The first Beenham Band is thought to have started over 100 years ago in 1890 and, according to Parish records, the original instruments were purchased by contributions from the members and by subscriptions from friends. The Bandmaster at the time, William Wigmore, appears as a Methodist trustee in 1891. An 1892 article in the Newbury Weekly News, reporting the Seven Sisters Show, states that:
'At two o'clock the Beenham Brass Band marched on to the ground playing an inspiring march and this opened the proceedings'.
During the Second World War, the band, along with many other social activities, had to cease. However, it started up again in 1946-47, primarily by the bass player George Gilbert, using the instruments from the original band.
It seems to have been particularly active in the 1950s and on Remembrance Day would start at the hall and march down to the church for the service. The 'Last Post' would be played and then they would all march back.
A picture of the Beenham Band, thought to date from 1948-49, showing that ladies too played an important part.
This one appears to be taking place in Theale in the 1950s with the houses in Englefield Road visible in the background. Leading the band is John Watts (standing).
From then, until as recently as 1963, Beenham Band would play at many of the village fetes and functions, as well as taking part in local and regional competitions.
One memorable occasion, in a competition at Cholsey, Beenham Band won the prize for the best march tune, beating the favourites Tadley into second place. They would also go around the various big houses in the village at Christmas time playing to raise money for the uniform fund.
A photograph, probably taken in the early 1950s shows the members of the Beenham Band marching through Theale, with the Crown Public House in the background. Leading the march is John Watts, followed by Fred Nurton (bass), Fred Allum (euphonium), Bert Churchill (1st trombone) and George Gilbert (bass).
On another occasion the band went to Westminster Central Hall to take part in a performance of mass bands being conducted by Harry Mortimer, a famous band leader at that time.
The instruments were all made from brass, hence the name, although some were plated with silver. The leader of the band for many years was John Watts, seen striding in front of the band in many of the accompanying photographs. Another popular character was William 'Bill' Brazier who played the big drum. Rumour has it that when he became too old to carry the drum himself he would co-opt a young lad to carry the drum while Bill strode along behind banging it!
At the height of its popularity, the band had more than 30 members actively taking part. Gradually however the members dispersed, some going to other bands in the area such as Tadley and Pangbourne, which still have their bands today. Sadly, Beenham no longer has a Brass Band but the picture below shows the band and its members in its heyday.
The present Beenham Band was formed in 1999 as part of the village's millennium celebrations, with the help of a grant from the Parish Council. From very modest beginnings (there were six performers taking part in the first concert in Beenham Church), it has grown to its present size of 35 members.