History of Brass Band Archive

The BeginningFounders

Embracing his Uncle’s passion for collecting programmes and music from the Belle Vue September contests, Walter Ainscough, the founder of The Brass Band Archive, steadily built up his own collection of interesting brass band artifacts and memorabilia.

On visiting Walter at home many years later, Nick Childs was overwhelmed with the variety of Walter’s collection, by this time having taken residence in his garden shed. It was at this point that the concept of an archive was born.

Starter Home

Walter embraced the idea wholeheartedly and after a great deal of effort and goodwill, he was able to compile the collection at a spare room in the Doyen Centre, shared by Doyen Recordings and Fred Rhodes Ltd at the time.

WorkingMoving Along

The archive steadily became established as a point of reference for the banding community, but unfortunately, new premises were soon required. It seemed that all might come to a grinding halt at this point, until Brian Halliwell, Wigan businessman and former Wingates’ bandsman came to the rescue.

After 18 months of Walter putting his trade skills as a painter and decorator to good use, the new premises were ready for occupation. With Brian Halliwell’s support, a kitchen, toilet facilities and carpets were fitted to finish off the new home for The Brass Band Archive.

Then the arduous task of unpacking and cataloguing all these treasures began. Luckily, Alan Marsh (former Wingates’ bandsman) became involved with the archive at this time and offered Walter exceptional help and dedication in furthering the ongoing project.

Today’s Archive

Almost anonymous from the outside, on entering the building visitors are instantly transported into an unparalleled world of brass banding history. Pictures and documents frame every inch of wall-space and you cannot help but be mesmerized by the magnitude of the historical record this unassuming organisation beholds.


Stand banners adorning the walls offer a striking record of the various evolutions of bands, recordings of pieces that Great-Grandparents have revered are modernised onto CD, an exceptional selection of photographs create a unique Hall of Fame of conductors and players alike, whilst framed posters and advertisements provide a matchless insight to the bygone days of banding. Of particular interest is a 1935 concert schedule for the Munn & Felton Band who performed 20 concerts in seven days with only 2 pieces (major contest test pieces) being repeated within those 20 programmes!

Walter Ainscough and Alan Marsh work relentlessly in the office area which is lined with boxes upon boxes of over 8,000 brass band titles. Most have been donated, with contributions even being championed by auspicious musicians such as Elgar Howarth among the many.

Visit The Future and Can You Help Us? sections to find out more.

Unique Reference Resource

It is hoped that this website will soon be able to offer a more detailed breakdown of the items available to view at The Brass Band Archive. It is intended that this website will offer worldwide visitors an insight and informative reference point for the treasure trove that makes up the archive. However, to fully appreciate the variety and fascinating heritage this organisation curates, there really is nothing that can match a visit in person!

The Brass Band Archive is open on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays from 10.00am – 4.00pm and special visits outside these times can be arranged by appointment.

If you have any involvement in brass bands at all, it should be made compulsory for you to visit the Brass Band Archive – the Aladdin’s Cave of banding history!

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