Hill, Banks, Furber and Jay are all well-recognised names of violin makers, and their work is often highly sought after… But what common connection did all of these great makers share?
The answer is James Longman: a London businessman who saw great potential in the stringed instrument market and who attracted a lot of talent to his workshops.
It's alleged that the beginnings of the business involved a lot of sourcing of instruments, which Longman, first under the company name Longman & Co., would relabel and then sell on for a profit. The time at which Longman first went into business is a point of dispute amongst sources, but it averages out to around 1750, when his label started appearing in finer English guitars. By 1767, he was working out of the Harp and Crown, Cheapside, in the City of London. This workshop's former occupant was John Johnson, an English violin maker of whom little is recorded, yet whose work is neat and appears with regularity at auction.
Two years later, Longman partnered with Lukey and rebranded as Longman Lukey & Co, remaining at the same workshop, but for a brief stint whilst they underwent renovations and moved a stone's throw down the road to nearer St. Paul's. In 1775, they invited Broderip to join as a business partner and rebranded once more. It's unclear as to what the reasons were, but Lukey left very shortly afterward, staying for approximately only one more year before the company entered its fourth iteration as Longman & Broderip.
Through the many iterations of the company, Longman expanded the business quite dramatically: First they opened a new shop in the West End of London at Haymarket, before extending their reach outside of London to Kent, Sussex and as far away as Brighton. He also oversaw the recruitment of many makers, such as Joseph and Lockey Hill, David and James Furber, Benjamin Banks and Henry Jay, all of whom made some of the finer instruments to bear the shop's label.
… handsomely flamed maple and brown varnish. Tone always mellow and nicely full. - W. Henley
A lot of the instruments that were made by the workshop conformed to either the Stainer or Amati models. The Amati imitations, in particular, made use of what Henley describes as “handsomely flamed maple”, and have a nice medium-high arching to them, contributing to the mellowness of tone exhibited by these examples. The finish tends to be with a deep-brown varnish, yet it is clear when looking at various instruments bearing Longman's label that different makers varied their varnish choices considerably. For one example of this, Lockey Hill used a more golden-brown varnish with a slightly finer ground than his co-workers.
We currently have a gorgeous example of Henry Jay's work for Longman and Lukey, stamped No.26 Cheapside, London. Please get in touch if you would like to see more.