church in Shirley.