HISTORY

THE ELTHAM PARK PSA SOCIETY AND ITS ORCHESTRA

The following is taken from some reminiscences of Thomas G. Bunce, Secretary 1949-2005, written in 1999.

Unfortunately, we do not know exactly when our Meetings began. The earliest Minute Book rescued from a fire at Eltham Park Methodist Church refers to previous minutes, but sadly these are mussing.

However, hearsay has suggested that in 1919 meetings for men, a Brotherhood, began. The ladies had already started a Sisterhood in 1916 under the presidency of Mrs L.F. Church. The Sisterhood met regularly for many years, but eventually closed. The Brotherhood survived, although in a changed form. A 1922 register in our archive records 120 names with a weekly attendance of about 65. In 1926, our name changed to 'Eltham Park Pleasant Sunday Afternoon', which permitted us to invite the ladies. Our present title of 'Eltham Park Brotherhood and PSA Society' was adopted in 1953.*


Members of the Orchestra, probably outside the old church hall, in October 1958
 
A Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Concert 26th July 1959
(click on pictures to enlarge)

I think I joined about 1924 or 1925. I would have been 12 or 13 years old, certainly in short trousers, I recall. A Miss Whittingham had suggested to my father that I might join the orchestra and play my violin.

At one time our Society had its social side, with outings to places of interest, also a Drama Society and our Scottish Dancing evenings, even a cricket team.

We no longer meet every Sunday afternoon – just on the last Sunday of each month except for breaks during August and December. The Orchestra rehearses every Tuesday during the season.

Through the Orchestra we are able to help some charities, and have entertained folk in the Spitalfields area and tried to brighten the lives of many in circumstances of poverty.

We've played at the Well Hall Pleasaunce, Sutton-at Hone, Eltham Palace, the Palace Cinema in Eltham High Street and the Lewisham Theatre. In 1963, the Orchestra played at the Leas Cliff Hall, Folkstone, as part of the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs (MAYC's) celebrations before an audience of nearly 1,000. It has played at several London Federation Rallies.


Chislehurst Methodist Church c.2000
(click on picture to enlarge)

For a number of years, the Orchestra played for Christmas Carol Concerts at Woolwich Town Hall arranged by the North Kent Federation of Townswomen's Guilds. We have also been able to help various charitable organisations including Overseas Mission and for the TocH, providing entertainment for handicapped people, thereby endeavouring to use music as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

In 1975, BBC Radio 4 Sunday Programme contained an interview the Society's Secretary (that’s me) as part of the Brotherhood Movement's Centenary Celebrations. The programme concluded with a few bars of our orchestra's music played from a tape recording which my son Graham had made.

When I joined the Society, Mr. W.H. Hurlstone was Musical Director, followed by Mr. Clarence H.E. Maggs, who later handed over to me. In turn I handed over to Ewart Cotton, then to our current Musical Director, Ted Williams, with Martin Bunce as Principal Deputy.

Our Registrar is Mr. Bill Mills who took over on the death of his wife Florrie Mills. The orchestra has had a number of accompanists over the years; one of the most loyal and brilliant being our present accompanist, Tom Wade, whose wide Ann Wade is Leader of the Orchestra.

Our present PSA Chairman is Ernie Lake who opens our meetings with a reading from the scriptures and a prayer. Miss Ivy Hunter is our Treasurer, who took over this task on the retirement of Mrs Kathleen Brown. We are indebted to all those who help toward the smooth running of the Society.

Several players from the orchestra later became professional musicians, and from time to time we see the names of one or two mentioned on television programme credits.


Anne Dudley (centre), whose credits include The Full Monty, Bright Young Things, Les Miserables (film); Jeeves and Wooster, Kavanagh QC, Poldark (TV) with Ted Williams (left) and Annette Wade (right) in 1973
(click on picture to enlarge)

Two World Wars and changing times have inevitably affected the National Movement, and to some extent its former strength has diminished. The ease of modern travel and the distractions offered by today's materialistic age have all had their effect on the habits of many people.

Nevertheless, the Movement and the Society at Eltham Park will, we hope, continue to fulfil a need, reaching over barriers of religious denominations and political parties, and be a place where youth and age can meet and understand one another through music and a common desire to serve others.

Ted Williams, former Musical Director and current Vice President wrote a postscript in 2007:

Bill Mills died in 2000, Ivy Hunter died in 2005, Heather Corps (flute and Deputy Conductor) died in 2006, Roy Rudd (Deputy Chairman) died in 2005.

Tom Bunce died in September 2005 aged 93, the perfect gentleman and true Christian, Secretary to the Society for many years, accomplished trumpeter, organist, pianist, violinist and conductor. A good friend to many.

*The word 'Brotherhood' was dropped in 2020.


The Eltham Park Brotherhood and PSA Orchestra in 1973, part way through the internal alterations to Eltham Park Methodist Church.Conductor: Tom Bunce, Leader: Ewart Cotton, Accompanist: Tom Wade


A Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Concert 31st January 1993


Guest Artists - Sedgehill School Brass Ensemble led by Martin Bunce (far right) 26th March 1995
(click on pictures to enlarge)

THE BROTHERHOOD AND SISTERHOOD MOVEMENT

By affiliation through the London Federation, we are part of the National Brotherhood and Sisterhood Movement. The Movement began when a man named John Blackman, a deacon of Ebeneezer Congregational Church, West Bromwich, started Christian meetings for men, which were to be brief and brotherly. This year was 1875. Sundays were more like holy days than the holidays they have become. People really worked hard six days and rested on the seventh. Just imagine, no shops open, no cinemas, no radio or television, no motor cars, (unless you had a steam-driven one). Daimler was experimenting with a new manufactured substance petroleum. There were no telephones, (Alexander Graham Bell's experiments took off a year later in 1876). There was no Salvation Army, that wonderful organisation started three years later in 1878. There was no National Health Service; that came after World War II. I recall a visit to the doctor costing 3/6, (17p) or if you called him out, 7/6 (37p).

The Movement spread to London, crusades were made to France, Belgium and Canada. Subsequently, the work spread to Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and a World Brotherhood Federation was established in London. A Sisterhood Movement was established in 1912 which is now part of the National Brotherhood and Sisterhood Movement (Inc). Much practical work was done by both Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods, there being no Social Services as we know them today.

During World War I, special campaigns were organised nationally to send relief to the overrun countries of Europe, and through Brotherhood agencies on the continent money, food and clothing were sent and distributed. Orphaned children from Serbia whose parents had been casualties of the onrush of German forces, needed shelter and food in England, and this was organised. 170 were cared form until thet could be returned to their own land.

Also, during the General Strike in 1926, the Movement proved its position as a national force being instrumental in bringing together the leaders of the Employers Federation at a meeting in the Mansion House in London, presided over by the Lord Mayor of London, a Brotherhood man. Arising from this Conference was convened and brought about a new spirit to industrial relations.

Many unemployed men came to London seeking work only to find disillusionment and despair. To meet a great need, men of the Brotherhood's London Federation organised themselves into friendship groups visiting the Thames Embankment and the London parks to talk with men and to try to alleviate their sad plight. Clothing and Boot Centres were set up and arrangements made to supply sausage and mash meals for the destitute. Members of our own Society at Eltham Park played their part in visiting the slums of London. The Sisterhoods organised a 'Safety for Girls' service which offered a friendly escort service to young girls from the provinces seeking work in London. The service continued for many years under the title 'Friendship for Girls'.

With a much smaller population in those days, the main centres of attraction were the churches, public houses and theatres. An Elementary Education Act had been in 1870, and some education was provided by Church Schools and Sunday Schools. My father's parents had to pay 3d a week for him to go to school, later reduced to 2d a week. Daytime meetings on Sundays were often well attended. Sankey and Moody’s Mission attracted 4,000 at Birmingham Town Hall. John Blackham's Brotherhood men's meetings became Pleasant Sunday Afternoons when instrumentalists came along.

In 1975, the Brotherhood Movement celebrated its centenary with rallies in eight different areas throughout the country. In the London area, where there were at that time 33 Sisterhoods and 21 mixed meetings or PSA’s, the largest Rally and Service was held at Westminster Abbey.


Eltham Park Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Orchestra