John Henry Iles was born in Bristol in 1871. He was a keen singer, organist and cricketer (playing at County level). In 1898, John Henry developed a keen interest in Brass Bands and acquired the magazine, The British Bandsman. In 1900, with the help of Sir Arthur Sullivan, he established the National Brass Band Festival, at Crystal Palace (since 1945 it has been held at The Royal Albert Hall).
While touring with Brass Bands in America (1906), John Henry visited Coney Island and acquired the rights to build similar amusement parks outside the USA. He developed parks across the UK and Europe. One location was at Belle Vue in Manchester, where, in 1925 he also took control of the Brass Band competitions that were held there: The Belle Vue Contests.
Shown left is John Henry with HRH Prince George, Duke of Kent (and Lord Derby on the right), visiting Belle Vue. The photograph is not dated, but a reasonable deduction (given the Speedway poster) would be 1936. Click the image to expand.
A British Pathé newsreel (Click Here) shows the Duke of Kent on a tour of Working Men’s Clubs in the North (including Manchester) in July 1936 hosted by Lord Derby. It seems likely they met with John Henry during that tour and visited Belle Vue, especially as the Duke had been awarded the Honorary Freedom of the Musicians’ Company just a few months earlier.
John Henry Iles was clothed in the Livery of the Musicians' Company in January 1909 and was appointed Master in 1932. He received the OBE for services to the Brass Band movement in 1944.
In 1893 Iles had married Eleanor, daughter of Frederick Bird, they had a daughter and three sons, the eldest of whom, Henry Frederick Bird Iles (known as 'Eric') became Master in 1954 and his brother, John Bird Iles (known as 'Jack') in 1968. The third son was Gordon Butler Iles and was also a Liveryman of the Company, but progressed no further. The daughter was Marion Davidge Bird Iles.
John Clive Iles (son of HFB Iles) was Master of the Company in 1992 and it is to him that grateful thanks are passed for many of the artifacts and treasures presented in this section.
The inscription on the bench read:
"In Loving Memory of John Henry Iles OBE Master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians 1932-1933 Who devoted his Life to the advancement of Brass Bands Died 29th May 1951 aged 79 years and of Eleanor Marion his Beloved Wife and lifelong companion who so greatly aided him in his life's work. Died 1st March 1953 aged 81 years Whose mingled ashes rest in this Churchyard."
John Henry and Eleanor lived in Birchington, Kent where a memorial bench had been erected (photo right); sadly this is no longer in existence.
In early 2018 a Blue Plaque (shown left) was unveiled in St Andrews Park, Bristol, in front of John Henry Iles' original house in Sommerville Road. The City of Bristol Brass Band played and the Lord Mayor, Councillor Lesley Alexander, in full regalia, was in attendance.
While researching one of John Henry's sons (Mr Gordon Iles) regarding his involvement with early aircraft flight simulators, Dr Martin Bolton (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) produced an in-depth biography of the father. We are grateful indeed for Dr Bolton's permission to include his biography of John Henry on this website (Click the image right to upoad).
A few contemporary obituaries of John Henry Iles are shown below, but as pointed out in Dr Bolton's research, there are some discrepancies. Click an image to enlarge, click on Go to Link to expand further.
This archive website contains a number of treasures and items of interest from the life of John Henry Iles and these are presented below. Click on an image to be directed to that particular section.