THE City of Oxford Silver Band is celebrating a small but significant milestone in its history this year.

It is 100 years since it changed from a brass to a silver band. And one item in its inventory has survived throughout that period.

It is a beautifully engraved ebony baton presented to the band’s conductor, Montague Bowen, in May 1914.

Oxford Mail:

  • Janet Giles hands out refreshments to guests at the City of Oxford Silver Band Supporters’ Club party in 1967


The presentation took place at a dinner and dance at what is now St Andrew’s CofE School in London Road, Headington (then known as the Field School).

That evening, the band gave up their brass instruments and took delivery of new silver-plated ones, paid for by public subscription.

The band, believed to have been founded in 1887 as the Headington Brass Band, changed its name to Headington Silver Band to reflect its new status. Another 40 years would pass before Headington gave way to the City of Oxford.

The band’s elevation to silver was recorded in two Oxford newspapers.

The Oxford Journal Illustrated reported: “The Headington Band have recently been presented with a complete set of silver-plated and engraved Class A instruments, together with drums and cases.

“The large drum bears the inscription: ‘Headington Silver Band. Presented by A St G Hamersley, Esq, KC, MP’ and each instrument presented to them bears the names of the donors.”

Oxford Mail:

  • The inscribed ebony baton which has survived for 100 years

The Oxford Chronicle gave a more lengthy account of the band’s progress.

Part of it read: “Three years ago, the band was entirely reorganised and they soon found that a new set of instruments were necessary. They had played at city football matches, at which collections had been made, and they had started a sixpenny fund.

“The instruments would cost £300, of which £100 had already been paid, and the makers were allowing them a year in which to settle the balance. The band was composed entirely of working men, and they were always willing to assist charitable enterprise or local institutions by their services.”

The Chronicle also recorded that the ebony baton was presented to conductor Mr Bowen on behalf of members of the band, who were “very grateful for all he had done for them”.

Band member Phil Hind tells me: “The baton is kept safe and sound in its silk-lined case. It isn’t known if any of the instruments presented 100 years ago still exist.”

Today, the band is still going strong, winning promotion at the London and Southern Counties Area Championship and qualifying for the National Finals at Cheltenham in September.

It will also be appearing at fetes and concerts throughout the summer. Visit for more details.

If anyone has more details about the band’s history, email or call 07786 098 151


Memory Lane this week