ONE of Whitefield's most renowned and treasured institutions is celebrating a very special birthday.

The world famous Besses o' th' Barn Band is this year marking its 200th anniversary.

In lieu of the occassion, Besses, one of the oldest brass bands in the world, is now urging people to come and help them renovate the their 19th century band club and union, and to support them as they keep brass music alive.

Formed in 1818, when Whitefield was little more than a series of hamlets, the Besses band first took the name Clegg's Band and consisted of men coming back from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.

Initially a reed band, the players began to incorporate more and more instruments becoming a hodgepodge of brass, military and more.

Little is known about the band's first decades, however they are first recorded as winning a competition to mark the coronation of King George IV on July 19, 1821, with a rendition of God Save The King.

They then repeated their success at a celebration of the 1837 coronation Queen Victoria in Farnworth, Bolton, winning a crown for a performance of Hail! Smiling Morn.

Formally emerging as an all brass band in 1853, Besses became an increasingly professional and successful outfit meaning by 1892 they were the holders of every major open competition cup in Britain.

Steve Hughes, Besses o' th' Barn Band historian, said: "In those days you would have a band in every mill, in every school, in every village who would go to competitions every week.

"It was something for your village to be proud of."

In the early 1900s the band began tours based on the railway network and would stop at each station along the way to perform, travelling for months at a time.

Following the 1904 Entente Cordiale between Britain and France, in an attempt to ease tensions on the continent, the band was invited by King Edward VII to perform at Windsor Castle for his queen, son the Prince Regent and grandsons.

Now commonly referred to as The Royal Besses o' th' Barn Band, they were then sent on to tour around France, playing for dignitaries and to crowds of thousands, before returning to the UK and playing their way back to Manchester along the railway.

This kick started a golden period of travelling for band, including a world tour between 1906 and 1907 which took them across the Americas and the Pacific to Australia and New Zealand.

The feat was then repeated between 1909 and 1911, with the band even reaching South Africa.

As the First World War broke out the band ceased their touring as members went off to fight, but they returned to win the British Open for the third time on September 6, 1920.

They continued on their winning ways into the 1930s, and made several major performances, including for King George V in Runcorn, and being invited to the World's Fair in Canada in 1932.

The outbreak of the Second World War heralded a painful period for the band, with 50 per cent of its members being killed in a matter of months.

The loss encouraged the band to form the Besses Boys Band in 1943 as a feeder to ensure a supply of talented musicians into the future.

In the war's aftermath Besses sent players to Europe as part of an Entertainments National Service programme to entertain troops and civilians as their countries were rebuilt.

In the decades since the band has enjoyed more memorable highlights with their sixth and seventh British Open wins in 1959 and 1982, and extensive concert performances and touring including to Finland and Switzerland.

And in 2016 Besses band joined the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on a concert tour that included a performance at the Royal Albert Hall broadcast on Classic FM.

Last year saw the arrival of a new musical director at the band, Trevor Halliwell, who has embarked upon a programme of rebuilding the band its famous name on both the concert and the contest stage.

However after decades of heritage and musical glory Besses band is now struggling through a lean period, as membership and funding retracts and members battle to retain public interest in brass music.

In a bid to return to the top the band is now launching an appeal for help to save their invaluable and historic 1868 band club and union in Moss Lane.

The band are currently forced to rehearse in the Victoria Community Centre due to the club's dilapidated condition, but want to be back in the building as soon as possible.

Barrie Chappell, former Besses Boys Band musical director, said: "We are trying to do the band room up because it is part of our wonderful history.

"Besses o' th' Barn Band is not a normal band it's an institution.

"To get to our 200th year really is something to celebrate but we also need some help.

"We need a DIY SOS, if people could contribute and give their time and skills that would be great. We are not asking for a lot.

"We have come down the ranks because of the situation and we have got to rectify that. We have got all this great history but we are the next history."

To get involved and help support the Besses o' th' Barn Band contact 07830027392.