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Jun 18, 2024 - 6:11:43 AM
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4 posts since 6/18/2024

Hi any ideas on value and history of this 7 string Banjo ?


Jun 18, 2024 - 2:06:16 PM

167 posts since 2/4/2010

Typical tunbridgeware English 7-string from the late 1860s-1870s . Limited market but an interesting banjo.Perhaps try contacting Pamela Wilson, a well know UK collector as she has owned quite a few .

Jun 18, 2024 - 2:35:08 PM

4 posts since 6/18/2024

quote:
Originally posted by Jim Bollman

Typical tunbridgeware English 7-string from the late 1860s-1870s . Limited market but an interesting banjo.Perhaps try contacting Pamela Wilson, a well know UK collector as she has owned quite a few .


 

Hi Thankyou Jim your information is most interesting 

Jun 18, 2024 - 2:44:30 PM

453 posts since 6/20/2020

This example has Tunbridge decorated panels around the rim but not the wood 'mosaic' decorated fingerboard that was typical of this style of banjo. It has it's original tailpiece too. Contemporary dealers stamps provide evidence that these banjos were sold by retailers hundreds of miles from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, the town associated with this particular decorative style. Partly the result of the new rail network and partly due to the likelihood that the decorated panels were available commercially as decorative inserts and the banjos themselves probably not all manufactured in Kent.

Value? Nicely decorated and in good original condition I would expect to be able to pick one of these Tunbridge decorated banjos up at auction here for £250-£400, maybe less on a good day. As with any auction it entirely depends on the interest and who is bidding. They appear quite regularly and though, through their age alone, are relatively thin on the ground they are not what would be categorised as 'rare'. The example I own cost me £300. In the US you can find examples for sale at $1500+. There was one in BHO classifieds recently at $1600; it's not there now and doesn't appear to be in the sold section so I guess the seller pulled his ad. Is that their US 'value'? The examples at that price never appear to sell so I can't confirm if there are buyers willing to stump up that amount of money. Realised UK hammer price is what I'm going on.

There is history of 6 and 7-string early English banjo underway based on detailed and extensive research of 19th century primary sources and with practical playing of original instruments forming a technical and audio element of that research. Historic neglect of any form of credible study has meant that most of what passed for 'information' on 6 and 7-string banjos in England was little more than guesswork and, as one might expect where there is neglect and lack of care, littered with inaccuracies. The audio element of this research project can be found here: 

https://www.youtube.com/@earlyenglishbanjo/videos

https://earlyenglishbanjo.blogspot.com

Edited by - Pomeroy on 06/18/2024 15:08:26

Jun 18, 2024 - 3:14:13 PM

453 posts since 6/20/2020

Jun 19, 2024 - 12:50:10 AM

453 posts since 6/20/2020

It looks like bringing your banjo back to playable condition would be fairly straightforward. You're missing two tension hooks/nuts. Finding original replacements may be difficult. But finding someone to make exact copies in brass and age them is an option.

Please keep the original/old vellum. That is intrinsic to the narrative of your banjo and informative in itself. The small split is unlikely to affect playability. If it bothers you it can be carefully patched from the reverse.

The scale length (nut to bridge measurement) will probably be around 24". I'll be happy to advice you on historically correct string choice for the scale length and string spacing at the bridge. The banjo has it's original nut in good unaltered condition, and the 7th string pip. Are the machine heads complete and in undamaged working order?

Overall it looks from the dust build up that your banjo has been relegated to an upright wall hanger for a long time. Avoid heavy-handed polishing. A light and careful clean with cotton buds to lift the dust layer without touching the patina is what I do. The treatment of these era banjos as inert display 'curios' is symptomatic of the neglect, absence of research and consequent lack of knowledge and understanding. In fact, cared for and correctly set up, they play beautifully and have a wonderful distinctive tone shaped by the resonance of the two additional bass strings. And these banjos relate to a contemporary  repertoire.

 

ps. if you have time to measure the width of the fingerboard where it meets the rim and let me know the measurement in millimeters I can add this information to our records. This measurement may also enable a more accurate confirmation of the date-range of manufacture of your banjo. 

Edited by - Pomeroy on 06/19/2024 01:06:28

Jun 19, 2024 - 2:05:06 AM

4 posts since 6/18/2024

Hi thankyou for this fascinating information the fretboard is 340mm and the width at the point nearest the drum 62mm I have added a few more photos this Banjo was in my grandad's hallway as a wall hanger for many years I don't know how he came to be with it. His family came from the Langford Area Oxfordshire.






Jun 19, 2024 - 3:25:05 AM

453 posts since 6/20/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Lafford

Hi thankyou for this fascinating information the fretboard is 340mm and the width at the point nearest the drum 62mm I have added a few more photos this Banjo was in my grandad's hallway as a wall hanger for many years I don't know how he came to be with it. His family came from the Langford Area Oxfordshire.


Ivor, thank you for the neck width measurement. 62mm suggests that your banjo probably dates from c.1868 or after. It's not an exact science but our data does show that 7-string necks generally narrowed into the 1870's. 60-62mm was the fairly consistent measurement in the early 1870's. The earlier examples often had a neck width at the rim of 66 or 68mm. That date is also consistent with the flush frets and machine heads.

The machine heads that I can see don't look to have any significant mishaping or bent gear teeth. That's a good sign that they are likely in working order.

It's fascinating to read that this banjo was in your Grandad's possession and that you have a long connection with it. Please don't hesitate to ask if I can be of any further help. 

Jun 19, 2024 - 3:31:49 AM

453 posts since 6/20/2020

Is the bridge that we can see slotted for 7-strings? That information would give us an indication of it's playing history. Some of these 7-string banjos were adapted in the 1880's to 6-string set up. Later in the 20th century we find examples of 7-string banjos continuing in use adapted as 5-string. The original unaltered nut suggests that your banjo wasn't adapted in this way.

Edited by - Pomeroy on 06/19/2024 03:36:59

Jun 19, 2024 - 12:17:38 PM

4 posts since 6/18/2024

Hi here's some more photos to help see the slots




Jun 19, 2024 - 12:26:57 PM

1807 posts since 3/1/2012

Flush frets as opposed to raised frets, so probably 1870s.

Jun 20, 2024 - 12:33:43 AM

453 posts since 6/20/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Lafford

Hi here's some more photos to help see the slots


The fingerboard and headstock front are ebony rather than black-painted wood. That's an indication of the care that went into making this banjo. If you slightly dampen the cotton buds this and the contrasting flush frets will clean up really beautifully.

At some point we can see from what remains that a player put wire strings on which are not suitable for this banjo. That was a very common common 20th century occurrence. If you have time to post a photo of the bridge that we can see laying flat under the tailpiece that would be interesting too.

Jun 20, 2024 - 1:19:32 AM

453 posts since 6/20/2020

Most of what get referred to as Tunbridge-decorated banjos have some form of that characteristic decoration on the fingerboard and rim. That yours has a plain neck makes it interesting from a social aspect. I suspect that the examples we see here with inlaid panel rims were manufactured in quite high numbers and offered with the option of a range of similar pattern necks from highly decorated, through simply decorated to plain. This suggests both volume production and an intention to retail at a differentiated price range.

We are accruing evidence of numerous large scale English banjo manufactories in London and the provinces in the 1860's and early-to-mid 1870's. As yet we don't have conclusive evidence which of these manufactories were producing which style(s) of banjo. In some specific cases in London we do have evidence of which manufactories were supplying which dealers. 

Edited by - Pomeroy on 06/20/2024 01:26:13

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