Concerts in the Parks

Arb bandstand at festival 2103From its opening in 1852, band concerts in the Arboretum were popular events. Not only did they feature prominently in the opening ceremony but were a regular feature of the weekly programme of events. In its early years, however, The Arboretum was only open free of charge on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays; on the other days a ticket had to be bought, though season tickets were available. In August 1852, shortly after it was opened, Councillor Eyre complained that the ‘poorer classes’ were deprived of the advantages afforded to those in a higher position in society by having a band in the grounds once a week on a free day.

The response was that a Quadrille band played every other Monday evening, when being a free day the poor could hear it. In offering an alternate point of view, the Mayor said

some inconvenience might probably be occasioned by keeping the people from their work and being kept constantly in a state of excitement by hearing bands of music.

He had, however, been trying to end such detailed discussion preferring that it was dealt with by a sub-committee, so his comment was perhaps more bad tempered than harsh.

Concerts continued to happen regularly, the preferred nights being Tuesdays and Thursdays, neither of which were free. In 1852, the band of the Eighth Royal Hussars played from 5.30 to 7.30 on alternate Tuesday and the South Nottinghamshire Yeomanry performed every Thursday at the same times. In July 1855, the Nottinghamshire Guardian reported on a ‘Musical Promenade’ by the Royal Sherwood Foresters, when part of the audience consisted of 700 children from Methodist and other non-conformist churches in Derbyshire who had been seeing the sights in Nottingham.

In 1857, the legality of charging for entry to the Arboretum was challenged and the possibility of free entry seven days lead to a suggestion that all concerts and other entertainments would have to be abandoned. Fortunately, this gloomy prognosis never came about and band concerts, especially by military bands such as the Leicester Militia, South Notts Yeomanry and Robin Hood Rifles were held regularly, year after year, even without an entry fee.

In 1880, the Public Parks Committee was offered the old bandstand that had been on Castle Green, and it was installed near the Refreshment Rooms. The popularity of the concerts was such that in 1882 a 12 foot circle surrounding the bandstand was asphalted because it was impossible to maintain a grass verge. In 1890, Sunday afternoon concerts were tried as an experiment for one month. An application to extend the licence was refused on two grounds: it was opposed by the Sunday School Union and, and possibly more important, the number of people who came to listen to the band – which were estimated to be about 15,000 on one Sunday in June – meant that it was impossible to keep the grounds in good condition. By this time, however, a bandstand had been erected on the Forest and Sunday concerts became a regular feature there.

The concerts on the Forest that began in 1890 were not arranged by the Council but by

a committee of gentlemen (not connected to the Corporation), formed for the purpose of giving open-air concerts during the summer. The expenses are defrayed by public subscription, and by collection during the time the bands are playing; a few collecting boxes being placed in different parts of the ground in which persons may put their contribution if they so desire, but no regular collection is allowed to be made.

Not only did this group of Gentlemen organise the concerts but they also sourced and erected a temporary bandstand, though the Council did provide a permanent structure, designed by the Borough Engineer, two years later. A special joint-concert was arranged to celebrate, though this was unfortunately rained-off. It was re-arranged for the following week and the Nottingham Daily Express on 23 May 1892, claims that the better weather meant that there were over 10,000 people on the Forest that day.

A wide variety of bands gave concerts; some like the Sax Tuba Silver Band, The South Notts Temperance Band and the South Notts Hussars were regulars.  Others, like the Babbington Ambulance Brigade Band played less regularly.  Selections from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, as were ‘light classics’ by Mendelssohn, Verdi, Wagner among many others. Sunday concerts programmes usually comprised sacred music such as Selections from Mozart’s Twelfth Mass or ‘Lift up your Heads’ from Handel’s Messiah. Sunday concerts ended with a hymn, which the audience presumably sang and all concerts concluded with the National Anthem.

forest960wideThe size of the crowds itself caused a problem. A polite request in small print in the concert programmes for the audience to be quiet while the band was playing, soon became a notice in bold capitals. The cost of the concerts was also a problem, and appeals had to be made for money to be placed in the collecting bags or else the concerts would be discontinued.

A polite request to keep quiet during the concert

A polite request to keep quiet during the concert

An emphatic request not to make too much noise

An emphatic request not to make too much noise




A special appeal for donations because the concerts make a loss.

A special appeal for donations because the concerts make a loss.

a further appeal for funds

a further appeal for funds






By the early years of the 20th century, band concerts were held not only in the Arboretum and on the Forest, but in parks across the City, all attracting huge crowds. In 1906 there were

No. week-night Concerts Estimated attendance
Arboretum 16 46,500
Forest 11 18,900
Victoria embankment 11 50,600
Vernon Park 6 14,500
Bulwell Forest 9 23,400
Radford 5 9,500
Lenton 3 9,030
Victoria Park 3 6,500
Pennyfoot St. 3 1,550
67 180,480

These were held on almost every night of the week. According to a report in 1913 there were concerts had been held in

Arboretum Thursday evenings
Forest Wednesday evenings
Victoria Embankment Tuesday and Thursday evenings
Bulwell Hall Park Saturday evenings
Vernon Park Wednesday evenings
Radford Grounds Alternate Tuesdays
Lenton Grounds alternate Tuesdays
King Edward Park Monday evenings



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