George Houghton & Sons

pre 1960 GH&S "Melody-Uke" Flanged Resonator Soprano Banjolele
My Melody Uke

GH&S "The Marvel" Open Back Soprano Banjolele
My Marvel
George Houghton established his Reliance Works in Heaton Street, Birmingham in 1888 and the range of banjos and zither-banjos he made were often branded Reliance. As the firm grew, the name changed to G. Houghton & Sons and production was increased to make OEM instruments for other firms to be branded with their own Name or Logo.

Houghton's also kept their own range on the market usually marked with a gold-embossed lion, British Made, and sometimes with the initials G. H. & S. underneath - the Lion and British Made often featured on models they produced for other to brand. They had a number of their own model brand names too that often featured across the middle of the headstock, Some model names I have seen on Banjoleles, as well as Reliance are, Melody Uke, Melody Major, Melody Junior and the Marvel. I have also seen them marked with model and one or more letters on the headstock (this signified the number in the catalogue).

As one of the major British manufacturers of the time they had their own Music Hall Star endorsements too. Theirs was Harold Walden, a man largely forgotten now but in the 20's and 30's was a music hall bill topper with a couple of films to his credit, (and also prior to his music hall career he was a gold medallist at the 1912 Olympics and a professional footballer with Bradford and Arsenal).

There are other names that you find on GH&S made instruments too and I find it tricky here as I don't know if these were Houghton Brands or OEM? One that really confuses me is the Ivory Queen. The Central label style is exactly that of GH&S brands but I have seen Ivory Queen Tenor Banjos that also have a B&S Masters plaque on too? Another is Sunray which again has a GH&S type label but I have also seen the name linked with Savana. the Rose Morris brand?

In 1962, town-planning development in Birmingham plus staff difficulties finally decided George Houghton, (son of the founder), to close down and he moved to London to become associated with John E. Dallas & Sons The plant and materials and a few of his key workers he brought from Birmingham was established in a factory at 12 Gravel Hill, Bexleyheath, Kent, and from that time until he retired in 1965 he made the inexpensive banjos sold under the Dallas label

One final note and its a General one - If you see a small banjo instrument with 8 strings it is a Banjo Mandolin not a Banjolele

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