The first mention of a band in Leiston was in the Suffolk Chronicle of 1859 although it is quite likely there was some form of band in the town before that. As with many English brass bands, the origins of the Leiston band would have been linked with the military and the call for local Volunteer Rifle Corps to be set up to defend the country against an anticipated Napoleonic invasion. The invasion never happened, but many of the band remained.
Leiston as a town has had a long association with the Garrett family who owned the engineering works in the town where they manufactured their steam engines using the then novel “long shop” method of production. The family were keen supporters of the Band, partly because if you were in the Band you were less likely to be indulging in one of the local pubs, and offered the use of the Works Hall for band and drill practice.
The Early Years (1880s to 1950s)
In 1886 the Garretts headed a list of donors who helped to buy the band a set of instruments, at a total cost of £110. These instruments were passed to the players in time to play for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in June 1887.
The Band maintained its connection with the Garretts in the early 20th century and in the 1920s they engaged the services of Joe Kyle, a Black Dyke Mills Band euphonium player, and the Leiston Town Band (as it was known then) had a successful period of contesting and in 1931 took part in the National Championships at Crystal Palace, although not at the top (Championship) section. The following year, the Garrett company went into receivership and the works were temporarily closed and it was at this time the band came under the auspices of the British Legion and has held the name ever since.
The Later Years
The Band has maintained its links with the Royal British Legion both locally, nationally and internationally. Over the last few decades we have played as part of the Remembrance Services at the Menin Gate in Ypres in 2008 and performed concerts for the Irish British Legion in Tipperary in 2017. We have regular engagements locally as Leiston is a social active town with fetes and festivals throughout the year. We have for several years marched at the annual St George’s Day parade in Long Melford in the west of Suffolk and also at the annual Poppy Day races at Newmarket racecourse.
In 2019 five of our members were part of the Anglia Brass band who played in and around Amiens in civic concerts and at a service of remembrance at the War Memorial in Thiepval. Anglia Brass is formed from six different bands in the Anglia region and this was its first outing. A return visit in 2020 was cancelled due to Covid-19 but the group hope to return to France when restrictions allow and the Band of the Royal British Legion, Leiston will continue to be represented.