The Makers

James Tubbs


James Tubbs (1835-1921) was the pre-eminent British bow maker from the 1860s until his death.

He was already making bows by the age of sixteen, under the guidance of his father, William, and in 1862 won a Prize Medal at the International Exhibition in London. However, these bows bore the name of W.E. Hill for whom they were made. James was at pains to claim authorship of these and other bows made for Hill throughout his life, including by over stamping them with his own brand. In 1874 he was made bow maker to the Duke of Edinburgh.

HIs life was marred by the early deaths of his children. Alfred, his son, who had been bow making with his father from at least 1881, died in 1909 just months after his wedding and James was forced back into employment  in his mid-70s. He continued making for more than a decade still producing bows of great merit; a work ethic which rather belies his reputation as a heavy drinker.

He was aware of the importance of marketing and offered his bows as prizes both to the Royal Academy of Music (1876-1910) and to the Guildhall School of Music (1878-1909); an idea which W.E. Hill & Sons later emulated.

Tubbs’ bows were renowned even in his lifetime and he was paid the great honour of being copied/faked by a number of French and German bow makers!

We currently have five Tubbs violin bows for sale, one with gold, and four with silver mounts, all dating from the 1895-1921 period, and also a gold engraved example (not currently for sale) the slide of which states it is from the famous violinist August Wilhelmj to the Hon. Zoe Massey.

The Hon. Sophia ‘Zoe’ Isabelle Butler Massey was born in Ireland in 1888, the daughter of the 5th Baron/Lord Clarina Lionel Edward Massey of Elm Park and Sophia Mary Butler of Castlecrine County Clare. She married the Hon. Eric Brand Henderson in December 1910, helping us to date the bow as not later than 1910.

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James Tubbs