A comprehensive reference of 219 antique banjo makers for your banjo addiction
was born in Kentish Town, London in 1859 William James Clifford Essex.
In 1882 he disolved the Herbert & Co. Wine Merchant partnership, he had with James Herbert.
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.
Clifford Essex dissolved his partnership with Cammayer in 1900 he formed his own firm at 15a Grafton Street, off 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.
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. 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, London W,
1936 to 1942 90 Shaftesbury Ave., .
1942 to 1957 8 New Compton St.,
1957 on 20 Earlham Street.
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