LAST MODIFIED Wednesday 25 October 2017 13:19

John Winterbottom and family

Dr GRAEME SKINNER (University of Sydney)


To cite this:

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney), "John Winterbottom and family", Australharmony (an online resource toward the history of music and musicians in colonial and early Federation Australia):; accessed 22 February 2018


Extended family of English military band and orchestral musicians (19th - early 20th century)


Bassoonist, conductor, entrepreneur, bandmaster, composer

Born England, 1817
Married Maria Margaret COZENS, Camden, London, 3 June 1847
Arrived Melbourne, VIC, by January 1853
Departed Melbourne, VIC, 17 December 1861 (per Result, for London)
Died Putney, England, May 1897, aged 80 (NLA persistent identifier)





A member of a British military-musical family, Winterbottom was a business man, as much as a musician. He made an instant impact with newly cashed-up Sydney and Melbourne audiences, entrepreneuring not one-off concerts, but month-long seasons of nightly "Grand Promenade Concerts A La Jullien", advertising himself as "the sole projector of these popular concerts in the Australian colonies", and a regular cohort of featured soloists. For these and his later trademark "Monster Concerts", new prosperity delivered not only large mixed audiences, but also allowed him to fill his orchestra with other hopeful recent arrivals; as he claimed:

... the vast influx of population has enabled him to form a band, selected from the finest orchestras in the world, artistes as well capable of interpreting the sublime compositions of Handel, Beethoven, or Mendelssohn, as to delineate music of a lighter character.

His rather unexpected transformation from a London instrumentalist into a colonial entrepreneur was newsworthy even back in Britain, earning "AUSTRALIA" one of its earliest notices in the The Musical Times

Mr. Winterbottom, the performer on the bassoon, is catering for the mixed public of Melbourne by giving promenade concerts, in close imitation of M. Jullien, to vast audiences, and with corresponding profit to himself.

Winterbottom also started selling himself as a composer. For a "monster concert", with "100 performers", in Sydney on 26 May 1853, he announced his "intention of presenting each Lady in the Reserved Stalls" with a New polka, "beautifully illustrated by Walter Mason" (who, formerly of the Illustrated London News, was also part of the recent "vast influx", having come from England in 1852).

Probably in response to market forces, Winterbottom's programs increasingly rationed the "sublime compositions" of the masters, though what The Musical Times called his "mixed public" seems to have welcomed his virtuoso bassoon solos as a Classical curiosity.

Numerous musical prints of works by other composers, both local (notably Edward Boulanger) and imported, were billed as, for instance, "[performed] with immense success, at Winterbottom's Promenade Concerts", or "Played by Winterbottom's Unrivalled Band".

From being an opportunistic outsider at first, within two years of arrival, Winterbottom was part of the theatrical establishment. At the Royal Victoria Theatre in Sydney on 22 August 1855, he composed music for "a new Electro-Biological Burlesque Operatic Extravaganza", Alonzo the brave; or, The fair Imogene (to a libretto by Sidney Nelson's son-in-law, H. T. Craven). And on 26 August 1856, at the Lyceum Theatre, the evening's performance commenced with "the new Dramatic story", Eva; or, Leaves from Uncle Tom's Cabin

... (second time) ... The overture and entire music composed and arranged by M. Winterbottom ... the nigger dances and serenades by the Ethiopian Minstrels engaged expressly to give effect to the delineation of slave life!

In Hobart, when the new Theatre Royal opened in summer 1857, Winterbottom directed the music and composed an overture Theatre Royal, which the Mercury described as "a spirited composition ... extremely well performed by the Orchestra". He was also credited with having "composed the Music of the drama", billed as Cinderella. Winterbottom later also directed the music at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Sydney, where in November 1858 he introduced a new "Grand Musical Burlesque", The yellow dwarf; or, The king of the goldmines, "Music by Winterbottom". Recently published in Sydney in March 1857 were his Hermione valse.

Apart from these, only two more Australian printed compositions survive, both issued close to the end of his Australian stay, The Lady Don valse, and The Zoe galop. The first was introduced at the Royal Victoria in Sydney in June 1861, to celebrate the last night of the season there by the visiting British burlesque artiste William Don, and his wife Emily in Sheridan's The rivals. Four days later, Winterbottom took his first Sydney "farewell", at the Masonic Hall with the Howsons and bandmaster Douglas Callen as his co-conductor, only to turn up again at the Lyceum in July with a performance of the Zoe galop "dedicated to the owner of that celebrated race-horse, Mr. John Tait".

Winterbottom and his wife took their final Melbourne benefit on 26 November, "on the eve of departing for Europe".


[Advertisement], The Argus (25 January 1853), 8

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (28 April 1853), 1

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (6 May 1853), 2

"AUSTRALIA", The Musical Times (1 August 1853), 235

"WINTERBOTTOM'S LAST CONCERT", The Courier (10 November 1853), 3

"M. WINTERBOTTOM'S GRAND CONCERT", Illustrated Sydney News (6 May 1854), 3

On the evening of Monday last, M. Winterbottom's Musical Festival collected in the Bazaar-Saloon of the Royal Hotel a more crowded and brilliant assemblage than is often brought together for any purpose in Sydney. Indeed, the sitting accommodation was quite inadequate, and not a few were compelled to stand during the entire performance. Mrs. Hancock and Miss Flora Harris delighted the audience with their "most sweet voices" - but we must say that the pleasure would have been still greater if the selection had been more judicious. M. Winterbottom's bassoon-playing, however, constituted the chief attraction; and, certainly, that gentleman's complete mastery of this very difficult instrument was something marvellous. M. Winterbottom, in fact, seems to have in his chest a sort of "Inexhaustible Bottle", from which issue in bewildering profusion the very eccentricities of an intricate and yet most harmonious melody. We trust that we shall often have the pleasure of attending M. Winterbottom's Concerts. If due attention be paid to the selection of the programme, they cannot fail to become the most fashionable entertainments of our city.

[Advertisement], The Argus (18 August 1854), 8

[Advertisement], The Argus (1 September 1854), 8

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (22 August 1855), 4

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (26 August 1856), 1

"THE DRAMA. ROYAL VICTORIA", Bell's Life in Sydney (1 December 1855), 2

"THEATRE ROYAL", The Hobart Town Mercury (11 March 1857), 2

[Advertisement], Bell's Life in Sydney (13 November 1858), 3

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (10 April 1858), 2

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (22 June 1861), 1

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (22 June 1861), 7

[Advertisement], The Sydney Morning Herald (26 June 1861), 1

"MR. WINTERBOTTOM'S BENEFIT", Empire (8 July 1861), 4

... We feel confident that it is only necessary to advert to the fact that, owing to several unsuccessful speculations in the neighbouring colony, Mr. Winterbottom will return to England, after many years of unremitting toil and assiduous catering for the public amusement.

"OPENING OF THE LYCEUM THEATRE", The Sydney Morning Herald (10 July 1861), 5

[News], The Argus (26 November 1861), 4

[News], The Star (2 December 1861), 2

To-morrow evening that accomplished swordsman and equally accomplished performer on the bassoon, will take a farewell benefit at the Theatre Royal, previous to his departure for England in the Result. The entertainment, which is under the patronage of Major Wallace, Captains Campbell, Smith, and Drury, and the Ballarat Rifle Rangers, is to consist of a comedy, followed by a vocal and instrumental concert; the strains of the Rangers' Band; an assaut des armes, involving the presentation of a prize medal for the best broadsword player; Mr. Winterbottom's own feats of skill in swords-manship; and a new burlesque! With such a dainty and tempting bill of fare, surely it cannot be necessary for us to urge our readers to be at the feast, though we rather think that the better motive will actuate them - that of visiting the theatre out of compliment to an accomplished and worthy man.

"SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE", The Argus (17 December 1861), 4

[News], The Argus (23 December 1869), 5

"A FAMILY OF BANDSMEN", The Mercury (12 May 1892), 2

"A REMARKABLE RECORD", Timaru Herald (23 May 1892), 3

Mr. John Winterbottom, who has completed 21 years of service in the Royal Marine Artillery as bandmaster, has just retired from it to take up the appointment of bandmaster of the 20th Middlesex (Artists) Volunteer corps. From 1799 to the present time, Mr. Winterbottom's family, who came from Saddleworth, Yorkshire, have (according to a writer in Lloyd's News)  put in the unique service, in the army and navy, of 213 years. His great uncle (John Winterbottom), who enlisted as a private in the 52nd Regiment in 1799 was given a commission as ensign and adjutant for gallant conduct in the Peninsular War in 1808, having fought with great distinction at Badajoz and also at Waterloo. His maternal grandfather was 30 years in the 1st Life Guards, and as quartermaster of the regiment fought also at Waterloo. His father served 21 years in the 1st Life Guards, and was the first sword instructor of the army; his portrait, by command of William IV, was painted and hung in the Waterloo Gallery at Windsor. Mr. Winterbottom's three brothers have all been bandmasters, and the four have put in a hundred years' service. The elder generation may remember the subject of this notice as a solo player at Julien's promenade concerts at Drury Lane; at the Monday Populars at St. James's Hall; and at one time as musical director of the Olympic Theatre; while Australians will not forget his carrying out a concert in 1856, at Sydney, for the benefit of the survivors of the Monumental City, which went down with nearly all on board. During a residence of ten years in Australia Mr. Winterbottom earned the esteem of all classes, and left, as he does at Portsmouth, the record of an honourable and distinguished name.

"DEATH OF MR. JOHN WINTERBOTTOM", Portsmouth Evening News (15 May 1897), 2

The great majority of our readers, taking an interest as they do in Portsmouth and Service matters, will share the regret feel in announcing today the death of Mr. John Winterbottom, formerly bandmaster of the Royal Marine Artillery at Eastney. The sad event occurred on Thursday at Mr. Winterbottom's residence, 27, Spencer-road, Putney, and the funeral is fixed take place on Monday, when the remains will interred at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Mr. Winterbottom, was for many years a notable figure in the Military musical world, belonged to distinguished family, whose aggregate services the present century already amount to 218 years. The father of the present generation served the 1st Life Guards, and subsequently, while warder of the Tower of London, had charge the rebel Thistlewood. Mr. John Winterbottom, now deceased, started learning music from a bandsman in the Life Guards, afterwards taking lessons from a private master, and year after year attending the weekly practices at the Royal Academy of Music. His first professional engagement was as a bassoon player in the orchestra of the Princess's Theatre, with the English Opera Company. He also played for a number of years at Chappell's Monday Popular Concerts at St. James's Hall, and was solo bassoon player at Mellon's Popular Promenade Concerts at Covent Garden. For a time, too, he was musical director at the Olympic Theatre. He first came into prominence in the musical world, however, a solo player at M. Julien's promenade concerts at Drury Lane. After this he went out to Australia, where for ten years he was conductor of the English and Italian Opera Companies, of which Catherine Hayes, the English prima-donna, was the leading artiste. Then he returned to England, and in 1870 was appointed bandmaster of the Royal Marine Artillery. This position he filled, with credit to himself and advantage to the corps, until March 31st, 1882, when he retired by the exigencies of the Service, and left Portsmouth for London to take up a new appointment as bandmaster of the Artists' Corps of Volunteers, the 20th Middlesex. Prior to his departure from Portsmouth, two complimentary concerts were given in his honour by the professional musicians of the town, and he was publicly presented by Mr. Pillow, on their behalf, with a pair of gold spectacles in a silver case. Mr. Winterbottom had been the recipient of many such marks of esteem in the course his career, and among his prized possessions was a scarf-pin, from a fellow-musician, H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh.

"MR. J. WINTERBOTTOM", Army and Navy Gazette (29 May 1897), 11

Mr. J. Winterbottom, whose death at Putney, at the age of 80, is announced, was for many years Bandmaster of the Royal Marine Artillery at Portsmouth; subsequently he became Bandmaster to the Artists' Rifle Volunteer Corps. His was the fourth generation of long service in the Army. His father, whose portrait, painted by order of King William IV, hangs in Windsor Castle corridor, was the finest swordsman in the Army, and fought at Waterloo in the Life Guards, as did four others of the family, whose military services in the four generations extend to 215 years. The deceased began his career as a bassoon-player in Jullien's orchestra, and for some years he was band conductor in Melbourne and Sydney.

Bibliography and resources:

Brown and Stratton 1897, British musical biography, 453-54 

Lyndesay Graham Langwill, The bassoon and contrabasson (London: E. Benn, 1965), 180

WINTERBOTTOM, Frank Midwinter King (R.A.M.)

Cellist (Adelaide String Quartet), composer, conductor, arranger, military band director

Born England, 21 March 1861
Active Adelaide, SA, 1881-82
Died January 1930


[Advertisement], South Australian Register (18 September 1880), 1

"CONCERT OF THE ADELAIDE LIEDERTAFEL", South Australian Register (13 October 1880), 6

Mr. F. Winterbottom afterwards played on the violon-cello with his accustomed good taste and expression one of Schubert's songs and Gounod's "Berceuse," the latter being especially masterly, and eliciting loud applause.

"ADELAIDE STRING QUARTET", The South Australian Advertiser (27 April 1881), 6

"ADELAIDE STRING QUARTET CLUB", The South Australian Advertiser (12 May 1881), 8

"SONG AND DANCE", The Mail (27 June 1914), 9

Bibliography and resources:

The heritage encyclopedia of band music (1991), vol. 2. 289; Self-portrait of Percy Grainger, 20


Orchestral musician, double-bass player

Active Melbourne, VIC, 1888-89


"WINTERBOTTOM V. M'WILLIAMS", Fitzroy City Press (1 February 1889), 3

This was an action to recover a double bass-violin, valued at £35. Mr. Winterbottom was one of those gentlemen Mr. Cowen brought out from England for the Centennial orchestra. He went to lodge with his wife at Mr. M'Williams'. They paid their board regularly, but Mr. Winterbottom having to leave rather unexpectedly for England, told his landlady that he would be obliged to go. This did not please Mrs. M'Williams, who at once demanded a week's board merely in lieu of a week's notice. Mr. Winterbottom refused the demand, and the irate landlady seized the unoffending "double bass," and banged its unfortunate neck against the wall and broke it ...

Bibliography and resources:

William Winterbottom (1821-1889), trombonist.

© Graeme Skinner 2014 - 2018