Our History

Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band c.1950

The band has been entertaining the community in and around Reading in the form of a brass band since 1903.

However, the origin of the band dates back to the 19th century when a ladies’ sewing circle at the Spring Gardens Mission raised sufficient funds to purchase brass instruments for the Spring Gardens Wesleyan Mission Concertina Band.

Records show that the band became a brass band in circa. 1903 and went from strength to strength winning many contests. However, in circa. 1933-34 it severed its connection with the chapel because of a dispute over the selling of scent cards and football tickets to raise money for the purchase of new uniforms and instruments which the leaders of the chapel objected to.

In 1937, George Watkins was appointed as Musical Director and rehearsals were moved to The Cross Keys pub in Reading town centre.

As the Second World War began many of the band’s members were called up to the Forces. The remaining members joined the Home Guard’s Band which was later re-named the Home Guard Bands. With Captain Millward in charge, the uniform changed to traditional military khaki with George Watkins re-instated as Musical Director.

At the end of the Second World War those members who had joined the Forces returned and the band reverted back to The Reading Spring Gardens Band. Their uniform then became a replica of the Guard’s scarlet tunics with brass buttons, black trousers with a scarlet stripe and a peak cap edged with brass.

George Watkins conducted the band until 1976 when he retired. During this 38 year period they won many contests and also qualified for the Second Section National Finals in the early 1950s. Ted Watkins, George’s son took over as the band’s conductor, having been it’s principal cornet player and assistant conductor for many years.

Between 1977 and 1998 the band moved to many different practice venues in around Reading until an ideal location was found in 1998 at Berkshire Young Musicians Trust Centre at Prospect School, Reading.

Ted Watkins died in 2000, aged 80 and the band had to appoint a new Musical Director for the first time in 25 years.

Since this time the band has had a number of Musical Directors including:

  • Anton Gwilt (2000 to 2004)
  • David Barton (2004 to 2006)
  • Andrew Porter (2006)
  • Louise Davies-Armstrong (2007)
  • Lorraine Rogers (2008 to 2016)

On Thursday 29th September, 2016 the band was delighted to appoint the highly respected conductor and musician David Ruel as it’s new Musical Director marking a new chapter in the band’s history.  David’s appointment saw the band enjoy a renewed enthusiasm and success under his baton.

It was with great shock and devastation that David unexpectedly passed away peacefully in his sleep at home on Monday 22nd April 2019 at the age of 68.  David took the band to new heights and stretched its horizons to greater goals.  The band will be forever indebted to him for his leadership, musicianship, friendship and generosity – he will be sorely missed and greatly celebrated.