Wearside Echoes: Get in tune with band hall appeal

BANNER: Members of Hetton Silver Prize Band at Durham Miners' Gala in 1967 with the Eppleton Banner.
BANNER: Members of Hetton Silver Prize Band at Durham Miners' Gala in 1967 with the Eppleton Banner.
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A £50,000 appeal has been launched to rebuild a historic Wearside band hall brick by brick.

THE preservation of a Wearside building has struck a chord with museum officials.

A £50,000 appeal to rebuild Hetton Silver Prize Band Hall brick by brick at Beamish was launched this week – 100 years after the building first played host to music-makers.

Television presenter John Grundy, chairman of the Friends of Beamish group, cut the first turf in preparation for the 12-month scheme on Thursday and told visitors: “Music is incredibly important to the North East. We can’t have Beamish without brass. So this project is hugely important too, as it will remind people of a wonderful part of our living history.

“The building was in danger of being lost altogether. Now, 100 years after it was built, Beamish is ready to rebuild the hall and ensure a part of Hetton’s history is preserved forever.”

It was back in April 1887 that three members of a Hetton pub band issued an open invitation to local musicians to attend a meeting at the school hall of Union Street Methodist Church.

The result was the fledgling Hetton Silver Prize Band, which made its home at Jane Stoker’s pub until a tin practice hut was built on land bought from Hetton Coal Company at South Market Street.

Eventually, in the year the band won the Grand Shield at Crystal Palace, a brick hall was constructed. It was to serve the musicians well from 1912 until 2009, when the band folded.

“We are extremely pleased the hall is to have a new life at Beamish,” said retired grocer Fred Hall, chairman of the trustees of Hetton Silver Band and a member of the group’s committee for 50 years.

“Some of the original Hetton miners’ cottages are already at Beamish, as are other local buildings, so this will be a fine new home for the hall. We really do thank Beamish for all their kind support.”

Once rebuilt, it is expected that the band hall will help to illustrate what everyday life was like in colliery communities, as well as being used for brass band concerts and displaying miners’ banners.

Glenis Smith, a member of Hetton Silver Band for many years and a teacher at Hetton Lyons Primary School, was instrumental in the hall being donated to Beamish.

“I would have been so upset to see it gone forever. It would have been so sad for it to have been knocked down, but now it will live on forever,” she said.

“We really wanted to see what we could do to save it, so we approached Beamish and were delighted when they said they were interested. It’s brilliant to see Hetton’s heritage coming to life.”

Her bandmate Julie Carmichael, who joined the group at 15 in 1979, added: “The band hasn’t just been a hobby, it has been like an extended family. The band hall was our second home.

“I’m over the moon that our heritage is to be saved. The history of the band will never be forgotten now, even though it closed in 2009. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the story.

“It would have been a slow death for the hall if it had been left in place. It had already been set on fire and vandalised. This way our history will live on, which makes us very proud.”

The rebuilding of the hall, which is to be sited in the museum’s colliery village area, is expected to take about a year – although funding is still needed for the project.

“The hall will add to the picture of everyday life in a typical North East community during the early 20th century, when almost a quarter of a million men worked underground,” said a spokesman.

“It will enable Beamish to add another piece in the jigsaw of the rich history of the region.”

** Hetton Lyons Primary is helping to raise money for the hall by hosting a variety of fund-raising events, including a raffle at their annual Maypole and Country Dancing event on May 21. The school’s award-winning choir will also combine with Durham Mineworkers Association Brass Band in a charity concert on April 9. The concert will be held at 7pm in Hetton Union Street Methodist Church. For tickets call Glenis Smith on 372 0749.

Sidebar: Band history

* Hetton Silver Prize Band was founded on April 1, 1887, by three members of a pub band, who invited musicians to a meeting at Hetton’s Union Street Methodist Church school hall.

* Mr W Straughan – a violinist and trombone player – was the first conductor.

* The band played at Jane Stoker’s pub in the early years and in 1908 won the Durham and Northumberland Brass Band championship and English and Scottish International Contest.

* A piece of land at South Market Street, Hetton, was purchased from Hetton Coal Company for £25 in the early 20th century, and a tin practice hut built.

* In 1912 the band won the Grand Shield at Crystal Palace. Jack Mackintosh, a cornet and trumpet player who later became the BBC’s principal cornet player, played with the band.

* The band’s tin hut was replaced with a brick building in around 1912, which remained in use until 2009. The brick building was built around the tin one, which was then dismantled.

* Hetton Silver Band were winners of the 2nd section at Belle Vue in Manchester in 1914 and made a radio broadcast in 1926 from Newcastle Radio Station.

* The band won the 2nd Section at Belle Vue again in 1947. Two members of the band, Mr E Patterson and Mr J Bennett, played in both the 1914 and 1947 contests.

* Arsonists targeted the band’s practice hall in February 1992, causing £37,000-worth of damage. Instruments and uniforms were lost in the blaze, and the hall had to be rebuilt.

* In 1994 the musicians scooped first place in the CISWO Finals in Blackpool. Just seven days later they won the Cameron’s Brewery Contest in Hartlepool.

* Musicians celebrated in 1999 after winning a £44,000 lottery grant. The cash was used to buy new instruments.

* Hetton Silver Band merged with Broughtons Band in South Hetton to become Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band in 2009. Their hall was then offered to Beamish.