Thurrock musical history

Grays Town Band

This band were formed in 1888, and were known as the 'Sons of Temperance Band'. The Sons of Temperance were one of a dozen similar organisations campaigning against the tide of excessive drinking that was threatening family life and causing untold misery in industrial areas like Tilbury, Grays Thurrock and West Thurrock at that time.

The band was the musical arm of the splendidly named 'Sparkling Spring Lodge of the Sons of Temperance' (No. 595 Grays Sub-division). Bandsmen were not called members but 'Brothers', and they met for practice on Monday evenings, appropriately over the 'Queen Victoria Coffee Tavern' in the High Street, Grays. The building still survives with its effigy of Queen Victoria, but it is now a branch bank of Midlands Bank Company.

Their first Bandmaster was Mr W Layzell, who ran a Music and Instrument shop in New Road, the Secretary was Brother J Cornhill of 12, Florence Cottages, and the Treasurer was Brother A. Bradish.

In 1905 Mr Frank Gray, who came from Durham, was appointed Bandmaster, and the Band's name was changed to the 'Grays and District Temperance Band'. They also changed their headquarters but again found an appropriate spot, not above a coffee shop but over the Knowles and Tampkins Mineral Water manufacturing works in Crown Road, known as the Niagara Works. The following year the Band's name changed to 'The Grays Temperance Band' and remained with that name until 1950.

The Band moved its headquarters in 1928, to its present location in John Street, formerly the Comrades Club. This was only made possible due to the dedication of bass trombone player Frank Francis, who mortgaged his house to secure the building for his colleagues. Mr Frank Francis completed 50 years of service as a playing member of the Band.

A Junior Band was formed under the direction of Mr EC Merrick in 1936/7, and many of these young players taught by him carried the band through many successes in the war years. One notable highlight was the winning in 1945 of the 'Daily Herald' Silver Challenge Cup in the second section, as they were the youngest Senior Brass band ever to have won in the history of this competition. In the following year they won the Victory Band Contest second section held at East Ham Town Hall, on the test piece 'Songs of England'.

The Band's name changed again for a short while from 1950 to the 'Thurrock Silver Band', before reverting back to the 'Grays Temperance Band.' It finally took on its current name of 'Grays Town Band' in 1987, allowing its monogram on uniforms and other equipment to continue.

The Band have been Essex Champions on eight occasions and have twice won at contests at Wijk en Aalbure in Holland.

In 1991 the Band uniform was changed from brown to royal blue. The Band's President at this time was Mr E Oakley and the Band continued to teach youngsters free of charge and play at local events within our community.