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22. Rare old British mandolin banjo (533)   @ 300 euros
Larger photos are available on request.

Old English mandolin banjo

This is an old, English, mandolin banjo by George Houghton and Sons from the early 20th century. It has a nice WIDE fretboard. It is in fair condition, sadly missing the back resonator, but easily played as an open-backed instrument. The head plate says...

  'Melody Major'

This instrument is now restored as far as is reasonable. The 'Clifford Essex' skin is in good condition with 1 slight abrasion. It is sadly missing the original back. It has the original fingerboard in ebony, with relevelled original frets. The tuners, bridge and tail are all originals. It has been restrung with ultra-light GHS bronze wound classical strings, and is now playing well with a strong, full, round sound with good sustain and volume. It has an easy playing action.

Other than cleaning, I have repaired as follows… 1) refinished the neck and head with Tru-oil; 2) levelled the original frets; and 3) restrung and set up.

"George Houghton established his Reliance Works in Heaton Street, Birmingham in 1888 and the range of banjos and zither-banjos he made were branded "Reliance", "Melody JO" and "Melody Major".


Mandolin Banjo Specifications (mm.)

Overall Length of Mandolin


Width of mandolin at widest point


Approx. Depth of mandolin

75mm at bridge.


Original finish on the pot, Tru-oil on the neck and head.


Good quality, 'Clifford Essex' stamped skin... one minor scuff top right.

Back and sides

The back is missing, the sides apparently stained maple. All tensioning hooks are present.

Neck and Head

1-piece, refinished head and neck in good condition.


Original in ebony with 17 re-levelled 'German silver' frets. MOP position markers at 3, 7 and 12.

Machine heads

Original steel and brass tuners with original buttons. All working.


Original in steel, with 4 string posts.


Original bridge refitted.

Scale Length Bridge to nut

Scale of 330mm

G string height at bridge


E string height at bridge


12th fret to bottom of G string (Action)


12th fret to bottom of E string (Action)


Width of fretboard at nut


Width of fretboard at widest point


Sleeve guard