Brighouse – where there is brass there is international fame

PUBLISHED: 11:24 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 16:14 08 September 2017

Brighouse Town Hall

Brighouse Town Hall

There are no better ambassadors for at least a couple of West Yorkshire towns than an international acclaimed brass band. Penny Wainwright reports

Central Methodist ChurchCentral Methodist Church

Everyone has heard of Brighouse and Rastrick even if they are not sure exactly where the towns are. In 1977 the local band reached no. 2 in the UK singles chart and stayed there for nine whole weeks. If you don’t recognise the brass band version of Floral Dance you are probably either under 30 years old or have been living on another planet.

‘Wherever you go in the world, people have heard of Brighouse and Rastrick because of the band,’ says local councillor, Colin Stout. ‘They play on cruise ships, in the US, in Sweden and when we hold our marching band competition in July, entrants come from all over Europe.’

The two towns, which face each other across the Calder Valley near Halifax in West Yorkshire, formed their band more than 125 years ago. Members are proud of the fact that it has remained financially independent ever since, through public subscription and their own fundraising efforts, such as the sale of CDs and records.

The lack of sponsorship is all the more remarkable when you discover that instruments, costing hundreds of pounds each, have to be replaced or renovated every five or six years and band members wear no fewer than three different uniforms.

Brighouse War MemorialBrighouse War Memorial

Quite apart from the myriad prizes the players have won, the band’s rehearsal facilities are testament to its success.  While most brass players hire church and school halls for regular practice, ‘Briggus’ enjoys a purpose-built hall, along with its own music library, instrument store, committee and recording rooms based at Brighouse High School. The band has named its HQ West Ridings after its signature tune, a march composed by Sam B Wood in the 1940s based on On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at. No-one can be in any doubt as to B & R’s county origins.

A complete list of their prizes would take up most of this page but the players are current Yorkshire Regional Champions which says a lot about their continuing high standards.

‘They have a tremendous reputation - they’ve featured in TV documentaries - and a wonderful image. Anything like that that can bring tourism to the area is a very good thing,’ says Steven Leigh from Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. ‘Tourism is a major attraction round here.

‘People come for the beautiful countryside, and in Halifax there’s Eureka and the Piece Hall.’

Looking over Brighouse BasinLooking over Brighouse Basin

Brighouse itself – its name a derivation of Bridge House – developed with the Industrial Revolution. Many of its original buildings are converted to new uses, such as Mill Royd, now an apartment block in an attractive setting opposite the towpath of the Calder & Hebble Navigation, a waterway begun in 1757 by the famous engineer John Smeaton. The railway station, closed for more than 30 years, was reopened in 2000 and this year Grand Central trains started direct services to London.

‘Calderdale is a great place to do business,’ Steven adds. ‘We have a capable workforce and a high proportion of manufacturing; we’re between two city areas, Leeds and Manchester, and there are nearby links to the M1 and M6. Employees will commit to the area because of its natural beauty – and for all the sporting attractions, whatever your preference. Add to that, that you can listen to the band and the case is incontrovertible!’

Brighouse and Rastrick have acknowledged that the band is one their best ambassadors and in 2007 the B & R roundabout was opened in recognition of the band’s role along with the town’s other great exporter, Marshall’s quarries, who provided the stone. The monument was Colin Stout’s idea. ‘I was mayor at the time. To mark the 125th anniversary, I wanted to put a sign up at Junction 25 on the M62, but the council said no.’ 

In the event, the roundabout provided a more permanent reminder. The band’s logo coloured purple and gold, is carved into huge ashlar boulders and its world renown proclaimed on a stone in the middle. The roundabout is at a busy junction - the crossroads that splits Rastrick and Brighouse - where drivers often have more than enough time to admire the structure as they queue. Even the Queen and Prince Philip are said to have noticed the monument as they were whisked past on an official visit to the area. The royal pair certainly couldn’t have missed it if the band had been playing in its distinctive purple and gold uniforms, as happened at the opening ceremony.

Performing at Huddersfield Town HallPerforming at Huddersfield Town Hall

Next month, on December 11th, the Brighouse and Rastrick Band will be playing on home ground, then in Huddersfield, Harrogate and Buxton for details Listen to them and discover how they have helped put two small Yorkshire towns on the world map.

Getting there: Brighouse is easy to find – junction 25 off the M62 and is within easy reach of Huddersfield, Halifax, Leeds and Manchester.

Where to park: Plenty of parking places.

What to do:
There are some good walks in the area including the Calderdale Way and the Brighouse Boundary Way. The town centre also has some traditional shops worth exploring along with the Calder & Hebble Navigation.

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