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There is a long and interesting history of music making for charitable purposes in Sling. In 1913 local people built the first ‘Scarr Bandstand’. For over thirty years large crowds flocked to the annual ‘Hospital Sunday’ events held there, and impressive amounts of money were raised to support hospitals as far afield as Gloucester, Bristol and Monmouth.
During the 1970’s, the Forestry Commission rebuilt Scarr Bandstand in a new location, and concerts were enjoyed there for a number of years until around 1984, when the bandstand fell into disuse. Now the Friends of Scarr Bandstand and their supporting partners are bringing the bandstand back into use.
You can read the story of the bandstand in the article below or you can download the full illustrated article here
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There has been a bandstand at the Scarr, near Sling and Milkwall, for over one hundred years. The Gloucester Journal of 19th April 1913 reported that “The Milkwall and District Charity Committee have erected a platform on the ‘band-
Map showing the original position of the Scarr Bandstand
Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown Copyright. All rights reserved.
The main fund raising event organised by the Milkwall Charitable Committee was the Hospital Sunday Collection. ‘Hospital Sunday’ originated in the 1700s and involved churches and chapels setting aside for local hospitals the funds collected from a charity sermon on one Sunday a year. The Milkwall Committee’s version of the Hospital Sunday was an annual event held on a Sunday in summer when bands would march from various places in the Dean and would meet at the Scarr. Collections would be taken and speeches made. The Gloucester Journal of 19th April 1913 stated that “During the two years work they had raised about £55, and had not only dispensed local assistance but had contributed to Bristol, Gloucester and Monmouth hospitals.”
The event was hugely popular in its heyday, “Usually three or four thousand people from various parts of the Western Forest attend this mass meeting in aid of Hospitals, and during its life the Milkwall Committee has succeeded in raising hundreds of pounds.” (Gloucester Journal 19th July 1930).
The Hospital Sunday event was a long running one. In 1937, some 24 years after the bandstand was erected, the Gloucester Journal revealed that “Yesterday was 'Scar Sunday' in the Dean Forest and hundreds flocked to the venue – a clearance in the woods between Coleford and Bream known as the Scar – for the annual hospital parade of local bands. Organised by the Milkwall and District Hospital Committee, this event is one of the oldest and most popular of many such parades in the Dean Forest in summer time. A bandstand has been erected here in the centre of this natural arena, and bands from Bream, Pillowell and Berry Hill – each giving their services in support of the effort, marched from various points through the woods to the meeting place. Coleford's blinded war hero, Captain Angus Buchanan, V.C., presided, and speakers included Mr M. P. Price, M.P., Captain S.J.T. Rowlinson (Secretary of the Dilke Hospital Committee) and Mr G.H Griffiths (Secretary of the Workpeoples' Contributory Scheme, Gloucestershire Royal Infirmary).”
The introduction of the NHS in 1948 led to the demise of most of the Hospital Saturday and Hospital Sunday funds.
In the section below, Cyril Elsmore tells of his father Jim’s involvement in the early days of the Scarr Bandstand.
RECOLLECTIONS BY CYRIL ELSMORE (born 1913) MADE IN 2005:
“My father Jim Elsmore was one of the many who formed the company of young men known as the Milkwall and District Charity Committee which held several meetings at Milkwall Church, together with concerts with the proceeds being donated to deserving causes, chapels, churches and individuals.
Milkwall Charity Committee around 1914 (above) .
Photo courtesy of Geoff Davis (www.sungreen.co.uk ) and Barbara Thomas
Back Row: 1 not known, 2 Harry Dibben (Milkwall), 3 Jim Dibben (Milkwall), 4 Will Dibben (Milkwall), 5 Milson Howard (Coalway), 6 Jim Elsmore (Holly Lane, Ellwood), 7 not known, 8 Harry Williams, Upper Ellwood, 9 Elijah Sayce (Ellwood).
Middle Row: 1 Charlie Fox (Milkwall), 2 Ted Dibben (went to Australia), 3 Sid Dowler (Coalway), 4 not known , 5 Will Little (Palmers Flat), 6 Sidney Elsmore (Ellwood), 7 not known, 8 Fred Pritchard (Ellwood), 9 Tommy Roberts (Ellwood).
Front Row: 1 Tom Jordan (Lower Milkwall), 2 Fred Roberts (Sling), 3 Elton Rosser (Sling -
It was decided that a bandstand was needed as bands had been playing at Scar on ground cut away from the gorse making a large circle for people to get together. Using old railway sleepers for the construction of the bandstand Mr Wilkins made a gift of these. Everyone who was able to volunteered to help; gangs of men dug and sunk in the sleepers end-
The opening of the stand was a sensation and Mr Watkins gave and presented a prize cup to the winning band for the best marching tune.
What a day it was with the Coleford band followed by bands from Berry Hill, Bream, Yorkley Onward, Whitecroft, Lydney, Monmouth and Cinderford. At the end of the concert all the Bands marched to Scar Farm, the home of Mr and Mrs Willie Morgan*, for good cider, 'snowel of end' (bread chunk) and cheese with an onion and lard. A wheel barrow was needed to carry the takings to our house and in the morning our dad took the money in a pony and trap to the bank. I know at one time as much as £350 to £400 (was) raised all by volunteers.
Some names of people who helped in those early days of the concerts at Scar: Mr Job Pope Headmaster -
*The farm house still exists, and is now known as Scarr Farm House
In the 1970's, the bandstand was moved and rebuilt in a different position; “The Coleford annual sheep sale used to be held at the Scarr or, as local people say, ‘out on the bandstand’. The concrete bandstand on the top has gone and a new one has been built a little lower down in a hollow making a natural open air theatre. But the new bandstand strikes a jarring note in this woodland setting; it is garish and would look more at home in Hollywood, California.”
(P121 'Forest of Dean' by Humphrey Phelps).
New position of the Scarr Bandstand having been moved and rebuilt in the 1970's
The red dot shows the position of the rebuilt bandstand
The photograph below shows the rebuilt Scarr Bandstand.
Scarr Bandstand in the late 1970’s.
Photo courtesy of Pete Ralph
The bandstand continued in intermittent use until the early 1990’s. By then the roof had been removed due to vandalism, and gradually the site fell into disuse and became overgrown.
The photographs below (taken in July 2015) show the abandoned bandstand and also the naturally sloping ground which stands in front of the bandstand. As can be seen the arena was covered with rapidly growing scrub, which had to be removed to allow the bandstand to be brought back into use.
In 2015, Bill Gayler, a resident of Sling and a West Dean Parish Councillor, began a campaign to restore the Scarr Bandstand for use by the community. Work to stabilise the fabric of the bandstand began. "Friends of Scarr Bandstand" was formed, supported by West Dean Parish Council and Sling Club. Funding was obtained from the Forester's Forest Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership, West Dean Parish Council, along with sponsorship from Calico Interiors, a local business.
With permission and help from the Forestry Commission, clearance of the site began, ready for the first events which took place during the summer of 2017.
The first performances at the revitalised Scarr Bandstand took place on 22nd and 23rd July 2017.
Gloucestershire Youth Players performed William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’
Photo courtesy of Ted Taylor