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Arthur John Wilmshurst   1862 to 1946

union jack
Wilmshurst side
Wilmshurst zither

... came on the scene as a maker of banjos -- and more especially zither-banjos -- about 1890 at 3 Layard Road, Bermondsey, London, S.E.  He was always a "One man" concern who specialised in his own zither-banjos, which were easily identifiable by the ornate metal fretwork (backed by coloured silk) between the straining, hoop and the outer casing of the instrument.


This metal fretwork was not purely for decoration as Wilmshurst clearly identified that it solved the problem with zither banjos where the round wooden "pot", when under the tension of the strings, distorted to oval resulting in an instrument with a high, and often unplayable, action.   Windsor and others tried to solve this problem with his zither banjos by inserting an adjustable shoe between the drum and the heel.


In 1891 he was granted a patent for a zither-banjo, in which the vellum was held between two clamping rings screwed together the screw bolts taking their bearing in the hoop. He was the only maker of banjos to exhibit at the Earls Court Industrial Exhibition in 1894;  one of his exhibits being designated his 'patent Unique Adjustable Banjo'--- a zither-banjo in which all unnecessary fittings have been dispensed with. He advertised extensively and, as his own travelling salesman, sold hundreds of instruments.


In addition, he made for other firms, e.g. Ebblewhite, Turner, Essex & Cammeyer etc. Initiall his workshop was a small back room in the house in which be lived. He married in 1904 and by 1911 he had moved half a mile onto the high street at 128 Southwark Park Road, Bermondsey S E London and was still there in 1915.


He died on March 1st, 1946 at the age of 83, and the Clifford Essex Music Co. Ltd. purchased his stock of timber, spare parts and unfinished instruments.


Note the rolled over back to the pot on the fretless.


5 string fretless images courtesy of David Neve

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