Victorian paternalism

We already knew from a footnote in Marx’s Capital that the Scottish industrialist Peter Fairbairn, who based his life and business in Leeds and was city mayor, “discovered several very important applications of machinery to the construction of machines as a result of strikes in his own factory.” Now Oxford has digitised a number of interesting old journals (thanks, Language Hat), including The Builder (not, unfortunately, a collection of Victorian bumshots) which tells us in Vol 10, Jan 1852, p 30 the following:

Messrs. Peter Fairbairn and Co., the machine makers, have purchased for the use of their workmen, as a means of affording them agreeable recreation, a stock of Saxe horns and other instruments, which will form one of the largest and most effective brass bands in that part of the country. The instruments are of the same description as those used by the Distin family. Mr. Whitley, leader of the Bramley band and of the Leeds troop of the Yorkshire Hussars, is appointed teacher of the new band.

What happend to the Fairbairn Band, if that was its name? There is no record of it having performed when Mr Fairbairn welcomed Queen Victoria in 1858 to open Leeds Town Hall, one of the great public buildings of the British industrial revolution, although she was wheeled past a military band and serenaded by Smith’s Model Band.

I think that all that still exists of Bramley Band is the the working men’s club that bears its name. Bramley Band Club is hosting Chubby Brown at the end of the month, whose performance will presumably be accompanied by the faint and distant sound of whatever is left of Mr Fairbairn rotating in his tomb.

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