British Makers and Distributors of the 20th c. click for more

W.G. Coker Banjolele Banjo Ukulele
W. G. Coker
In the 1930's the major British Banjo makers produced a lot of instruments for others, like small distributors, big shops and minor celebrities to re-brand and distribute. Some like Alvin Keech or JeTeL are fairly easy to find information on, but a lot of them I can find very little about beyond the fact that they branded Banjoleles, very often made by GH&S and including the Lion stamp, (it may be the case that some of them were House brands for GH&S?). There were also a number of small British Banjo makers/luthiers at the beginning of the 20th century for whom it is also difficult to find much information on I am including here
One final note and its a General one - If you see a small British made banjo instrument with 8 strings it is a Banjo Mandolin not a Banjolele


The company name on Down South and Handel branded Banjoleles, (they were also the company that imported Carlo Ricardo Ukuleles from Italy), and I can't help thinking it has something to do with J. Thibouville-Lamy & Co. (Jetel) but I've got no proof?

W. G. Coker

W. G. Coker & Co. of London started out as a banjo making partnership between W. G. Coker and G. H. Young in the late 19th Century. The Banjos they made were very heavy and solidly built with a short scale length of about 14 inches; so its likely they didn't start out as meaning to be Banjoleles? They were fitted with Coker's own patent non-slip pegs and trademark, a large raised metal star fixed to the headstock with the name Coker 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

William Hewitt & Sons

I'm not 100% sure that William Hewitt made the Banjolele I have pictured The neck certainly looks like it was made by Dallas (Dallas bodies of this size usually had 10 brackets and the tail-piece isn't a Dallas one but then this could easily be a rebuild from spare parts?). William Hewitt was a famous, (or infamous depending on side of the partition your loyalties lay; and if you believe the ballad of the Ballymote Earthquake?) Belfast Drum Maker and a lot of drum makers did have a go at making Banjos. They might also just have been distributing and sticking their own label on, they still do have a shop in Belfast run by William's Grandson (also William)  Without firm evidence I will give them the benefit of the doubt after all they may have made the drum and brought the necks from Dallas?

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