Viola Makes 10,000 Mile Journey Home

A viola, made nearly 230 years ago in Salisbury, has recently been donated to Salisbury Museum from Australia. The donor, Helen Mason from New South Wales, was doing some spring cleaning when she came across the viola which had been given to her by a violin maker friend in Queensland in the 1980s. The original owner was going to throw it away, but Helen decided to hold on to it.

On closer inspection she noticed it had a label saying it was made by ‘Benjamin Banks, Musical Instrument Maker In Catherin Street, Salisbury 1780’. Intrigued that the viola appeared to predate the European settlement of Australia she did some research which lead her to Salisbury Museum. How the instrument came to be in Australia remains a mystery!

Banks was one of the most important violin makers to exist outside of London in 18th century England. He lived and worked in Catherine Street, making and selling English guitars, violas, violins and ‘cello’s. He even advertised in the Salisbury Journal. Today his instruments are highly collectable.

Unfortunately the viola is in very poor condition. Having been unavoidably kept in hot and humid conditions for over 20 years the body has distorted and split. Helen Mason has very kindly agreed to donate the viola to the Museum in the hope that it is possible to have it repaired. Salisbury Museum is now seeking funds to help cover the costs of restoring the instrument to its former glory.

To find out more please contact Museum Director Adrian Green on 01722 332151 or email