In January 1927, the Western Gazette reported the death of Charles Hunt the last surviving member of Blandford’s award winning town band. He was one of four Hunt family members in the band. In 1863, they had secured the prestigious National Brass Band Championship at the Crystal Palace against some of the country’s best bands. It was evident the Blandford Band was well placed because they had won a major contest in Exeter two years earlier. While in 1862, they had been placed fourth in the National Championship. First prize in 1863 was £30 together with a fine cup worked in aluminium gold. There was also a contra-bass and ‘various other apparatus’ which were presented to Blandford’s bandmaster.
Bandmaster was owner of the Crown Hotel, Wimborne born Robert Eyers. He was a talented musician. In days gone-by he had driven a horse drawn coach between Wimborne and Blandford. Many a time the passengers took the reins so he could cheer them on their way with his bugle. He had many contacts in the entertainment world and the hotel’s supper room was full of autographed images of well-known musicians. Later, he took over the Greyhound Inn and also became a Mayor of Blandford. Local newspaper, the Western Gazette listed all the band members. They were C, F, J & T Hunt, C Eyers, J Purton, W & J Skivington, G Hewlet, F Blanchard, H Monkton, R Nicholls and J Baker.
Charles Hunt’s brother, Thomas was recognised as the best tenor soloist of the day and was presented with a valuable gilt baritone horn. Apparently, this instrument was still in existence in 1927 but ‘sadly in need of repair.’ The Blandford singer was taken to Drury Lane where the great singer, Madame Patti pinned a blue ribbon to his chest with one of her brooches. Madame Patti was an Italian opera singer. Adeline Patti (1843-1919) earned huge fees at the height of her career. A shrewd businesswoman she always insisted on being paid in cash before she performed. Appropriately Adeline taught her pet parrot to say ‘cash, cash!’
When they arrived back at Blandford station, the award winning band was given a rousing reception. They were met by the Rifle Corps and Drum & Fife Band who accompanied the prize winners through the town’s crowded streets on to the Crown Hotel. On 12 October 1864, there was a celebration of the success of the Blandford Town Band. The Western Gazette reported:
‘The company began to assemble at about six o’ clock and soon after sat down to a very excellent dinner placed on the table in first class style by the worthy host of the Crown Hotel who also provided a bountiful supply of champagne.’
(Illustration: Blandford's Award Winning Band & Adeline Patti)