Darley Silver Band – a Houseman musical tradition

George Houseman in the uniform of the Darley Silver Band, own collection

We are not exactly what I would call a musical family. One of my sisters played the guitar for a while at middle school and another learned the cornet for a year and that was about it. Even mandatory recorder lessors were a trial for me, and I suspect they were even more of an ordeal for those forced to listen as I practiced……So it’s almost a surprise that the Houseman family was a core part of the musical scene in Darley, Yorkshire for at least a couple of generations. This is their story.

Our known family association starts with the Darley Temperance Band which was formed in 1901 as a successor to the original Darley String Band.

My paternal Great Grandfather, George Houseman (b. 1868) and his two brothers Fred (b. 1876) and Willie (b. 1870) were regular players, with George playing the cornet. The three are pictured on this 1911 photo, George is the one player not in uniform on the back row, Fred is stood on his right. Willie is named as being in the photo, but not identified and I don’t have a photo to compare.

Photo of Darley Temperance Band, 1911, featuring my Great Grandfather George and his two brothers, own collection.

The Darley Temperance Band quickly became popular in the area, with a particular favourite being the “Hospital Sunday” concerts where the band played at services and led the march between the two chapels and the church to help raise funds for the sick and destitute to pay their medical bills.

The band eventually became the known as the Darley Silver Band and by the 1930’s, my great, great Uncle Fred and his sons John Robert, William, Charlie & Ted were all stalwart members. My Great Grandfather, George, appears to have retired, replaced by his eldest sons Thomas & William.

My Grandad, also George, was the youngest of George’s Houseman’s children, born when Great Grandfather George was 52. Although Grandad was just fifteen when his father died there must have been plenty of time for musical education before then as at some point my Grandad, cornet in hand, joined his brothers in the band.

The Darley Silver Band continued to take part in the main festivities and ceremonial occasions in the village through the forties and fifties and headed up the fancy dress parade as part of Darley Thanksgiving Week at the end of the second world war.

Photo from own collection of a Darley Silver Band parade

Perhaps it was the trim blue, red & gold uniforms that appealed to my Grandma. In any event the band continued to be an important part of my Grandad’s life even after they married. As my Grandma wrote in her memoirs:

George often went back to Darley to the band practice and other occasions. I liked to go and hear the band play they all had uniform trimmed with red and gold braid which looked very smart. George played a cornet, but not quite as good as Thomas and Arthur”.

That quote helps to demonstrate quite how much of a family affair the band was, with Thomas being George’s eldest brother and Arthur being his brother-in-law, married to George’s sister, Hilda. His cousins, John Robert & George Edwin rounded out the Houseman contribution to Darley’s musical life.

Photo from Summerbridge & Dacre Silver Band collection featuring (seated): my Grandad, George (second from the right), Arthur, husband of my Great Aunt (fourth from the right) and Thomas, my Great Uncle (fifth from the right).

Sadly, I have no memories of my Grandad playing. He was 54 when I was born and had long since ceased to play with the band. Darley Silver Band was disbanded in 1959 and although many members joined the Summerbridge and Dacre Silver Band this may have been when Grandad hung up his cornet. It was his love of cricket that I remembered him for. He died in 1987, when I was twelve, following two years of illness which left him bed bound for much of the time. Yet, who knows, through photos and stories maybe the musical tradition just might live on in our next generation.

With much gratitude to George Houseman (my paternal Grandad) and his father, George for their musical pursuits. Thanks also to the Summerbridge and Dacre Silver Band for their history page that enabled me to learn much more about my family and to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.