CAMERAS > ENSIGN
In 1836 George Houghton associated with the frenchman Antoine Claudet - owner of a glass warehouse specialising in sheet glass and glass shades at 89 High Holbourn, London. The new company that resulted from it - Claudet & Houghton - manufactured, amongst other types, optical and photographic glass plates. Houghton's son joined the company the same year Claudet died, and therefore the company was renamed to Houghton & Son. In 1899 the company bought the building of 88 High Holbourn, becoming the company's main office. In 1904 the business became a limited company and the first Houghton's Limited logo appears, which lasted for 7 years before it was changed to the now well known flag.
The first factory was placed on Fulbourn Road, in Walthamstow, around 1905 from where the first cameras produced came out and that, in a few years, became the biggest camera production plant from Great Britain, employing nearly 700 people and 10.000 square metres in occupied facilities. Taking into account offices from Holbourn and Hatton Garden (London and Glasgow, respectively) Houghton employed more than 1000 people.
In 1915 Houghton Ltd. combined with Butcher & Sons, Ltd. and, even if selling cameras each with its own name, the manufacturing base was shared. The cameras they produced were so successful that, by 1930, the company adopted its name becoming Ensign Limited.
In 1940 enemy bombing destroyed the facilities at Holbourn, in London. A few months later the Sales division of Houghton-Butcher, Ensign Limited, was wound up with only Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing remaining and selling cameras such as the Ful-Vue. In 1942 the Ensign trade name was to be re-used according to their legal rights, something to be done at Walthamstow's factory. However, the war and the need to produce items for the army, together with the loss of demand in photographic accesories, meant that no new products were developed during that war period.
As a direct consecuence, some finantial difficulties left only one way to go, and Houghton-Butcher was merged again, this time with Elliot & Sons Limited. In a short time, Ross Limited also joined Barnet-Ensign Ltd. forming the Barnet Ensign Ross Limited. Strategy was clear: with a quality glass maker such as Ross, the brand would become a force to be reckoned with. It was around 1951 that the company changed its name again to Ross Ensign and it produced classic 50's roll film cameras, like the Selfix and Autorange, which are still popular today with many collectors. By 1955 Ross-Ensign had moved production from Walthamstow to Ross's Clapham Common factory.
By 1961 Ross Ensign had faded away completely, not without having produced some of the best examples of folding roll film cameras available in the fifties. I must confess certain predilection with this company because, as I do, they never put so much effort towards the 35mm format, and they never ever produced even a single prototype, convinced as they were of the clear superiority of rollfilm.