Rockingham Band is one of the oldest bands in South Yorkshire. It was founded in 1850, as a village band around Birdwell, near Barnsley. After playing at the opening of Wharncliffe Silkstone Colliery in 1853, the band was invited to take on the pits’ name.
Early certificates show them to have won prizes at Crystal Palace as early as 1907, but at this time they had changed their name to the Rockingham Colliery Band. It was however, as Wharncliffe Silkstone that the band achieved its fame during the nineteen twenties and thirties.
The Second World War took its toll of members but in 1945 the band again started on its way under a young conductor named Edmund Hoole. From the lowly third section it fought its way into the Championship section and in 1954 claimed twelve prizes in as many months. In 1968 Wharncliffe Silkstone Colliery was closed down and workers were transferred to the adjoining colliery of Rockingham. From this date the band once again took on its current name.
However, tragedy was to strike! The bands’ principal cornet player, William Hopkinson was killed in a pit accident and in 1971 came the sad loss of Edmund Hoole. Thanks to a few devoted members, wives and friends, the band carried on without its long serving members.
In 1974, Derek Ashmore was appointed Musical Director and through his ability and enthusiasm, the spirit of the old band was returned. New faces filled the chairs and new challenges where made and met!
Over the 42 years that followed, the band saw a further 28 Musical Directors! Many successes at all levels have been realised, especially under Graham O’Connor who still stands as the bands most successful conductor.
Today the band is much like it was in 1974. They have faced their share of challenges over the last six months and have met all of them. In October 2015, Adam Whittle took the reins as the bands 30th conductor and it’s youngest in its 166 year history.
Membership numbers had dwindled to a mere 8 and Rockingham’s future looked very uncertain. With the assistance and support of the remaining members, Adam began to rebuild the once mighty band. In March 2016, the band claimed 2nd place at the Yorkshire Regional Championships alongside the Best Percussion Award and the prize for Youngest Competing Player. This secured their qualification to the National Finals in September and promotion to the Third section from 2017. The band is back on form and with 32 active members, will continue to fight their way back to the top!