The Early Years: 1893-1939
Village records show that there was a strong ‘temperance’ movement in the 19th century and the Enderby Temperance Band was founded in the mid 1800’s by Robert Biggs who moved to Enderby from Thurlaston and was one of a family of Boot and Shoe makers (at the time called ‘Cordwainers’). There was clearly some disagreement in the family over ‘non-conformity’ because Roberts nephew Job Biggs was one of a group of players who broke away to form a rival band (where imbibing was clearly allowed!) in 1893. History shows that whilst this new band thrived and is now the Enderby Band as we know it, the Temperance Band alas waned in popularity and did not survive for very much longer! Originally, the Band’s founding date was believed to be 1895 however, research/interviews in preparation for the Band Centenary revealed that founder member and treasurer William Freestone had been Treasurer for forty years’ service and retired in 1933, thus dating the inception as actually being 1893. As stated previously, founder members of the band included drummer Job Biggs (who was the great-great-grandfather of both current life member Garry Sleath and Concert Band Secretary Janet Osgood) and his cornet playing son Herbert. Both Job and Herbert were shoe repairers who lived in what was known then as ‘Poyners City,’ or sometimes ‘Poyners Yard’, a local name for The Nook - number 32 of which, was later the home of Herbert Biggs’ son, cornet player Arthur William Biggs (always known as Dick) and recognised as the band headquarters circa 1930 – 1960. Another family heavily involved as founder members were the Freestones who by this time lived in John Street, with William (Old Bill) taking on the role of treasurer and solo horn and his son Albert also playing horn both of whom we believe were quarrymen.
(Note: founder member William was always referred to as ‘Old Bill’ to distinguish him from his other son William who played trombone from 1910 -1952 and was always referred to as ‘Young Bill’, right up to the day he died aged 91!)
The band in those early days was comprised solely male members, as banding was seen as purely a male adult pastime and besides quarrymen and cobblers the early band also contained a shopkeeper and a railwayman.
Little is known about who was the very first conductor however it is believed that one Frank Biggs (no relation to Job and Herbert – there was more than one strain of Biggs in the village) took up the baton for a time around 1909. The first really successful conductor was Jimmy Gilbert who was at the helm as the band hit something of a purple patch in the 1930’s. So successful were they in contests (and pictures of this period show a great preponderance of trophies) that they adopted the name Enderby Town Silver Prize Band and at that time they were regarded as one of the county’s premier bands. The principal cornet player in these halcyon days of the 1930’s was Tommy Smith who grew up at No.2 Alexander Avenue in the village (a carol is still played outside his house on Boxing morning to this day) and in an interesting link with the present, it was Tommy who became the first official cornet tutor to future Musical Director Garry Sleath before succumbing to emphysema in the early 1960’s. Tommy’s second man down at that time was Ernie Yeomanson who for some unknown reason was always affectionately known as ‘Boke’. Ernie began playing just after the First World War when he was seven years old, when the band rehearsed at the Junior School. The first tune he learned was the hymn ‘O God Our Help’ (showing how hymn tunes have always been regarded as fundamental to fine playing) he joined what was then a small Junior Band and was brought into the Senior Band on Third Cornet when he was 12 years old alongside another product of the Junior Band, bass player David Darby, gradually working his way up to assistant principal.