John Henry Iles, Bristol-born entrepreneur honoured in style
City of Bristol Brass Band performed at the unveiling of a blue plaque to commemorate John Henry Iles. Lord Mayor Councillor Lesley Alexander did the honours at a ceremony in St Andrews Park
John Henry Iles was born in Bristol and the band played at the ceremony outside his matrimonial home on Sunday 29th April. A colourful and diverse entrepreneur, Iles was one time owner of the British Bandsman newspaper, R Smith & Co music publishers and the founder of the National Brass Band Championships. He was also highly successful in the Amusement Park business and became owner of Belle Vue, Manchester and also the British Open Brass Band Championships. It was whilst in Manchester that he fell in love with the sound of a brass band commenting "It is not too much to say that I was positively astounded... I came away from that contest a completely converted enthusiast for their cause". As a result he organised a massed band concert of 10 bands, conducted by Sir Arthur Sullivan, at the Royal Albert Hall in 1900 for veterans of the Boer War. These massed band concerts were to become a much-loved post contest feature of the National Brass Band Championships, which he instigated at Crystal Palace and then moved to the Royal Albert Hall.
Iles had promoted a world tour by the famous old band, Besses o' th' Barn, from Manchester and while with them at Coney Island, New York he bought the UK rights to a dream train which he had built at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. He went on to purchase a small pleasure garden in Margate in which he invested significant sums of money to make Dreamland which has just recently taken on a new lease of life after a successful council - community partnership. The amusement park empire was extensive including many in the UK and also Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, Cairo and St Petersburg.
The ceremony, which was facilitated by the Worshipful Company of Musicians (who award the Iles Medal for services to brass bands), was attended by his grandson and great granddaughter as well as members of Bristol Civic Society who designed the plaque and arranged the installation.