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BANKS James & BANKS Henry
in London
BJ (1756 - 1831) - BH (?- 1830)


"[...] As the two brothers, James and Henry Banks, appear to have been associated together, or partners in the musical business soon, if not immediately, after the death of the father, they will not be separated in this account.

James Banks was the fourth son, and Henry Banks the sixth son of the first-named Benjamin Banks, both of whom were born in Salisbury. James seemed to inherit, as an artisan, all the excellencies of his parent.

He worked from the same patterns, the style of finishing being similar and the tint of varnish the same; but occasionally the red-coloured varnish had more black in it than was used by the father.

Henry Banks did not work at the violin trade, but was a pianoforte tuner and repairer. There are numerous labels in instruments showing they were in trade together; and in 1802 they had also become music-sellers. The following is a copy of a label at that period

The caprice of the parent, regarding the marking of instruments, descended to the sons, as we find a different label used two years afterwards : —

"James and Hemy Banks,
Salisbury. 1804."

And, "J. & H. Banks" stamped on the blocks and other parts of the various instruments. They carried on their various departments of business in Catherine Street, Salisbury, until 1811, when they sold the same to Mr. Alexander Lucas, the father of the present Mr. Charles Lucas, the Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, and went to reside in Liverpool.

They first located in Church Street, opposite Saint Peter's Church; the site, or rather a portion of that on which Compton House now stands; afterwards they moved to Bold Street in the same town.

A Welshman named William Davis, or Davies, who was living in Liverpool in the year 1849, had been in the employ of these two brothers as a porter in or about 1818, and he spoke in high commendation of their kindness, and stated, they had a good business, were the best masters he ever had either before or since.

Henry was a capital tuner of pianos, and was frequently from home for a fortnight travelling about the country, and went as far as Wales to tune instruments.

He did not work at the violin making, but was connected with the pianoforte department. The hands of James, when he knew him, were much contracted, yet he was an excellent repairer of violins, &c.

"it was beautiful to see how he repaired them. All three are buried at Saint Mary's Church, Edge Hill, and I helped to put them into the grave."

A son of the above Henry Banks, whose name is also Henry, and had an office at No. 2, Mersey Chambers, Liverpool, about 1849-50, corroborates much of that asserted by Davis, and also said,

"his father did not work at the violin trade, and that his uncle was the maker of violins, tenors, and violoncellos; that the contraction in the hands was caused by gout, and that his uncle was never married."

He also said that :

"very few, if any instruments were made at Liverpool; but some may have been finished there that were pre. viously begun."

James and Henry Banks sold the goodwill of their business to two brothers named Palmer, who found in a cellar a number of unfinished instruments of the violin class, which were sold by them in that state; but it was not known to whom they were disposed.

On the tombstone at the church before-named it is engraved that James Banks died 15th June, 1831, aged seventyfive years. Some error exists here, unless a period of nearly three years occurred between his birth and christening, as that ceremony took place on the 7 th Sept. 1758, at St. Thomas' Church, Sarum. Henry Banks died on the 16th Oct. 1830, aged sixty years.

The church Book of Burials of the date 23 Oct. 1830, states the age to be fifty-six, but the former age is nearer correctness, he being christened 2nd Jan. 1771. At the time of his decease he was residing in George Street.

He was found drowned in the Princes Dock, and it is said he could not have been very long in the water, as his watch was still in action when the body was discovered.

The various extracts from the books of St. Thomas' Church, Salisbury, were kindly made by the late Mr. J. T. Biddlecombe, the clerk to the church, who further stated there were no memoranda or notices taken at what period the birth of either James or Henry Banks took place. He was an intimate acquaintance of the Banks family when they lived in Salisbury.

It has been said by an elderly gentleman, now deceased, who well knew the Banks family before they went to reside at Liverpool, that the elder Benjamin Banks (the father) had an apprentice named Wheeler, who he believed came to London to obtain employment or commence business himself as a maker of violins, &c.

Nothing whatever is known of him, nor has any instrument been seen to establish a name worthy of his instructor.

There are many violoncellos with the label of James and Henry Banks L which may be considered generally very good; and two in particular are in the possession of Mr. Charles Lucas, which have a full and powerful tone, of excellent quality, and were used by him when principal violoncellist at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden." The History of the Violin: And Other Instruments Played on with the Bow from ..., 1864, p. 364-366


James and Henry Banks - Musical Instrument Makers - and Music Sellers - Salisbury 1802

"Banks, James. — Salisbury, später Liverpool. Geb. in Salisbury 1756, in Liverpool 15. Juni 1831. Vierter Sohn von Benj. B., Schüler seines Vaters, den er gleichwertig nachahmte. Er gebrauchte die gleichen Modelle und verwendete den gleichen Lack, nur von etwas schwärzlicherer Färbung. Er arbeitete mit seinem Bruder Henry zusammen, mit dem er das väterliche Geschäft in der Catherine Street fortsetzte. Im Jahre 1811 verkauften sie dasselbe und siedelten nach Liverpool über, wo sie erst in der Church Street und dann in der Bold Street.

Banks, Henry. — Salisbury, Liverpool, 16. Okt. 1830 in Liverpool. Sechster Sohn von Benj. Banks, bei dem er auch gelernt hat. Er verlegte sich in der Folge mehr auf das Repariren von Pianofortes und war ein gesuchter Klavierstimmer. Er blieb aber dabei Theilhaber seines Bruders und hat wohl auch an verschiedenen Instrumenten, die aus der gemeinsamen Werkstatt hervorgingen, mitgearbeitet." Die Geigen- und Lautenmacher vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, Lütgendorff, Willibald Leo, Freiherr von, 1904, p. 31-32 (Archive.org)

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