Brass band playing in Wells goes back to the 18th century Somerset militia. The first mention of specifically a Wells band comes in 1852 and then in 1854 the Wells Journal recorded that “250 children belonging to the Central School of the City, having been preceded by a Band from the school to the Market House which was appropriately decorated with laurels and banners, partook of an abundant supply of tea and cake.”
Various bands flourished in Wells in the late 19th century, in particular the Factory Band of Hilliers Brush Manufacturing. But it was the Wells City Band which performed at official occasions and important funerals.
In 1913 the Wells City Band almost came to a tragic end. The Wells Journal of 28th February that year reported that eleven members of the Wells City Band were returning in a horse drawn carriage from the village fete in Binegar when the metal band around the wheels came off and rolled away. The journal conjectured that if this had happened on the steep hill from Binegar “without doubt the spokes of the wheel would have smashed.”
The years of the Great War and immediately afterwards were lean, with so many young men away. By the 1920s the band was back in full swing, practicing each week in the Bishop’s Barn. Soon it had 20 active members under Band Master Don Loxton. It had a black uniform with a silver braid and played at football matches and official occasions as well as at dances in Wells and nearby villages.
The Second World War was another fallow period. The Bishop’s Barn was taken over by the army. When it was released in 1946 the Town Clerk, Mr Dodd was informed that some of the band equipment stored there during the war had disappeared. This was a serious loss for the Wells City Band and an ex-gratia payment of £73 was made by the military. The band was back in business.
In 1989 the Wells Blue School Band was invited to continue as “Wells City Band”. Ivor Lewis was Band Master for thirteen years. His valuable contribution to banding can be seen in the young people he trained who are now adults playing in the Wells City Band, and other bands nationwide.
By this time several important changes had been made since the inter war years. Women were made very welcome and the band uniform became less sombre, with a burgundy red jacked and black lapels.
The band developed its membership and expanded its supporters club throughout the 1990s. It became an important feature at civic functions, church services, nearby village fetes, charity concerts and Christmas events.
With over a century of serving the community behind it the Wells City Band is looking to build an even stronger future. We will continue to rely heavily on recruiting new musicians and on the enthusiastic support of the community.