The British company Houghton or Houghtons and its successors Houghton-Butcher, Barnet Ensign, Barnet Ensign Ross and Ross-Ensign.


In 1834 George Houghton joined the Frenchman[1] Antoine Claudet to manage a glass warehouse in London, under the name Claudet & Houghton.[2] It became George Houghton & Son in 1867, then George Houghton & Sons in 1892.[3]

The company's headquarters at 88/89 High Holborn were called Ensign House in 1901,[4] and the production of the roll film brand Ensign began in 1903. The first Ensign logo was a shop sign with the letter "N" inside, and was replaced in 1911 by the name ENSIGN written inside the British marine flag.[5]

In 1903, the company was incorporated as George Houghton & Sons Ltd.,[6] and in March 1904 it absorbed Holmes Bros. (the maker of the Sanderson cameras), A. C. Jackson, Spratt Bros. and Joseph Levi & Co., to form Houghtons Ltd.[7] The new company carried on the production of the smaller companies it had absorbed, and notably continued production of the Sanderson cameras until 1939.

In the early 1900s the company built a factory for the production of cameras on the Fulbourn Road in Walthamstow.[8] In 1908 this was the biggest British camera factory.[9]

Houghton was a renowned maker of magazine cameras like the Klito. Another characteristic product of Houghton was the Ensignette, a folding camera developed by the Swedish engineer Magnus Neill.

In 1915, Houghtons Ltd. came into a partnership with W. Butcher & Sons Ltd, founding the joint venture Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co., Ltd. to share the manufacturing facilities.[10] (This agreement was essential for Butcher, which had no manufacturing plant and was mainly trading imported German cameras before the outbreak of World War I.) The two companies Houghtons and Butcher continued to trade separately, and the camera designs remained distinct.[11]

The two trading companies finally merged on January 1st, 1926 to form Houghton-Butcher (Great-Britain) Ltd., which was renamed Ensign Ltd. in 1930.[12] (The manufacturing company based at Walthamstow kept the name Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co., Ltd. until 1945.)[13] The new trading company kept many of Houghtons and Butcher's camera ranges. In 1939 it introduced the Ensign Ful-Vue box camera, one of the most popular cameras of its time in the UK.

The headquarters of the trading company Ensign Ltd. were destroyed by an air raid on the night of September 24–5, 1940.[14] The assets of this company were taken over by Johnson & Sons, but the trademark Ensign was kept by the manufacturing company Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co., Ltd., which assumed the advertising and distribution of the Ensign cameras alone until 1945.[15]

In 1945, Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co., Ltd. associated with the film maker Elliott & Sons Ltd. (maker of the film brand "Barnet") and became Barnet Ensign Ltd.[16] In 1948 Ross and Barnet Ensign were merged to Barnet Ensign Ross Ltd., which was finally renamed Ross-Ensign Ltd. in 1954.[17]

After World War II, the company soon abandoned the sophisticated Ensign Commando rangefinder camera and continued the range of Ensign Selfix and Ensign Autorange folding cameras, while introducing new models like the Ensign Ranger or the Snapper. Among simpler cameras, a new version of the Ensign Ful-Vue was released in 1946, which was further developed to the Ful-Vue Super and Fulvueflex pseudo-TLR.

The company stopped making cameras in 1961.[18]


  1. Ensign history page at
  2. Channing and Dunn, p.54, McKeown, p.393.
  3. McKeown, p.393.
  4. "Ensign House": Channing and Dunn, p.54.
  5. Ensign history page at
  6. Channing and Dunn, p.54, saying "George Houghton & Son Ltd."
  7. Channing and Dunn, pp.54–5.
  8. Early 1900s: Channing and Dunn, p.55; Fulbourn Road: Ensign history page at
  9. Ensign history page at
  10. Channing and Dunn, pp.29 and 54, McKeown, pp.171 and 393.
  11. Channing and Dunn, pp.29 and 54, McKeown, pp.171 and 393.
  12. Channing and Dunn, p.55, McKeown, p.393.
  13. Channing and Dunn, p.55.
  14. McKeown, p.393.
  15. Channing and Dunn, pp.21 and 55, McKeown, p.393.
  16. Associated with Elliott and Sons Ltd. and became Barnet Ensign Ltd. in 1945: Channing and Dunn, p.21, McKeown, p.393. Elliott & Sons maker of the Barnet film brand: Ensign history page at
  17. Channing and Dunn, p.21, McKeown, p.393.
  18. Channing and Dunn, p.21, McKeown, p.393.

Houghtons cameras without the Ensign brand[]

  • Briton no.s 1, 1a, 2 & 3
  • May Fair (box)
  • Royal Mail Stereolette
  • Shuttle
  • Smyth Stereo- Handkamera
  • Sylvar
  • Ticka watch camera
  • Triple Victo
  • Triple Victo Stereo
  • Tudor
  • Verifying Camera
  • Victo
  • Victo Stereo
  • Victo Superb

Cameras using the Ensign brand[]

  • All-Distance Ensign (large range of box & folders)
  • All-Distance Pocket Ensign (folder)
  • Ensign 16-20 (4.5x6cm folder)
  • Ensign 12-20 (folder)
  • Ensign 2¼ A box ("Ton Box")
  • Ensign 2¼ B (box)
  • Ensign 2¼ B (folding)
  • Ensign 2½ Box
  • Ensign All-Distance 20 (box)
  • Ensign All-Distance Pocket (folder)
  • Ensign Auto-Range
  • Ensign Auto-Range 16-20 (rangefinder folder)
  • Ensign Auto-Range 220 (rangefinder folder)
  • Ensign Autorange 820 (rangefinder folder)
  • Ensign Autospeed
  • Ensign Box Duo
  • Ensign Cadet
  • Ensign Cameo / Super-Speed Cameo / Cameo Luxus (folding, plate)
  • Ensign Carbine (large range of folders)
  • Ensign Clubman (folding)
  • Ensign Commando (rangefinder folder)
  • Ensign Cupid (small viewfinder camera)
  • Ensign Deluxe Reflex
  • Ensign Double-8 (folding, 3x4 on 127)
  • Ensign Duo-Design 2¼ B (box)
  • Ensign E20 (box)
  • Ensign E29 (box)
  • Ensign Ful-Vue (pseudo-TLR)
  • Ensign Greyhound (folder)
  • Ensign Junior (box)
  • Ensign Klito No.0 (folding, plate)
  • Ensign Klito No.1 (falling plate box)
  • Ensign Klito No.4 (falling plate box)
  • Ensign Klito Junior (folding, plate)
  • Ensign Midget (strut folder)
  • Ensign Multex (range of rangefinder 127 roll-film cameras, vaguely Leica-inspired)
  • Ensign No.12 Watch Pocket Carbine
  • Ensign Perfect Reflex
  • Ensign Pocket (large range of folders, e.g. Pocket 20, Pocket E-20)
  • Ensign Popular Press-Camera
  • Ensign Popular Reflex
  • Ensign Post Card
  • Ensign Ranger (range of folders)
  • Ensign Simplex pocket model
  • Ensign Selfix (large range of folders)
  • Ensign Singlo (folder)
  • Ensign Special Reflex (large plate SLR)
  • Ensign Sprite
  • Ensign Watch Pocket Carbine (folder)
  • Ensignette (strut folder)
  • Houghton Ensign Tropical (large wooden SLR)
  • J-B Ensign (box)
  • Ross-Ensign Ful-vue Super (pseudo-TLR)
  • Ross-Ensign Fulvueflex (pseudo-TLR)
  • Ross-Ensign Snapper (folder)

There was also a range of Ensign cine cameras.

  • Ensign Auto Kinecam 16 / 16B
  • Ensign Cinematograph
  • Ensign Cinematograph Tropical
  • Ensign Kinecam 4 / 6
  • Ensign Super Kinecam

The Ensign name was revived in the 1980s for some 110 cameras.



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