In the days prior to the advent of modern communication systems, there existed within the police service a nucleus of buglers, who had the specific responsibility of signalling to members of the Police Force, to muster them for their various duties.
It was the presence of this nucleus that eventually prompted Major Grieg, on 15th June, 1868, the Head Constable of the time, to submit a report to the Watch Committee in which he outlined a proposal for the formation of a Band for the 'Police Force of the Borough'.
The report reads as follows:
The Head Constable has the honour to report for the information of the Watch Committee that during the 'Fenian Alarm', one of the many precautions taken was to instruct the men in various calls of the bugle, especially the alarm and the assembly, and in the event of a serious and long continued fire 'the sound of the alarm', for Constables to withdraw from the building. The men selected for buglers have become skilled and the bugles have been found of use at the Parades and Inspections of the Force.
The number of bugler has almost imperceptibly increased and, latterly, they have asked the Head Constable's permission to practise a "Brass Band" with different instruments. To which, when asked, he assented, not wishing to discourage such a spirited offer. It interferes in a very trifling degree with the duty and is very popular with the Force.
The Watch Committee viewed this report favourably and on 16th June, 1868, the Merseyside Police Band, or as it was then known the Liverpool City Police Band, was born.
Though it seems that a Military Band was intended from the outset, due to the lack of woodwind players, the first band was in fact a small Brass Band with percussion.
The Band's first Bandmaster was an Inspector Francis Radford Beardhall, a cornet player, who after having passed out from Kneller Hall, the Army's School of Music, became Bandmaster of Her Majesty's 1st Battalion 14th Regiment Band, prior to his appointment to the Liverpool City Police Force.
Old documents indicate that Mr. Beardhall was actually appointed to the Bandmaster's position in 1867, and it is obvious from the short space of time from its official formation until the first public performance that the Band was already rehearsing together and waiting for its sanction from the Watch Committee.
The inaugural engagement took place on the 3rd July, 1868, at St. George's Plateau, Lime Street, when a group of just 12 performed a short programme and demonstrated drill in front of the V.I.P.' s of the time.
The event was reported in detail at the time in a local newspaper, ' The Liverpool Daily Courier ' which commented:
' It is a sort of moral Force demonstration which will no doubt have an improving effect on the minds of the roughs.'
The Band soon gained popularity and quickly became sctive at various functions in the City, to the extent that when in 1869, Major Greig submitted his annual report to the Watch Committee he included the following extract:
' The Police Band is very efficient and has performed on several public occasions giving much satisfaction.'
By this time the Band strength had increased to 20 members.
In the forthcoming years the Band made the transformation from a Brass Band to a Military combination, incorporating brass and woodwind instruments and grew in both strength and proficiency so that by 1880 the Band had become a regular feature of life in the City, playing in local parks, giving charity concerts and even performing before the Royalty of the time. As testament to the high standard of the Band the Stanley Park Hospital Committee went so far as to have a medal struck to present to the bandsmen to reward them for excellence, in playing at their Fancy Fair in 1870. It was no great surprise, therefore, that when in 1880, a series of winter concerts started at St. George's Hall, the attendance at the premier concert was a little short of 3000 people. These concerts later became famous in Liverpool as the ' Penny Promenade Concerts ' because that in fact was the price of admission, one penny
It seem apparent, however, from the Watch Committee Minutes at the time, that the original intention was that these concerts would be admission free, but the cost of providing gas at the Hall for light and heat proved an obstacle.
Mr. Beardhall was succeeded in 1887 by a Bandmaster of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade, by the name of Arthur Percy Crawley. He was appointed as ' Superintendent of the Band and Constable of the City ' at the grand salary of £150 per annum which was twice that of a Senior Constable of the time. Under his baton the Police Band progressed to its peak in terms of personnel, with the Band numbering some 64 members in the later part of the 19th century.
Arthur Crawley moulded the Police Band into what is described in the Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury in 1912 as a ' Civic orchestra unequals in no city in England ', but like all Directors of Music he suffered the onslaught of protagonists who wished the demise of the Band. In December 1904, Leonard Dunning the Head Constable, was required to submit an in-depth report about financial costs of running the Band. Though on this occasion the Police Band survived, it was to continue with severe financial restrictions.
In 1909, the Watch Committee recommended to the City Council that the Band be abolished due to costs, This angered the Liverpool public and was reported in the Liverpool Post and Mercury on 15th. March, 1909. As a result the Band was not disbanded.
In 1912, Arthur Crawley was succeeded by Charles R. Bicks. In 1917 during World War I, he left his appointment with the Band to serve as a Captain in a labour battalion. With this departure the Band was disbanded. However, all the men were retained on the Force as members of the Band Section though engaged in other duties.
On 29th January 1919 the Band was re-established and an item appeared in Head Constable's Orders inviting applications to join.
Mr. Bicks returned to Liverpool City Police in March 1919 and was appointed as a Chief Inspector on the actual strength of the Force. He again became Bandmaster.
In August 1919 came the ' Police Strike ' of that era. The strike resulted in the dismissal of some 955 Liverpool Police Officers - about 50% of the Force stength at that time. The percentage of Band members who supported the strike was even greater, because from a Band strength of 45 members, only 16 remained when the band resumed practices at Prescot Street Police Station on 13th October, 1919. The remainder had been dismissed from the Force.
Mr. Bicks's services were eventually dispensed with in 1939 as a result of the outbreak of World War II. Chief Inspector Bicks died in October 1941. At the end of hostilities in 1945 the Band was reformed and Charles Marriott, A.R.C.M. was appointed as Bandmaster.
The first engagement of the Band, after the war, took place at the Police Training Centre, Bruche, Warrington in 1946, with just 16 members, performing on the passing out parade of recruits.
Under Mr. Marriott the Band grew to its former strength, playing in honour of distinguished visitors, giving radio broadcasts and concerts. On 10th July 1964 the Band was pictured with The Beatles at a civic reception at Liverpool Town Hall.
Charles Marriott was succeeded in 1970, by Captain Albert Edward Pottle, M.B.E. Under his direction the Band completed many important engagements, notably, a Royal Command Performance in 1973, and the official opening of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, in 1978, both events in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1982, the Band's Fanfare Section, performed on live television for the visit of Pope John Paul II to the city. That same year Captain Pottle retired due to ill health and Captain Trevor Platts was appointed. Under his direction the Band continued to maintain its reputation, playing at many concerts and with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
In March 1985, the Band was disbanded due to financial restraints.
At the end of that month, the Band performed its last engagement at the Grand National Race Meeting, Aintree, in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales. This was not the end of the Band. Following pressure from the public and the efforts of the then Chief Constable, Sir Kenneth Oxford, the band was reformed on 13th July 1987 under the direction of Captain Platts. The Band quickly regained its reputation and musical status, making recordings and again becoming a feature of life on Merseyside.
Captain Platts was succeeded in July, 1989 by Sergeant Kenneth Pollitt. Under his direction the Band continued to expand and in 1991 completed its first comercial recording, and Sergeant Pollitt's contribution was recognised when, in the same year he was invited to Buckingham Palace, to attend the Queen's Royal Garden Party ' in recognition of services to Merseyside and in particular Merseyside Police '.
Ken Pollitt was succeeded in 1994, by Malcolm Peters until his retirement in 2007. During Mai's time the Band performed at Liverpool's Summer Pops alongside Justin Hayward and The Moody Blues.
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