Brodsworth Hall filled with the sound of music
For years the beautiful hall of Brodsworth near Doncaster was filled with sound.
Music, song and dancing made the hall a lively place; gramophones boomed popular tunes and the local village brass band played at special family events. Years later with staff slowly leaving and the house falling into disrepair, it stood silent.
That has all changed with the hall once again filled with the sound of music. ‘Music at Brodsworth: Storytelling through sound’ is an innovative soundscape and exhibition focussing on the Thellusson family’s love of music and will run until November.
From the recreated music of the late 19th and 20th centuries to lost instruments, photographs, sheet music and exercise books, visitors will be able to wander through the house, encountering sound in different rooms and immersing themselves in the harmonies of family, staff and visitors of that era.
Through the objects and sounds relating to melodies it paints a picture of the family gatherings and shows how music was at the very heart of this grand old Yorkshire home. The new musical soundscape will bring Brodsworth to life, sharing what the family enjoyed playing, listening, and dancing to.
We’re bringing back the spirit of the house! A visit to Brodsworth this summer will not be silent, there will be no hushed voices or tiptoeing across carpets – the house will be musical, noisy, and lyrical. Visitors will meander from room to room and encounter a different sound, a different atmosphere, and a different feeling.
Visiting Brodsworth this summer will be a chance to hear stories told through sound. You might overhear a reluctant child learning the piano, a confidant harmonium player practising for sheer joy, or a military music man fondly remembering his time in the British Army. Who is playing? Why are they playing? Where has the music gone?
Conducting the research for this project has brought about some interesting finds. A large, framed photograph of the Woodlands Village Brass Band which was given to Charles and Constance Thellusson on their silver wedding anniversary in September 1910 has left the staff asking questions as to who the men in the picture may be.
The band was established in 1909 and the family were heavily involved in the early history and development of the band, purchasing a full set of instruments for the group. Most of the band members would have worked at the nearby Brodsworth Colliery, leased by Charles Thellusson, with the band adopting a pick and shovel badge reflecting the occupation of many of its members. The band had some successes in its earliest days winning prizes at Crystal Palace and the British Open. It disbanded and reformed twice in its history before finally ending in the late 1980s.
Over the years the band went through many name changes, from Woodlands Village Prize Band, Brodsworth Colliery Club & Institute Band and others before finally becoming the Brodsworth Colliery Welfare Band. Can you help us identify the men in this picture of the Woodlands Village Brass Band? Do you know who they are? We’d love to hear from you!”
Some men have been identified already but the organisation is asking members of the public to get in touch via its Facebook page if any of the faces look familiar.
Music at Brodsworth: Storytelling through sound runs from coincides with the Brass Band season which sees brass bands playing on Sundays.
Charles Sabine Augustus Thellusson was a distinguished cornet player. Charles joined the 12th (Prince of Wales’s) Royal Lancers, a cavalry regiment of the British Army, in 1841 as a cornet à piston. The rank of cornet was the lowest ranked in a cavalry troop, and Charles later moved to lieutenant and then captain, retiring in 1849.
Music gave Charles a prominent position within society. Following his military career, he was a founder member and frequent soloist for the Brighton Amateur Musical Union and other organisations. Local newspaper the Brighton Gazette many times reported Charles’ musical skill.
A concert at the Royal Pavilion in 1855 was notable for ‘the cornet part of which was played by Captain Thellusson in a style that would have placed many professionals in the shade…’ Charles was proud of his musical ability, as described by the newspaper in 1854 following an unsatisfactory performance as a soloist in aid of a local patriotic fund: ‘His lip failed him in endeavouring to soften the tone, and he was compelled to retire evidently annoyed with the mishap; but his efforts were nevertheless fully appreciated, as was evidenced by an unanimous call for his re-appearance…’ Brighton
Gazette, November 16th 1854
Caption: Charles Sabine Augustus Thellusson, who built Brodsworth Hall, as Captain of the 12th
Royal Lancers in about 1848, attributed to Alfred Courbould.
Balls and parties
The Drawing Room would have been the most important setting for music-making at
Brodsworth, and always had the grand piano in it. The room was used for private playing, to relax
with family, for entertaining friends and relations, and for hosting parties. Musical skills were
considered particularly important for young ladies, who entertained visitors making afternoon
calls, and family and guests before and after dinner.
The smaller end of the room was specifically designed for music. Decorative roundels in the
painted ceiling show a lute, tambourine, triangle, lyre and early woodwind instruments, to
indicate the intended use of the space. Historic photographs show the grand piano in the
Drawing Room. The 1885 inventory also lists a kettle drum, a cornet, two music stands and forty
seven volumes of music in this room.
Balls and parties were a feature of life at Brodsworth. Peter Thellusson’s coming of age party in
1872 included a banquet, ball and supper for the tenantry in a hired marquee, and a 1909 fancy
dress ball featured a London band.
Caption: Charles, dressed as a cavalier, and Constance Thellusson hosting a fancy dress ball at
Brodsworth in 1909.
Music making continued on a large scale in the 1930s with the arrival of the Grant-Daltons. Hunt
balls were held in the drawing room, which was emptied and decorated in preparation for
dancing and music. Conri Tait’s band played at the 1934 Badsworth Hunt Ball, which featured fox
trots and waltzes. Tait’s orchestra was the resident entertainment at Harrogate’s Grand Hotel in
Caption: This photograph shows the drawing room set up for the Badsworth Hunt Ball in the
1930s. The furniture has been removed and a parquet floor has been laid.
The Thellussons particularly like harmoniums, also known as American organs, as they had two
(one in the south hall, and one in the billiard room). Archive records tell us the exact make and
model of American organ which was in the billiard room – a Mason & Hamlin Style 1400, which
was a fashionable model. It was regularly tuned, so it must have been used a great deal. We
know that Sarah Thellusson, wife of Herbert, played the harmonium as some of the sheet music
is signed with her name. She brought the music into Brodsworth when Herbert inherited the
estate, although the harmoniums were already in the hall, suggesting that other family members
also played. The family also hired an American organ in 1909, possibly in preparation for a fancy
dress ball. It is unlikely that the harmonium was played as entertainment during a game of
billiards. It is more likely that the harmonium was use for solo practise and enjoyment during the
day, with sound echoing through the hallways.
Caption: The Mason & Hamlin harmonium in the corner of the billiard room in about 1900.
Brodsworth’s grand piano
Made in 1855 by Broadwood & Sons, Brodsworth’s beautiful rosewood, iron framed grand piano
was sold from a fashionable Regent Street piano shop to Charles Sabine Thellusson in 1856. It
was transported to his Brighton home, where he and his wife Georgiana had moved after
marrying in 1850. Broadwoods were used again in 1866 for some repairs to the piano, and finally
in October 1866 to transport the piano to King’s Cross for it to be sent by Great Northern Rail to
Doncaster and then to the newly built Brodsworth. It can be seen in the early photographs of the
Drawing Room, where its now faded rosewood veneer appears very dark and glossy.
The piano was amongst a number of items sold by the Grant-Daltons by auction in 1946, when it
was bought by one of the estate’s tenant farmers, Peter Turnbull. It was later given to another
family in Brodsworth village, who in 2003 generously gave it to English Heritage, enabling it to
return to its historic position.
Caption: The drawing room in the 1880s with the piano in its original position.
When Charles Sabine Augustus and Georgiana Thellusson moved from Brighton up to their new
house at Brodsworth in 1863, their six children ranged in ages from the thirteen-year-old Peter to
Augustus, a new baby. Staff included nursemaids and a governess, mainly for the two girls who
were educated at home. The boys attended schools in Brighton and then Eton for brief periods.
Accomplishments such as music, sewing, and painting were considered particularly important for
young ladies. The girls, Aline and Constance, were probably taught to play the piano and sing by
their governess Elizabeth St. Clair MacDougall. There was a piano in the day nursery upstairs
where they practised. They may have been allowed to play downstairs in the drawing room for
friends and relations once they had become more accomplished. In total, there were three
pianos at Brodsworth: in the day nursery, in the library, and in the drawing room.
All of the children enjoyed music. Aline Thellusson devised a quiz for her family, in which her
brother Peter says his favourite music is a ‘Strauss Valse’. Historic photographs tell us that
Charles played the banjo, and a handwritten music book written by Herbert contains melodies
written possibly for B flat trumpet and cello. Harmonicas, opera glasses and a kettle drum are
also listed in the inventories. Other instruments, such as cello, were also played. Two cellos were
sold in a sale of Brodsworth’s contents in 1946. Tantalising glimpses of a family violinist exist in a
handwritten book of music for violin and a sadly empty violin case.
Caption: Family group outside the hall, with Charles Thellusson playing the banjo.
Brodsworth’s collection of almost 100 gramophone records range in date from the 1900s to the
1970s, and include a wide range of musical genres, from opera, to dance and jazz bands, film and
theatre music, orchestral works and pop songs.
There are famous operatic stars from the early 1900s, such as Enrico Caruso and Nellie Melba,
bands such as Ambrose and his Orchestra, and Louis Armstrong, and singers including Fred
Astaire and Frank Sinatra, and finally Britain’s last Eurovision Song Contest winner, Sandy Shaw’s
Puppet on a String of 1967! These give a fascinating insight into the music the family once
The Thellussons had several gramophones – we know from photographs that they had two
gramophones in the South Hall. A 1902 ‘Monarch’ gramophone was probably bought by Charles
and Constance Thellusson, who enjoyed many of the luxuries and innovations of the day. The
Thellussons upgraded as technology improved – a slightly later photograph shows a smaller
‘Ionic’ gramophone player of about 1908 with a smaller horn. The Brodsworth sale catalogue for
1946 lists a gramophone stand being sold for £1-15s-0d, however there is no mention of the fate
of either gramophone.
Caption: The family’s 1902 ‘Monarch’ gramophone in the south hall.
Woodlands Village Band
Woodlands Village Band was established in 1909. The Thellussons were heavily involved in the
early history and development of the band. Charles Thellusson bought a full set of instruments
for the band, costing just over £200. Charles’s support for the band demonstrated his interest in
the social welfare of the community.
The band played at Charles and Constance Thellusson’s silver wedding celebrations in 1910, and
presented their patrons with a large framed photo of the band as a present.
Caption: The large framed photograph was presented by the Woodlands Village Brass Band as a
gift to Charles and Constance Thellusson for their silver wedding anniversary on 13 September
1910. Sadly, we have no information about the men in this photograph.
The silver wedding festivities lasted three days. Entertainers included acrobats, jugglers, clowns
and performing dogs. Music was provided by the Woodlands Village Band, who played a varied
and complex programme, featuring marches, overtures, fantasias and solos from the euphonium
(Mr Pinfold), trombone (Mr Attewell), and cornet (Mr Bamford, the musical director). The band
members performed on a platform near the croquet lawns, and were given dinner, tea and
supper. The culmination of the three-day celebration for Charles and Constance Thellusson’s
silver wedding anniversary was a ceremony for the dedication for the new Abbott and Smith
church organ, which was presented by the Thellussons to the church in commemoration of the
Caption: Charles and Constance photographed for the silver wedding anniversary.
The band was involved in local festivals and regional and national competitions. They won first
prize at Crystal Palace in 1911 and third prize at the British Open in 1917. Sam Bamford was the
band’s first conductor. Most band members would have been workers at Brodsworth colliery,
and the Woodlands Village Band’s badge showed a pick and shovel to reflect the occupation of
many of its members.
Over the years the band went through many name changes, from Woodlands Village Prize Band,
Brodsworth Colliery Club & Institute Band and others before finally becoming the Brodsworth
Colliery Welfare Band. Twice in its history the group disbanded and reformed, before finally
ending in the late 1980s.
We know that the relationship between the hall and the brass band continued for over 70 years
since Charles Thellusson helped to set up the band by purchasing instruments. Invitations to
‘Sherry Mornings’ in the 1980s show us that guests were entertained by the Brodsworth Colliery
Band at charitable events at the hall, which were organised by the Doncaster Lions Club and
hosted by Sylvia Grant-Dalton. Presumably the band played outside if the weather was fine, to
accommodate the number of players.
Churchgoing was central to musical life on the Brodsworth estate. Singing in the church choir, the
music of the organ and the pealing of the bells were sounds that many who lived and worked at
Brodsworth and the surrounding area would have been familiar with.
A new organ for the church was purchased in 1910, presented by Charles and Constance
Thellusson in commemoration of their Silver Wedding anniversary. Charles and Constance also
purchased music and hymnbooks to support the choir, and paid for organ tuning and wages for J.
K. Currier, church organist. The Brodsworth church choir comprised villagers, school children, and
many staff working at the hall and on the estate. In the early twentieth century the choir went on
various excursions via railway.
Charles Thellusson also paid for the bell ringers for the three bells which hang in the tower,
spending £8 15s 0d on a half yearly salary for the sexton and bell ringers. The bells could be
heard from a distance, uniting the community.
Prior to the installation of the new organ, the church once had a band of local musicians who
provided music, which was also provided for a time by a harmonium. In 1874–75 Charles Sabine
Thellusson paid for the restoration and enlargement of the church by Longmire & Burge (the
contractors who also undertook the building of the new hall), with Charles Hodgson Fowler the
Caption: Members of the Brodsworth church choir, c. 1937.