The establishment of the Woodford Military Band was first suggested in 1890 and it was for the whole community. It was not connected with the army but used this name to identify its combination of brass and woodwind instruments.

A leaflet was produced in 1892 appealing for funds to purchase instruments stating: “The want of a good Band has long been felt, and we trust its formation will be a source of pleasure to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, as well as affording culture and refinement to the members themselves.”

The objects of the band were to play “good and cheerful music…” and echoed a modern sentiment by adding it was “to provide interesting employment to a certain number of Woodford young men... who for want of something to interest them hang about on street corners and are thus open to every ruinous temptation which presents itself.”

A set of rules were drawn up which stressed smartness, civility and punctuality, and prohibited smoking and drinking at practice sessions.

The bandmaster was a Mr Wickham who did have a military background and possessed a good musical knowledge along with the ability to teach the players and mould them into a team. He purchased instruments, music stands and lamps, and uniforms, and auditioned some players.

Training classes were held to coach those who had no previous experience. Mr Wickham was paid a salary and the many other expenses were off set by the generosity of some local patrons (Mrs H.F.Barclay, A. Lister Harrison, Rev A.Hughes, Andrew Johnston, Courtenay Warner are just some of the names mentioned in that first year) and by a weekly subscription paid by the players. As the band improved they were paid for some engagements and then the players could expect a share of the profit.

In the year 1907 the band received £67 18s 1d. from subscriptions, engagements and collections, and its expenditure was £66 18s 8½d, leaving a balance of 19s 4½d. The members had met 85 times for rehearsals and had given 20 outdoor performances, principally at a garden party at Knighton, the Woodford Green Men’s Club sports day, the Woodford Horticultural Exhibition, and Chigwell Row School Festival and they had performed gratis at four events including the S.S.Berlin Disaster Fund in March and at the Woodford Cycle Meet on June 22. This was the time when a band playing in the local park was part of the social scene but they needed a varied repertoire to accommodate celebrations, such as that held in May 1900 for the relief of Mafeking and more solemn occasions like funerals.

The band continued playing right up until the 1940s, but the archives in the Essex Record Office show that they suspended their activities from 1916-19. A card printed in December 1915 states that the band “wish all their patrons the compliments of the season, and regret that for the first time during the 23 years existence of the band, owing to so many members being with the Forces, or engaged on munitions or working overtime at their trades, it will be impossible for the Band to pay its customary visit with carols this year.”

However on March 18, 1922 a dinner was held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band when “a goodly company, consisting of past and present members, officers and friends sat down to a most excellent repast…”

However the band did not have the same support in the 1920s and ‘30s , with new members harder to recruit and bookings less frequent. There is no doubt that it was the Edwardian period which was the golden age of the Woodford Military Band.

Georgina Green has been involved with local history in Redbridge, Waltham Forest and the Epping Forest area for 40 years and served as the honorary secretary of the Woodford Historical Society from 1987 to 2000. She is the author of several local history books and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2021.