The History of Petworth Town Band

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The origins of the Band are vague but it seems that around the middle of the 19th century some Petworth men used to walk to Arundel to play in the Band of The Sussex Volunteers and then decided to start a Band of their own. The Band did well in the early part of the 20th Century and won a lot of prizes at contests under Bandmaster Tiplady.

Petworth Town Band before the Great War

Petworth Town Band before The Great War

Between the wars the band continued to flourish and was an important part of the community of Petworth as it still is today. In 1946 the Band was reformed under Bandmaster Percy Savage. With great patience and no funds he managed to kindle an interest although at the time there were very few instruments or music, as much had been sent for salvage during the war.

(It is known that on Christmas morning 1947 about eight members played carols around the town. They included two violins and a clarinet, an odd ensemble for a brass band. This oddity is continued today as the band is a mixture of brass and woodwind instruments.)

During the 1960s the band fell on hard times but thanks to Bandmaster Bert Pratt it kept going and is prospering today. Generous help was given by Commander de Pass (Vice President) who backed the band whilst it purchased new uniforms.

Throughout the 1970s the Band grew stronger under Bandmaster Fred Standen, then George Lunn who was one of Percy Savage's boys in the 1940s. He learned to play in Petworth Band and went on to become Bandmaster in the Royal Marines. Tony Deacon who led the Band for about five years followed George.

Petworth Town Band in 1995

Petworth Town Band in 1995

Petworth Bandmasters since 1946

Percy Savage re-started the Petworth Town Band in 1946. He struggled to kindle an interest with a few battered instruments and some rather tattered music folders. In those early days George Baxter and Frank Sadler were a great help to Percy, they had both been band members before the war. Percy was a fine musician and had played with the Friary Band and the Royal Engineers. Percy was bandmaster until the mid 1950s when Bert Pratt took over, Percy stayed as an instrumentalist.

Bert Pratt was bandmaster from about 1955 on through the 1960s when the band went through a bad period with very poor attendance at rehearsals. Bert tried to keep interest going and worked hard to ensure the band had a future. If he had let the band pack up then, there would have been no Petworth Band today. At one point in the early 1960s, when Bert was feeling the strain I took over as Bandmaster/Secretary for a year, always supported by Bert.

In 1972 I heard that George Lunn had finished his time with the Royal Marines and had settled in Chichester, working for the GPO. George had joined Petworth Town Band as a lad in 1946 at the same time as me and had soon after joined the Royal Marines boy service. In 1948 he had become a Royal Marine and completed his full time there, ending up with Bandmaster status. I contacted George and invited him to take charge of us. This he did for two years and with his professional ability was able to put new life into the band. I always found that he was able to get you to play better than you thought you could. Unfortunately with the shift work with the GPO, after two years George found it difficult to continue.

Fred Standen took over as bandmaster in 1975. He had been a band member for many years and was a versatile musician, able to play any of the brass band instruments as well as piano and piano accordion. I will always remember our evenings at Heyshott on bonfire night; the band used to lead the torchlight procession down through the village to the fire, then play a programme outside the Unicorn for about an hour. Then after generous refreshments from the landlord, we used to go inside where Fred with his accordion, Denny Clements on trombone, Bill Sykes on fiddle and Jock Clarke on drums, used to play music of all sorts for about three hours, fuelled with a continual flow of ale. It was Petworth Town Band's social event of the year.

Fred called a spade a spade but through all the years that he was bandmaster, I never once saw him embarrass a member with lesser ability.

Tony Deacon became Bandmaster in the early 1980s. He was also bandmaster at West Chiltington which could cause a few problems but it all worked out quite well and some of us used to go over and help them out and vice versa at times. In 1987 Tony resigned to concentrate on the West Chiltington band.

Barry Coles was Bandmaster from 1987 to 1988. Barry had been in the army as a bandsman and was a fine cornet player. He organised some engagements including a concert at Lurgashall Village Hall. Unfortunately Barry had to pack up in 1988 through pressure of work.

Martyn Streeter became Bandmaster in 1989, a position that he still has to this day. Through all these years Martyn will have experienced quite a lot of changes in the band both in the members who have joined and then moved away, the wonderful set of instruments that we now have, the uniforms and a band room that I'm sure is envied by any other band in the south of England. I am sure that Martyn would say that much of his work as Bandmaster has been made possible by the support of his wife, Paula as Musical Director and whose enthusiasm and spirit has helped so much to keep the band going. Also for many years before Martyn became Bandmaster, he spent many, many hours teaching youngsters to play and enjoy music and give them a start on what can be a wonderful hobby.

One person who should be mentioned along with these Bandmasters is Jimmy Young. Jim is a fine musician who joined the band when I did in 1946 and also played with Northchapel Band and I think, the Haslemere Band. Jim was always there to help the Bandmasters. He was always willing to conduct at band rehearsals and at engagements which he often did. Jim filled the post of Deputy Bandmaster under several Bandmasters.

All of these Bandmasters have had to work hard to hold together a group of amateur musicians (musicians can be temperamental) but I am sure that they all enjoyed passing on their knowledge of the joy which is music.

An old stalwart and committed member of the band for almost 50 years, Roy Randall, used to say when we were a bit worried about an approaching concert, “It'll be alright on the night” and it usually was. John Grimwood M.B.E.

John Grimwood M.B.E. (1930-2011)

John, a familiar face to many from the town band, moved to Petworth from Tisman’s Common with his mum and brother Allan, at the age of 12. His father, a keeper, was away serving in South Africa.

On leaving school at fourteen, John was apprenticed to Jack Summersell, into a lifelong career as a plumber. After completing his apprenticeship, John was called up for National Service two months after his marriage to Audrey in 1951 and travelled by train to Chichester barracks. The two years spent in the Royal Sussex regiment left a lasting impression with John and he remained a proud member of the Regimental Association. John was appointed bugler on arrival at Chichester Barracks and was sent to the Corps of Drums of the East Kent Regiment in Canterbury to learn the calls. During this time the King died and bugle practice was suspended! Back at Chichester he was required to travel widely over the South of England to sound many calls including the starting fanfares at Goodwood Racecourse.

When John completed his National Service in 1953 he returned home to commence family life with his wife and infant son, David. His life was dominated by his work, his garden, and the band, which he had originally joined in 1946.

Petworth Town Band was a huge part of John’s life. He was a member for nearly 63 years, being principal cornet player for most of that time, rarely missing a rehearsal or engagement and teaching many youngsters. He was secretary for many years and worked tirelessly for the band, creating an additional fundraising committee. His efforts were eventually rewarded by raising enough money to provide the superb set of brass instruments and uniforms still used today. Remembrance Sunday had always been a date of importance to John, and most years he has been asked to sound the Last Post at about six locations at local services as well as funerals during the year. It must be a record that John sounded the call for 55 consecutive years at Petworth Remembrance Day service from 1952 until 2007 and for 54 years at Fittleworth.

In retirement, John’s caring nature has shone through and he devoted nearly two decades to community work, driving the village minibus and delivering meals-on-wheels, until his health forced him to stop.

It was fitting that John’s remarkable service to the band and the community of West Sussex was recognised by being awarded the MBE in 2003.

His energy, wit, intelligence and kindness are sure to have touched the lives of all who knew him. He was a true Sussex gentleman.