Rowntree A-Z

Cocoa Works Brass Band

Formed in 1903, the Rowntree’s Brass Band was an important part of the York factory community and identity. The 16th edition of the Cocoa Works Magazine (June 1903) has an entry marking the formation of the band.

It has been suggested that the formation of a Brass Band in connection with the Works would be welcomed by many musical enthusiasts in our midst… names should be sent to D.S. Crighton or F.H. Hope before the end of the month (source: Cocoa Works Magazine, June 1903).

The Rowntree’s Cocoa Works Band in 1904

The earliest minuted General Meeting took place on 7th September 1905 as the band emerged with a committee, constitution and membership arrangements. In 1905 the membership fee was 1d per week (4s 4d annual rate) and bandsmen were paid for their attendance at engagements so that they did not lose wages. In this period the band did not have a formal practise room set aside and so they rehearsed in a variety of corridors and rooms around the factory.

On the 28th September 1907, the band performed in the Crystal Palace Contest and came second in the Preliminary Cup Section. It is believed that in hiring a professional conductor, Mr G. Mallinson, the band made good progress, although the purchase of new instruments (bought at the expense of the Directors) earlier that year also helped!

Band in 1936

During the mid 1900s, the band and Directors established an annual brass band contest to run each July and coincide with the Horticultural Club show. By 1908, the success of this and other events meant that the name of the band changed again from the Cocoa Works Band to Rowntree’s Cocoa Works Prize Band.

In 1912 the band was given a brand new uniform ahead of their performance at the official opening of the dining Block in June 1912. An account of the purchases notes that a full set of bandsmen’s tunics, trousers and caps came to £48.20.  Throughout the 1910s, the band performed at a number of local parties and galas and their presence was becoming more popular.

During the First World War, the band did not play at any concerts, except those where the proceeds were going to the Local Relief Fund, and rehearsals became sporadic. By 1919 the band re-established and practise was held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings 7:30-9:30pm.  In the 1920s the band was attending a wide range of concerts, parties and contests, including lunchtime concerts in the Rose Gardens of the factory’s grounds.

During the 1930s the band continued to take part in competitions, winning the Belle Vue contest in 1935 and taking the gold medal, Fifty Guinea Cup and £10. They were also a central part of the opening of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in the same year, and performed on both the 4th and 5th of November.

The Cocoa Works Band in 1936


The Shepherd Building Group Brass Band 2005: 100 Years of Nestle Rowntree Band 1903-2003 (York Publishing Services Limited)

Oral History

As part of our oral history project York Remembers Rowntree (2013-2015) we interviewed a number of past and present members of the Cocoa Works Band.  These memories are now on the ‘Memories’ part of our website.

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