Last update 06/04/2008
If you own a British banjo listed and have a picture of it that could be included in this
listing I would be be pleased to include it. Please photograph it in front of a very light
coloured back ground (Hang up a old bed sheet) and light it up with as many portable
lights as you have! Close up shots of various details Peghead, 5th string peg, inlay,
neck heel, neck connection add viewing pleasure!!
"British Makers Ancient " was abstracted
from the The Banjo Story by A.P.Sharpe serialised in the B.M.G.Magazine 1971-1973
British Banjo Makers Ancient Part 1
Abbot to Goodman
John G. Abbott was a maker of banjos from about 1890 and sold under his own name and made
for other firms and teachers (e.g. Barnes & Mullins, John Alvey Turner, Norton Greenop,
Charles Skinner. Len Shevill, G. Scarth).When Barnes &, Mullins came to London in 1901,and
soon after, started their own workshops at Harrow, Middx. John G. Abbott supervised the
making of the Barnes & Mullins banjos and zither-banjos. In 1905 he left Barnes & Mullins
to form his own company with the title of J. G. Abbott & Co. and a factory at 97/99
Hampstead Road, London, N.W.l. The instruments they made were grouped under the General
names of "Mirabile"(banjos),"Monarch" (plectrum-banjo and tenor-banjos) and Amboyna"
(Zither-banjos). About 1928 his workshops were transferred to 44 Chalton Street,Euston Road
(where his son-learned the art of instrument making) and four years later he became, part of
the Besson Co., when his works were transferred to Besson’s premises at Stanhope Place,
Marble Arch, London, when the making of banjos virtually ceased, his activities being
devoted to making plectrum guitars (sold under the brand of "Aristone").In 1936 he suffered
from serious internal trouble from which he never fully recovered. He died on February 11,
1938 after a brief illness. John ("Jack") Abbott - son of the above learned the craft of
instrument making in his father’s workshops. When his father joined Besson & Co. in 1932,
he established his own one room work-shops at various addresses in London for the making of,
mostly, guitars. He did make a few banjos which were branded "Abbott-Victor’.
He gave up business in 1957.
5 String Abbott gallery
4 String Abbott gallery
Taylor’s Site - Ukeleles .Abbott uke plus others (Van Allen)
Will Van Allen (whose real name was William Dodds) was a highly successful variety artist who
used the banjo in his act. At the turn of the century. He was conducting a successful
teaching studio at 38 Newington Butts, London, but his increasing professional engagements
made it necessary for him to finally give up teaching. In 1902 he toured the U.S.A. for
twelve months. It is not known when lie first started to make banjos, but his first models
were called "Revelation", the wood hoop of which was covered by an S-shaped metal casing with
a projecting flange at the bottom through which the brackets passed. When he went into
partnership with Olly Oakley in 1926 with a shop at 61, Charing Cross Road, London, the
"Will Van Allen" banjos, well made modern instruments, appear to have been products of the
John G. Abbott workshops. He dissolved his partnership with "Olly Oakley in 1929 or 1930
and very few Van Allen banjos appeared to have been sold after this date.
Taylor’s Site - Ukeleles .Van Allen
Towards the end of the 1920’s three engineer brothers named Barnes in the Woolwich area
decided to make banjos They slavishly copied the Essex "Paragon" model and named their
product "Paratone". At a superficial glance it was difficult to tell the two makes apart,
it is not known when they ceased making banjos
BARNES & MULLINS
Samuel Bowley Barnes and Edward Mullins were boyhood friends in their home town of Bournemouth
As young men they decide to join forces to become dealers in musical instruments; mainly
selling, and mandolins in which they were particularly interested. Being- players of no mean
ability. their public appearances helped them to sell their goods and soon they were
despatching instruments all over the country because of their advertising and the launching
(in February 1894) of their monthly fretted Instrument magazine called "The ’Jo"(*) They
started to sell their "own" make of banjo but
these were made for them by J. G. Abbott, W, E. Temlett. Windsor, Matthews, etc. - the usual
makers "to the trade" at that time. It was in 1897 they patented their "mute attachment"
which was fitted to B. & M. zither-banjos and worked from under the vellum. At the end of
1900 they moved to London and established themselves at Rathbone Place, off London’s Oxford
Street, as a wholesale house in all musical instruments and merchandise and, soon after,
started their own workshops at Harrow, Middx. which at first were under the supervision of
John G Abbott. During the dance-band boom they marketed- their "Lyratone" banjos plectrum
banjos and tenor-banjo which enjoyed considerable popularity. A feature of these instruments
was the all-metal construction of the hoops. They ceased making banjos soon after the
outbreak of World War 11. the instruments branded "B. & M". sold from about 1965, have been
made for them in Germany.
"The (*) "The ’Jo" title was changed to "The Troubadour" after a couple of years.
Ball Beavon established a wholesale musical instrument business in Pinder Street, Bishopsgate,
London, in the 1880’s and ’although he marketed. banjos bearing his name as maker. they
were made for him by Matthews and Houghten of Birmingham. In the days of the 7-string banjo,
he sold an unfretted instrument with 40 brackets on the hoop and fitted with push in pegs.
The firm went out of business during the 1914-18 when, probably due to the cessation of
supplies of cheap musical instruments and merchandise from the Continent.
This maker had premises in High Street, Peckham, London and flourished during the banjo
"boom" (1880 to 1914) and is said to have been a maker of cheap zither-banjos for the retail
trade. Many of the zither-banjos ,in the shops for less than £1 at this time would have been
produced by him.
When the American James Bohee established his teaching. studio in Coventry Street. London,
in 1882 he first sold S. S. Stewart banjos at exorbitant prices to his pupils but before
long he decided it was more profitable to sell his "own" banjos. These had a 12 inch hoop,
plain nickel-silver, fingerboard without any fret markings, and push-in ivory pegs. It is
said he was a shrewd business man and asked as much as £50 for one of his banjos a truly
great price when one realises the highest-priced instruments at that time.. were 9 or 10
guineas. Bohee banjos were branded "Champion" and Alfred Weaver made the majority of them,
although some were said to have been made by Arthur Tilley of Surbiton. Bohee died in 1897.
Banjos and zither banjos bearing the name made of Boosey and Co., of London were made in the
early 1900’s by both Windsor and Weaver, while a few of the cheaper models here of German
origin.When the dance-band boom started in the early 1920’s the banjos sold under the Boosey
name were imported from the U.S.A.Boosey & Co. became incorporated with Hawkes & Co. in
1930 to become Boosey & Hawkes Ltd.
T. Bostock, of Rosoman Street, Clerkenwell, London, was a wholesale maker of banjos and
zither-banjos from about 1880 to the middle 1920’s when nothing further is heard of him.
J.E. (John Edward) Brewster was a teacher. and player of the banjo who was born in
Twillingate, Newfoundland, and came to England about 1872. He established a successful
teaching connection in London and became well known for his public performances and
contributions to fretted instrument publications. He was the author of "The Brewster
Banjoist" and compiled "Howard’s Banjo Tutor’ and Chappell’s New Banjo ’Tutor". He
was a skilled wood-worker and in 1873 set up a small workshop in London’s Oxford Street
with John E. Dallas (q.v.).In 1896 he was granted a patent pertaining to zither-banjo
construction in conjunction with a Richard Langham but all the banjos and zither banjos
he sold bearing his name as maker were actually made for him in the workshops of John E.
Dallas. He died in Paris on August 15th, 1912.
Richard Langham not to confused with Frederick Langham of Battersea, London
(who lodged a patent for a roller nut in co-op with W.E.Temlett 1898)
He was well spoken of as a "pioneer" by Cammeyer, in Banjo World
The range of banjos sold under the name of "Broadcaster" were stamped:
"Made by J. & A. M. of London".
In actual fact they were made by the huge furniture, gramophone and radio company
J.& A.Margolin Ltd. The banjos were inexpensive instruments, their wooden hoops being
covered with nacrolaque, as were the fingerboards. The metal work (bezel, shoes,
brackets, tailpiece, etc.) was of very thin lacquered brass.
Bromley, of Camden Town, London, has been noted as a maker of banjos but details of
his activities and/or his instruments have not been discovered.
A display advertisement in the April 1928 issue of "B.M.G." proclaimed:-
BUCHANAN BANJOS Makers and repairers of all fretted instruments. 6 Granville St. West,
GLASGOW, C.3.but nothing has been discovered about "Buchanan" banjos nor has any other
advertisement about them been found.From early 1927 to late 1940 a Miss Elizabeth
Buchanan of the above address advertised herself as a teacher of the Banjo, Tenor-banjo,
Mandolin, Guitar and Ukulele and, for a period, her advertisements included "instruments
repaired on the premises".
A zither-banjo marked "Butler, Haymarket, London" passed through the hands of A.P Sharpe
but no details of this maker of (or, possibly, dealer in) musical instruments have been
When Clifford Essex arid Alfred D. Cammeyer dissolved partnership in 1900, Cammeyer took
over the workshops (established in 1896 at 13 Greek Street, Soho) for the production of
Cammayer instruments. These were mainly zither-banjos but some banjos (and later,
plectrum banjos and tenor banjos) were made. The man in charge of the workshops was
Sidney W. Young who was responsible for the designs of the famous "Vibrante" and
"Vibrante Royal" zither-banjos and the "New Era" banjos bearing the Cammeyer name.
When Cammeyer retired from business ill 1939, Sidney Young took over the workshop at
Richmond Buildings, Soho, and continued to make instruments under his own name up to
the outbreak of World War 11. After the war he established a workshop at 70 New Oxford St.,
"here he worked in conjunction with John Alvey Turner Ltd. until his retirement in 1963.
When Cammeyer died in 1949, Mr. Young acquired the stock of Cammeyer "parts" and timber
and from these Produced many "Vibrante" zither banjos but these instruments do not carry
the facsimile signature of Alfred D. Cammeyer, which first appeared on Cammeyer
instruments after July 1st, 1900 and was attached to all his instruments until the date
of his retirement.
Joseph Chamberlain was born in Leicester on June .5th 1898 and learned the craft of
woodworking from his father. He started to make banjos in the 1910’s. Although his
main activity started to make banjos ill the 1920’s, although his main activity was
teaching arid conducting a successful music shop with emphasis on the fretted
instruments.He concentrated on producing one grade of high-class banjo, although he
was known to have produced a cheaper instrument of varying design at different times
during his banjo-making days. Since 1939, when he ceased to make banjos, he was
concerned mainly with making -guitars. He died in 1967.
J. Clamp, of Newcastle, appears to have started to make banjos (unfretted) about the
year 1890. He later made some fretted banjos and zither-banjos. A player who told
A.P Sharpe he knew J. Clamp, said that he did not make more than about thirty
instruments during. his lifeline. The instruments bearing the name of Clamp are
extremely well made and many have elaborately carved necks at the head and heel.
L. (Leon) Clerc was born in London about 1864 and made his debut as a banjoist at
the age of 18 with "The Star Minstrels" an amateur organisation. When he was 22 he
had become established as a teacher of the banjo in London’s East End and about the
year 1888 he opened a factory at 44, 46 -& 48 Commercial Street, Shoreditch, London,
for the manufacture of musical instruments and his banjos and zither-banjos carried
the brand names of "Athena", "Crescent" and "Marvel". In 1891 he formed the "Athena
Quartet" which became known in all the best concert halls in and around London and
did much to publicise Clerc’s own make of instruments. Production appears to have
ceased about 1908.
The banjo-making firm of W. G. Coker & Co. of London was, in the beginning, a
partnership between W. G. Coker and G. H. Young; sometime prior to 1886 for in that
year they took out a patent for "doing away with the necessity of drilling holes
in the banjo hoop for the shoes" by using a "ring, angular in section something like
the figure 7", this being either "hooked on to the hoop or attached by means of a
flange turned round at the lower edge of the hoop". It is also interesting to note
that in the patent specification they also suggested a flanged bezel - an idea used
by several modern makers of banjos both in America and England. The banjos these two
craftsman made were extremely heavy instruments, solidly built and all with a short
scale length of about 14 inch. They were fitted with Coker’s own patent non-slip
pegs which had a knurled adjusting screw at the top to tighten the mechanism and,
if necessary, lock it. Coker’s "trade mark" was a large raised metal star fixed to
the face of the peg head on which the name Coker was-punched in. Young eventually
left, and the name of the firm was changed to W’ G. Coker & Son with the address of
41 Melville Road, London, E.17. No instruments were made after Coker’s death in 1954(?).
In 1895 the London firm of Essex & Cammeyer was appointed British agents for the
Cole (Boston U.S.A.) banjos
Born in 1856 John E. Dallas started to make banjos with J E. Brewster in a small
workshop in London’s Oxford Street in 1873 and two years later set up as a publisher
and banjo maker at 415 Strand, from which address it is said he made banjos for the
Moore & Burgess Minstrels and the Mohawk Minstrels. Dallas was a fine wood craftsman
who fashioned some exceptionally high-class banjos and zither-banjos.
By 1893 the demand for his instruments made it necessary for him to take over the
entire premises at 415 Strand; enlarge. his workshops; and employ men to make the
large range of instruments he had put on the market. For some years he advertised that
he personally tested every banjo and zither-banjo before it left his workshops.
At the height of the banjo boom he was making banjos and zither-banjos for other firms
and teachers and some of the latter whose "branded" instruments were made for them by
Dallas included W.H Plumbridge (Brighton), J. E. Brewster (London) and Norton Greenop
(London). In 1905-6 the three sons of John.E.Dallas were rewarded for theirwork with
the firm and were given directorships and the firm’s title changed to John E. Dallas
& Sons. In February 1914 the firm moved to 202 High Holborn and by the late 1920’s
the banjos and zither-banjos bearing the company’s name were truly mass-produced
instruments and started to bear the trade name of "Jedson". John E. Dallas died in
1921 and in August of that year the firm became a private limited company. Soon the
activities of the company had spread far beyond the fretted instruments and with it
came growth. In 1926 the firm moved to larger premises , at 6-10 Betterton Street,
Covent Garden, London, W.C.2 and there started to lay the foundation for the large w
holesale distribution of everything musical for which the firm is today known. In 1937
the house of Dallas moved to Ridgmount Street and finally to the present address in
Clifton Street, E.C.2. In June 1947 John E. Dallas & Sons Ltd. became a public company
with an issued share capital of £500,000. With the outbreak of World War 11, Dallas
ceased to make banjos but in 1947 they started to produce in small quantities the
inexpensive banjos which have been sold by music shops throughout the country. These
-bear the "Jedson" trade mark but are in no way comparable to the pre-war instruments
bearing the same name. It was in 1963 that the Houghton works in Birmingham were closed
down and George Houghton set up workshops for the Dallas company at Bexleyheath, Kent
and it was from here that most of the post-war banjos bearing the Dallas name have been
Performer, composer, arranger and teacher of the banjo, Joe Daniels (whose real name
was Joseph Toledano) established a studio at 28 Bishopsgate Street, London, in 1870 and,
after a few years, moved to 112 Leadenhall Street where lie started to advertise himself
as "Musical Instrument Maker" and teacher of the banjo, ,mandolin and guitar-in addition
to stage dancing. In 1887 lie took out a patent for a metal casing (or sound box") round
the banjo hoop and a spring device to keep down the pressure bar of the banjo tailpiece.
Later be patented his ’Defiance’ banjo which had a 9 in. velum glued direct on to a 1/4in
square bezel thought which straining bolts passed to engage in a flange fixed to an all
metal resonator-type back. The metal hoop had oval-shape vents cut into it at regular
intervals all the way round its perimeter. The metal used in this unusual banjo was very
thin aluminium (or some other lightweight alloy) and the instrument was extremely light
to handle. It is doubtful whether Daniels actually made the instruments himself. The
hoops were obviously spun and the conventional arm used could have been made in the w
orkshops of John E. Dallas. It is possible that Daniels assembled the instruments so in
effect he could rightly call himself an "instrument maker". The Prince of Wales (later
King Edward VII) presented Daniels with a silver medallion inscribed with the Fleur de
Lys and this was fixed to the peghead of the banjo Joe Daniels always played in his
public performances. He died in March 1915, at the age of 73.
W. G. Davis, of 60 Colombo Road, llford, and then 100 Felbrigge Road, Goodmayes,
was a successful teacher of the fretted instruments in the llford Forest Gate and
Romford areas 0 Essex who flourished from soon after 1900 up to 1936. He sold a high-
class well-made banjo which bore his name and address as "maker" but the characteristics
of these instruments seem to indicate they were made for him by J. G. Abbott. He moved
from Felbrigge Road in April 1930 and no banjos appear to have been sold by him after
A.W. Deane, of Reading, Berks., put his name as maker on banjos round about the turn of
the century’. A specimen seen had a 101.inch hoop of nickel silver with 36 brackets.
’The fingerboard was inlaid with 171 frets; the remaining space of the fingerboard being
taken up with of a large crescent and star in mother-of-pearl inlaid into the ebony.
’The ornate inlays in the fingerboard were of mother of pearl and diamonti stars.
No details have been discovered of Deane but it is possible he was a local teacher and
the banjos were made for him -possibly Windsor or Abbott.
J. C. Bertolle was born in 1 874. His father was a banjoist and he taught his son to
play the instrument at an early age. By 1897 he was playing duets in public with
another banjo player named Heght and a year later organised a banjo club from his pupils.
By then he had become a professional photographer with studios at 268 Caledonian Road,
London, but managed to give between 30 and 40 banjo lessons everyweek. In 1898 he
formed a pilaying partner-ship with Gordan Tait and calling themselves "The Dexters"
made their concert debut ,at a Cammeyer concert. Within a short time they had played
at most of the concert halls within fifty miles of London. They were hailed as the
"British Mays and Hunter". The instruments they played were "Dexter" banjos sold
exclusively by Bertolle who, in his advertisements said he made them - but this is
doubtful. It has been found impossible to who made the high grade banjos but it could
have been Richard Spencer as they have all the features of the early Spencer instruments.
No "Dexter" banjos appear to have been sold after about 1930.
The firm of Douglas & Co., of 7 South Street, London, E.C., sold zither banjos with their
name etched on a small celluloid disc let into the peghead. The design on the back of
these instruments indicates they were made by G. Houghton of Birmingham.
A.V. Ebblewhite established a wholesale and retail musical merchandise establishment in
Aldgate London, in 1840 and started to make banjos in the early 1880’s; mostly of the
smooth arm type);-- with 12in. hoops--five, six and seven-string model. Between the
years 1901 and 1918 they sold (as wholesalers and retailers)a -great number of zither
banjos bearing the name of Ebblewhite ’as maker but these where made by Arthur Windsor
(a personal friend of Ebblewhite), Wilmshurst (of London) and Matthews (of Birmingham).
They ceased to market their banjos soon after the outbreak of World War 1. The firm
closed down in 1966 soon after the death of the son of the founder.
Jimmie Edwards, well-known as a teacher of the banjo in and around Ilford, designed and
made a specialt type plectrum-banjo in 1927. It had a zither-banjo type hoop with a 10in
vellum, with the neck joined to the body with "shoulders". The open-type back of the hoop
incorporated a sunken reflector plate about 1 in. from the base of the hoop, the wall
being made of metal with round outlet holes some 2 in. Apart. Mr. Edwards’ father was a
wood worker of some considerable skill who had taught his son to use the tools of his
trade. Jimmie Edwards had also spent some time watching the young Jack Abbott making
banjos and in 1927 he designed and started to make the instruments that bore his name.
Over a period of years he made between 40 and 50 but increasing professional engagements
and other activities connected with the entertainment profession eventually forced him
to discontinue making banjos. In 1938 he commissioned Jack Abbott to make him a special
banjo to his design and Jimmie Edwards used this instrument throughout World War 11 to
entertain the troops in ten different countries. In 1963 Mr. Edwards resumed making
banjos (copying this special Abbott-made instrument) but he is kept so busy teaching
that his output has been limited to two or three instruments each year.
When Clifford Essex dissolved his partnership with Cammayer in 1900 he formed his own
firm at 15a Grafton Street, New Bond Street, London. W. and instruments bearing. the
name Clifford Essex Co." were put on the market. At first all the banjos were made
for Clifford Essex-by Spencer, Weaver, Langham (in London) and Houghton (of Birmingham)
-but in 1904 he started his own workshops at The Oval, Kensington, with Alfred Dare
as foreman. When Richard Spencer died in 1915, Clifford Essex bought his plant and
stock and took his key makers into his employ. Although most of the CIifford Essex
banjos sold in the early days were made in the Clifford Essex workshops, many he were
still made by the above-mentioned outside makers; notably Richard Spencer. The Weaver-
made banjos were made to Weaver’s own design although they were sold with the Clifford
Essex label on them. In December 1919 the firm’s title was changed to "Clifford Essex
& Son" and by then only their cheapest model (The "Popular’;) was made outside their own
work-shops-by Houghton of Birmingham. In February 1936 the firm became a private
limited company and the title changed to "Clifford-Essex & Son Ltd.’. Soon after the
outbreak of World War II the manufacture of banjos (and other instruments) was greatly
reduced owing,, to shortage of materials and the military call-up of workmen. When the
firm went into liquidation in 1942 manufacture ceased. The new company. with the title
"Clifford Essex . Music Co. Ltd." has made a few -special" banjos since 1945 and these
bear the initials "C.E." in mother-of pearl inlaid into the peghead. From the cheapest
to the dearest (£3.10.0. to £60) Clifford Essex banjos carried the following model names
: Popular" "Clipper", "Imperial", "C.E. Special", Boudoir Grand", "Professional"
(the only 12 in. hoop model), "Regal", "X.X.’Special" (later called, Concert Grand"),
"Paravox" (an instrument designed on the ’.Vegavox" lines with an 11 in. vellum,
"Paragon". ::New Paragon", "Paragon Artist" and Paragon de Luxe" (the last two being
gold plated). In addition tile firm produced three grades of zither-banjo: "Grade 111"
(the cheapest), "Grade 11" and "Grade 1’. To enable an owner of a Clifford Essex banjo
to "date" his instrument, one can tell by the address in conjunction with the firm’s title.
1900 to 1936 15a Grafton Street.,
1936 to 1942 90 Shaftesbury Ave., .
1942 to 1957 8 New Compton St.,
1957 on 20 Earlham Street.closed Dec 31/ 1977)
Clifford Essex Site . All models, history, catalogues etc.
ESSEX & CAMMAYER
In 1893 Clifford Essex and Alfred D. Cammeyer formed a partnership with offices and
teaching studios at 59 Piccadilly, London. At first, the banjos and zither-banjos
they sold under the brand name of "Essex & Cammeyer" where made for them by Temlett,
Weaver, Wilmshurst and Windsor but early in 1896 they opened their own workshops at
13 Greek Street, Soho, and were soon employing fourteen workmen to make banjos and
zither-banjos for them. The partnership was dissolved in 1900 when no more "Essex &
Cammeyer" instruments were produced. A Clifford Essex instrument bearing the label
"Clifford Essex Co." was made between 1900 and 1919., "Clifford Essex &, Son", between
1919 and 1936; "Clifford Essex and Son Ltd." between 1936 and 1942; "Clifford Essex
Music Co. Ltd." after 1945. It should be emphasised that every Clifford Essex banjo
(except the "Popular" model) was hand-made and each instrument individually assembled
which often accounts for slight variations in models.
A. Goodman of 156 Beresford Street, MossSide, Manchester, was a successful teacher
of the banjo from the late 1920’s up to the outbreak of World War 11. The banjos
bearing his name as maker were well-made instruments of high class but without any
outstanding characteristics. It is not known whether he made the instruments
himself although it is possible as he always advertised himself as a repairer of