World record breaker in 1930s Holbeach

Len Hall, aged 31, when he succeeded in breaking the world record for non-stop playing.
Len Hall, aged 31, when he succeeded in breaking the world record for non-stop playing.
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An unemployed Holbeach warehouseman’s world record-breaking feat in the 1930s has become the stuff of legend in his family.

Len Hall’s Band broke the world record for non-stop playing in January 1931 when they played dance music continuously for 12 hours at the Park Hall in Holbeach.

The story was relayed to Len’s grandaughter Anne Hoyle about 40 years ago by her grandmother.

It was the first time Anne had heard the tale – and the first and only photograph of him she had seen – because Len died when her mother was still young.

Sadly, the newspaper clipping has been mislaid over the years and Anne approached these newspapers for more information about Len’s feat.

Len (31) and his band played dance music continuously for 12 hours, starting at 11am in the morning in the presence of a few helpers and time keeper Mr C Blackbourn.

They finished at 11 o’clock that night, to the cheers of 600 dancers who had come to support them and twirl around the dance floor to fox-trots, waltzes, one-steps and tangos.

Len was thumping the piano while his fellow record breakers were carpenter Mr W Tatam (banjo), Long Sutton fruit grower Mr H Howes (drums) and chauffeur Mr H Cook (violin).

Len drank no more than one cup of water while the rest of the band were sustained by cups of Oxo.

Len’s younger sister Mary and dance partner Eileen Keight started dancing at 11am and danced continuously until 5.20pm when Mary had to go to work at the town’s Hippodrome.

Eileen continued dancing with Arthur Hallam, described as “the popular Holbeach RAC Scout”, and they danced until 8pm, by which time she had danced nine hours without stopping.

Inspired by this, Miss L Cox and Mr F Larrington began dancing at 5pm and kept on until 11pm when the band retired, to rousing cheers from the dance floor.

The reporter of the time was clearly impressed, describing Holbeach as a “go ahead little fenland town”. He caught up with Len the next day in Mr Blackbourn’s chocolate and sweet shop in Holbeach.

The reporter was even more impressed to learn Len and the band were playing at a dance at Whaplode the night before the challenge until after midnight and had been out at dances in the district each evening during the week.