.. was born in St Saviours Southwark, Surrey (which was incorporated into the county of London on 1st April 1889). In 1864 William Temlett established a workshop for making banjos at 95 Union Street, London, S.E., with F. Roberts in charge of production. (a typo on the original British Banjo Makers web site, and now a lot of others, has this date incorrectly as 1846)
At first, the banjos produced were smooth-arm 6- and 7-string instruments with crude deep wooden hoops of 12 in. and 13 in. diameter and fitted with not more than a dozen heavy brackets and guitar type machine heads. A single machine head was fitted at the side of the neck for the octave string.
On November 20, 1869, Temlett was granted a patent for his first closed-back banjo which can rightly be considered the forerunner of the zither-banjo. This instrument had seven strings and Temlett called his revolutionary new instrument "the suspended sound board banjo." (The principle was used in later years in other banjos, notably the "Vegavox." )
In the 1871 census he was listed as a concertina maker!
By 1876 W. Temlett was making early versions (with very little metalwork in their construction) of what was later to become known as the "zither-banjo" and after Cammeyer had launched his instrument with this name, Temlett called himself "the pioneer of the zither banjo .
A feature of a lot of Temlett's zither banjos was the prolific use of mother-of-pearl inlays. He used decorations down each side of the fingerboard and between each fret and even round the upper edge of the hoop.
When the demand for zither banjos increased to such phenomenal proportions round about 1880, Temlett moved his factory to larger premises at 44 Southwark Bridge Road and there made the thousands of instruments bearing his name and the many hundreds of others sold under various retailers' names.
In 1888 he was granted a patent for a banjo hoop which bulged out with a curve around the bottom; the tension bolts passing through holes in the upper part of this curved bulge and the nuts concealed within the bottom of the bulge. (This idea was later used by other makers, e.g. Gibson in America and Merriman in England.)
Although zither-banjos account for the majority of the instruments made by W. Temlett, he also made some worthwhile open - back five string banjos. Early in 1900 he suffered a paralytic stroke from which he never fully recovered. He died on May 2, 1904, in Guy's hospital of Bright's disease and cerebral haemorrhage.
William Temlett's son, William Ernest, had started work in his father's factory in early boyhood but left at the age of thirty to form his own business. Born in 1865, W. E. Temlett left school at the age of 14 and entered his father's factory and it was not long before he was appointed manager. But as he grew older, disagreements with his father became more frequent and in 1895 he left to form his own business.
He set up a workshop at 29 Charlotte Street, Blackfriars, London, S.E., and for some years keen rivalry waged between father and son.
Pictures courtesy of Brown Dog Banjos
William Temlett Snr. 1841 to 1904