Pemberton Old Wigan DW Band can trace its history back to around 1877. In 1883, a group of players known as the Blue Jackets Band formed the bulk of the Old Volunteer Corps who were later named The Wigan Rifles. However, in 1891, most of the members left the Volunteers and formed Pemberton Old Band.
They quickly gained a formidable reputation all over the country winning major prizes including the prestigious title of British Open Champions at Belle Vue in 1903 under the renowned conductor John Gladney.
The band continued their winning ways under another famous musician of the day, John Greenwood who, along with his skills as a conductor and band trainer, was responsible for bringing many fine compositions and arrangements for Pemberton to premiere.
Undoubtedly the most famous of all the bands conductors was William Rimmer. ‘The Father of the Brass Band movement’, who scored many successes with Pemberton Old and who wrote the march Punchinello for the then principal cornet and later conductor of the band James Fairhurst as a “gift” for receiving the soloist award at the Belle Vue Championships.
Since those halcyon days the band, like many, have had their ups and downs, but a phoenix like revival has taken place due to the hard work and resolve of a small group of players. With dedication and commitment to keep the fortunes of the organisation on an upward path and in doing so, preserve the heritage of the Pemberton tradition.
In 1995 a neighbouring outfit, the Wigan & District Brass Band had fallen on hard times and were almost defunct when Pemberton Old took over the running of the band thus adding the name of its hometown Wigan to its name.
The organisation now has three bands, the Senior Band, a B Band and a thriving youth band that has a membership of around thirty youngsters.
In 1998, Peter Ashley set up the 'B' Band, as a means of bridging the gap between Pemberton's Youth and Senior musical ensembles.
In August 2003, all of the bands attended at the newly organised Hymn and March contest sponsored by JJB (Sports). After the contest, Mr David Whelan, the Chairman of JJB, said that he would like to sponsor the bands at Pemberton. It was said that the reasons for this decision was due mainly to the quality of the playing and the youth policy the band have in force. The name changes once again and became Pemberton Old Wigan (JJB) Band.
On Sunday 14th March 2004 a little more history was made with both the Senior and B Bands qualifying at the North West Area Finals of the National brass band championships of Great Britain. This was a fantastic achievement, even more so in the fact that both bands were awarded First prize in their respective sections.
The Senior band under the direction of Mark Peacock attended the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, which were held in Harrogate in September 2004 and were awarded 1st place in the first section. Promotion was gained to the Championship section in 2005 but to be promoted as Champion Band of Great Britain was a bonus.
After several years in the Championship section the band qualified for the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall after coming 3rd in the North West Area regional contest, the last time the band qualified for the finals in the Championship section was 1907. The band was also invited for the first time to the All England Masters contest in 2009 at the Royal Albert Hall.
Under the direction of Mark Bentham, the band progressed and to become one of the world’s top 30 bands.
The band has since had another change of name as Dave Whelan’s new sport and leisure chain, DW Sports, agreed to sponsor the band thereby continuing Mr Whelan’s much appreciated support of the organisation.
In 2015, Peter Ashley stepped down as the B Band conductor after 17 successful years in which he led the band from the 4th Section to become an established 2nd Section Band.
In June 2016, another 'first' for the organisation was achieved when the B Band joined the Senior Band in the top 100 bands in the world and in doing so, became England's only such brass band organisation with two bands in the top 100. A fantastic achievement for all involved in the organisation.