Transcript of an Extract


Church Bands

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. IX, (January 1916 to January 1917), pp. 124-5.


R. Pearse Chope

Prepared by Michael Steer

The majority of Christian denominations use instruments such as an organ, piano, electronic keyboard, guitar, or other accompaniment, and occasionally by a band or orchestra, to accompany the singing. However, some churches have historically not used instruments, citing their absence from the New Testament. During the last century or so several of these groups have revised this stance. Many of the old Devon churches had bands, with the instruments played by parishioners. This Note provides information about the Church Band at Newton Poppleford. The extract, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Note 106. Church Bands. - As these have become extinct within the memory of several persons now living, it is thought that an account of some of them will not only be generally interesting but will also induce readers to add their reminiscences of other instances and give further particulars both as to localities and as to instruments. The number of instruments was commonly three, viz.: violin, clarinet, and bass viol - which, locally, means the 'cello, not the double bass. Sometimes a flute, or, maybe, a bassoon would be found in place of, or in addition to, the violin; the clarinet and bass viol were nearly always present. 

In two interesting articles {Musical News, July 19, 1913, pp. 56, 58; Antiquary, 1914, vol. 1., pp. 267-9), Mr. Gordon Anderson has given a description of the bands at Newton Poppleford and Harpford. In the former, "the violin was played by a man whose name has been lost to history; the clarinet was played by one John Squires, a tailor by trade. The bass viol seems to have been a popular instrument, there being no fewer than three performers on it, viz.: William Welsman (tailor), Nehemiah Bailey (labourer), and Arthur Ham (baker), the last named, however, having a second string to his bow in the shape of a flute, which he played when someone else was present to undertake the duties of the bass viol." Mr. Ham was ahve at the date of the second article, "a fine old fellow" of 81, and his portrait is given in it. He still had his flute - though he hadn't enough breath to blow it ! but the bass viol, being a cumbersome thing to have in a small house, was "stood out in the yard," where, needless to say, it soon fell a prey to the elements - an ignominious ending for an old servant, nearly as bad as that of another bass viol that the "guid wife" put behind the fire, "as it was lumbering up the chimney- corner!" The Newton Poppleford band terminated its existence about forty-eight years ago. The body of the church, according to Mr. Anderson, is comparatively modern, but in the old church there was a gallery over the entrance door, and the band used to sit in this gallery, as also did the choir, which was small, numbering only seven or eight singers, and composed of members of both sexes. A certain Mr. Bastin, a shoemaker, who was famous in those days as a tenor, and who "could go higher than any girl" (?), was in 1913 still living in Newton Poppleford. At Christmas the band went round the parish as the "Waits," and collected money for its upkeep.
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                               R. Pearse Chope