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Besses O` Th` Barn Band

Besses o' th' Barn Band is an English brass band that has been in existence in the Besses o' th' Barn area of Whitefield, Greater Manchester since at least 1818

Besses o' th' Barn Band probably originally called Clegg's Reed Band, after a local cotton manufacturer and keyed bugle player, John Clegg. It may have been called Stand Band for a period soon after that. Stand is an area of Whitefield close to Besses o' th' Barn.

The instruments used by the band in its early years were more varied than later became the case. Describing the Besses assemblage of 1818 as "extraordinarily haphazard", J. H. Elliot lists among its instruments the bass horn, clarinet, drums, French horn, keyed bugle, piccolo, trombone, and trumpet. In 1853, Besses became an all-brass band.

A census of 1896 indicated that there were 40,000 brass bands in the United Kingdom, and Trevor Herbert describes Besses as "The most remarkably forward-looking and entrepreneurial band of the nineteenth century". In the 1880s, the band bought a building at Moss Lane, Whitefield, from which to operate. Having enjoyed considerable success by 1887, it was decided to establish the band as a limited company called the Besses o' th' Barn Old Band Union Limited.

The costs associated with operating a brass band in the 19th century included providing and maintaining instruments, uniforms and rehearsal facilities, as well as purchasing sheet music and paying conductors for their services. While a few bands were able to obtain patronage from wealthy sponsors, most relied on membership subscriptions, public appeals and concerts for their income. The latter was particularly significant but noteworthy institutions such as Besses and the Black Dyke Band earned large sums from participating in contests. Although there had been a few contests before 1850, they came to the fore after that time and owe much to the enterprise of Enderby Jackson, a man who promoted contests and liaised with railway companies to provide excursion arrangements for the contestants and spectators. Entrants to contests were expected not to be professional musicians, but participants for bands such as Besses supplemented their income with payments received for playing.

The two major contests were the British Open and the National Championships, but there were many other more local events. By the 1870s, the roster of instruments permitted for use in contests had been codified and the number of members in a competing band was generally set at 24.

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