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whats up with the great British banjo co and their Shackleton banjos ?

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May 24, 2020 - 11:34:26 AM
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1632 posts since 2/12/2009
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Inspired by a post saying that the above named were marketing a brand new zither banjo ambitiously priced at £6000, I thought I would check their website, no dice ! website unavailable ! anybody know if this company even still exists ?

May 24, 2020 - 12:13:36 PM

1183 posts since 2/4/2013

I believe they gave up with the banjos and went into clothing instead as The Shackleton Design And Manufacturing Company Ltd.

beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/com.../07169051

Here's an interview with Simon Middleton. More money in clothes I guess.

http://insideretail.com/articles/the-adventures-of-a-menswear-brand/

Edited by - GrahamHawker on 05/24/2020 12:19:45

May 24, 2020 - 1:00:08 PM
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961 posts since 1/9/2012

So sad...

For those who don't know, Arthur Windsor started manufacturing stringed instruments around 1890 and soon was making zither banjos (http://www.zither-banjo.org.uk/pages/windsornew.htm).  The Windsor factory in London was bombed out during WWII and never rebuilt.  ZIther banjos fell into relative disrepute.

Meanwhile, Ernest Shackleton had been on one of the early expeditions to Antarctica.  He didn't make it in his own expedition to the pole.  That honor went to someone else.  Shakleton subsequently launched an effort to be the first to cross Antarctica.  To make a long story short: the ship got suck and then crushed in the ice; the crew was stranded; they were almost two years on an ice floe.  Shakleton and a couple others made a heroic journey to the closest known human outpost -- and all were saved.

Now the banjo connection: one of the youngest members of the crew, Leonard Hussey, brought his Windsor zither banjo along.  When the crew had to abandon ship with only two pounds of personal belongings (as per order of the captain), Hussey left it behind.  BUT Shackelton retrieved it, stating: It's "vital mental medicine!"  Both Shackleton and Hussey (who became a physician and spent most of his life at sea) wrote book-length accounts of the voyage.

I first heard about all this from Bill Evans at a live performance.  He had acquired an old Windsor zither, was enthusiastic about it, and explained that because of their "disrepute" they were available at very reasonable cost.

May 24, 2020 - 1:29:14 PM
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Chris Meakin

Australia

2940 posts since 5/15/2011

quote:
Originally posted by davidppp

So sad...

For those who don't know, Arthur Windsor started manufacturing stringed instruments around 1890 and soon was making zither banjos (http://www.zither-banjo.org.uk/pages/windsornew.htm).  The Windsor factory in London was bombed out during WWII and never rebuilt.  ZIther banjos fell into relative disrepute.

Meanwhile, Ernest Shackleton had been on one of the early expeditions to Antarctica.  He didn't make it in his own expedition to the pole.  That honor went to someone else.  Shakleton subsequently launched an effort to be the first to cross Antarctica.  To make a long story short: the ship got suck and then crushed in the ice; the crew was stranded; they were almost two years on an ice floe.  Shakleton and a couple others made a heroic journey to the closest known human outpost -- and all were saved.

Now the banjo connection: one of the youngest members of the crew, Leonard Hussey, brought his Windsor zither banjo along.  When the crew had to abandon ship with only two pounds of personal belongings (as per order of the captain), Hussey left it behind.  BUT Shackelton retrieved it, stating: It's "vital mental medicine!"  Both Shackleton and Hussey (who became a physician and spent most of his life at sea) wrote book-length accounts of the voyage.

I first heard about all this from Bill Evans at a live performance.  He had acquired an old Windsor zither, was enthusiastic about it, and explained that because of their "disrepute" they were available at very reasonable cost.


Shackleton is commemorated on the back of the 2010 BHO t-shirt.

 

May 24, 2020 - 1:31:42 PM

1632 posts since 2/12/2009
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And I have been close up and personal with Husseys banjo, wow! I have touched it ! a gift from my closest friend, by appointment at the high security storage facility, part of the Royal Greenwich Maritime Museum ! it is still in pretty good shape although all along the treble side of the pot the veneer has blown somewhat, this was where it was lashed to the sledge and stayed quite wet on the long march over the ice, only niggle was somebody at some point had put a maple/ebony Grover bridge on it albeit an old one, maybe Leonard Hussey did this ? The old leather case for it though is just about falling apart due to salt water damage, I was given permission to take any number of pics which I did on the proviso that I do not publish or otherwise share them . Dunno why the secrecy .

May 24, 2020 - 1:33:04 PM

961 posts since 1/9/2012

I got the picture from an article on the Web.  Part of the story was that it was the subject of some law suit.  I presume that's why the "secrecy."  I don't know the outcome.

...signed by the whole crew:


 

Edited by - davidppp on 05/24/2020 13:38:27

May 24, 2020 - 1:47:53 PM

1632 posts since 2/12/2009
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Indeed David, and all the signatures are clear and bold enough to easily read since they were signed back in the UK after the ordeal was over, the lawsuit followed the usual story of some "long lost" family members making a claim of ownership of the banjo, fortunately that was settled a long time ago and, the museum got it in accordance with Dr Husseys wishes .

May 24, 2020 - 3:09:29 PM

617 posts since 1/30/2019
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What a shame if they aren't making banjos anymore.
They did make a new and very ornate zither banjo to commemorate the Shackleton expedition, but I don't know if they sold any. I think they were around £2000. Very pretty and high quality looking. Some of them must exist!

May 25, 2020 - 12:08:52 AM

767 posts since 6/25/2006

About a year ago I got in contact with them as I needed some banjo repairs (( live in Norwich where they were based) - the guy told me that they were closing their business. I think the business was started by Simon Middleton with a crowdfund project to build a British banjo - the Shackleton openback banjo - a light-weight starter banjo - and they marketed clothes, mugs etc. Not sure this helped build a reputation for 'quality'.  Trying to compete with a Deering Goodtime is probably not a good business idea.

Then, I think the business was taken over by the luthiers and they built some nice-looking banjos.  Shame.  

Edited by - hobogal on 05/25/2020 00:12:55

May 25, 2020 - 1:59:37 AM

97 posts since 5/25/2015

Shame it didn't work out. I tried one a few years ago but ended up buying a Goodtime instead. The Shackleton was very solidly built but extremely heavy and sounded quiet. I wonder if anyone else has plans to try to revive factory production in the UK? I was also wondering who owns the rights to some of the old brands?

May 25, 2020 - 8:28:04 AM

767 posts since 6/25/2006

Just noticed on Facebook 'Norfolk County Banjo Company' - think they are starting up again but in early stages.

May 25, 2020 - 8:30:20 AM

767 posts since 6/25/2006

I don't think a UK maker could compete with Chinese-made starter banjos.  There is a small market for custom banjos - mostly open-back clawhammer-style.   
Quote:
Originally posted by gentrixuk

Shame it didn't work out. I tried one a few years ago but ended up buying a Goodtime instead. The Shackleton was very solidly built but extremely heavy and sounded quiet. I wonder if anyone else has plans to try to revive factory production in the UK? I was also wondering who owns the rights to some of the old brands?


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