c1959 Watkins Westminster 10 watt Amplifier, courtesy of Michael
The Westminster was the first Watkins amplifier
model to be produced in any quantity, being introduced mid-1957 following earlier very limited runs of
AC/DC experimental models. The first "safe" AC examples were advertised as being
8 to 10 watts output, and were housed in a grey-covered square cornered box with
side mounted controls/input sockets. By early-1958, the more familiar format of
top-mounted controls with rounded-off cabinet edges had been adopted together
with the then fashionable two-tone coloured fabric covering, but initially without
tremolo. This feature was soon offered though as an option from August 1958.
Studying the frustratingly vague Watkins
advertising published frequently during the late 1950s and early 1960s in the UK
trade newspaper "Melody Maker", it becomes evident that the Westminster model
name was used in the development of a less-powerful 6w and a larger twin-speaker 17
watt amplifier which then morphed into the Clubman and Dominator amplifier
sometime in late 1959 or perhaps early 1960. A 6 watt Westminster without tremolo
seems to have been advertised for a few months from May 1959 and a 15-20 watt
(eventually settled as 17watt) Westminster with tremolo and non-tremolo options
from September 1958.
In or around early 1961, an up-rated 14watt
Westminster but again with a single 10" speaker joined the 10watt version. This
amp had tremolo with both speed and depth controls fitted as standard, together
with four inputs split between two channels. The 14 watt version replaced by the
WEM Scout model in 1964.
There has been much confusion in the past,
certainly in my own mind, about the production dates of these early model
Watkins amplifiers. I am reasonably confident about the dates given above, but I
appreciate that they do not tie in very closely with previously accepted dates,
some of which have arisen from interviews with Charlie Watkins himself. I
therefore feel that it is necessary that my evidence for adopting the dates on
this site should be laid before the visitors to my website as follows:
The very first versions were apparently in plain grey
coverings. However, white and black with stars pattern, maroon & cream and then
turquoise & cream coverings soon followed. Early control panels were black,
later ones silver. Through most of its manufacture period, the Westminster was a
10 watt output amp, almost always equipped with tremolo, although as stated
above, Watkins advertising did actually offer a non-tremolo version. It would
appear that the vast majority of purchasers did want the tremolo facillity.
EXAMPLES OF THE 1958 to 1965 WESTMINSTER 10 Watt TREMOLO AMPLIFIER:
c1958 WATKINS WESTMINSTER 10 Watt TREMOLO AMPLIFIER This one is fitted with the tremolo circuit controlled for speed only,
and it is provided with two input sockets, each with their own volume
control. A single tone control controls both inputs. The cabinet appears to
be much smaller than used for later Westminster examples, with the 10"
speaker looking rather cramped-in.
1959-60 WATKINS WESTMINSTER ?WATT
TREMOLO AMPLIFIER A
very unusual black and cream ("Black-Star") finished amp that had
separate volume and tone controls for each input. It is however powered with EL90
output valves, rather than the usual ECL82s. According to Charlie Watkins,
only about ten amps in this format were made, to the acclaim of Jazz players
who liked the sound.
1959-60 WATKINS WESTMINSTER 10 WATT
TREMOLO AMPLIFIER A maroon & cream amp. Now fitted with a smaller control
panel with the usual two inputs but both now controlled with just a single
volume and tone control plus tremolo speed. As usual, this Westminster would
probably have had 2 x ECL82 power valves, 1 x ECC83 pre-amp valves and an
c1962 WATKINS WESTMINSTER 10 WATT
TREMOLO AMPLIFIER As the maroon & cream
model above, but in the later and more common turquoise & cream covering.
A new blue and white colour scheme to the control plate. 2 x ECL82 power/preamp
valves, 1 x ECC83 for the tremolo, and an EZ80 rectifier.
EXAMPLES OF THE 1958 to 1959 WESTMINSTER 15 to 20 Watt TREMOLO AMPLIFIER:
(Forerunner to the Dominator 17 Watt Amplifier)
WATKINS WESTMINSTER 15-20 WATT TREMOLO AMPLIFIER V-FRONT This very
rare amp uses the same control panel as the earlier
10watt combos above, with individual volume controls for each of the inputs,
a single overall tone control, and a tremolo speed control. It has a power
stage using two EL84 valves and also
employs 2 x ECC83 + 2 x EF86 valves in the preamp section, an unusual
combination for a Watkins amplifier. And then of course there are the twin
10" Elac speakers! Charlie Watkins is reported as saying that this
twin-channel 15-20 Watt Westminster was made only briefly for 6 months
c1959-60 WATKINS WESTMINSTER 15-20 WATT
TREMOLO AMPLIFIER V-FRONT This amp has a closer specification to the
Dominator 17 watt amp with four inputs in two channels with volume and tone
controls for each channel. It also has gained a tremolo depth control to
supplement the speed control, but lost the two ventilation grills on the top
of the case.
EXAMPLES OF THE 1959/60 WESTMINSTER 6 Watt NON-TREMOLO AMPLIFIER:
((Forerunner to the Clubman 6 Watt Amplifier)
1959 WATKINS WESTMINSTER 6 Watt AMPLIFIER White and black
covering, with star pattern. All very 1950's ish! The carrying handle is
located on the side of the case. Two inputs served by a single volume and
combined tone/on-off control.
EXAMPLES OF THE 1960/61 to 1964 WESTMINSTER 14 Watt TREMOLO AMPLIFIER:
c1960/61 WATKINS WESTMINSTER 14 WATT
TREMOLO AMPLIFIER The twin-channel 14 watt version of the Westminster which seemingly partnered the single-channel 10 watt model from
c1959 until c1962/3, when it became the
Scout. This model is in the most common turquoise &
cream covering which was introduced in around 1960. Two EL84s provide the
extra 4 watts, along with three ECC83 and an EZ81 rectifier. The chassis is
apparently identical to early versions of the V-front Dominator model.
THE Mid-1960s WESTMINSTER Mk II 10 Watt TREMOLO AMPLIFIER:
In 1963/64 when Watkins morphed into Wem, the Westminster Mk II acquired a new livery : black cabinet, silver control panel and a decorative aluminium
plate covering the front of the amp. It was seemingly a smaller version of the Custom 15, itself a descendant of the Scout. Examples are rarely
Mid-1960's WEM WESTMINSTER Mk II 10 WATT AMPLIFIER
Control panel was the same silver/black style as the later Mk I
Westminster. The circuitry remained similar or identical to earlier models.
This model is very rare and may have only been produced for a couple of
THE LATER WEM WESTMINSTER AMPLIFIERS
In the late 60s it reverted to being the Clubman
model's big brother again, first as a larger version of the plain-looking solid-state model with tremolo,
then circa 1972 both re-gained their valves and acquired identical black cabs
with red/gold diamond pattern on black grillcloth and 12" speaker, very
attractive and value-for-money little practice amps. The tremolo was omitted, either to reduce cost or because it was considered old-fashioned by that time It remained in production with some cosmetic changes until the late 70s. There was a bass version with a heavy-duty speaker.
1968 to 1972WEM WESTMINSTER 10 WATT SOLID
AMPLIFIER Towards the end of the 60s the Westminster relinquished it's identity as a smaller version of the
Custom 15 in favour of being the solid-state
Clubman's big brother. It stayed this way until c1972 by which time the
fashion for solid state guitar amps had faded perhaps . Equipped with two
input sockets and a volume, tone, and tremolo speed control.
1973 to 1976WEM WESTMINSTER 10 WATT AMPLIFIER (Mk IX)
Around 1972 the Westminster got it's valves back and a smart new livery,
which it retained until the late 70s. The tremolo feature was dropped at
this point, either because it was considered old-fashioned by that time or
as a cost-saving measure, possibly both. The cabinet, speaker and control
panel are identical to that of the contemporary Clubman model, with 2
inputs, a single volume, treble and bass controls. 12" Speaker Valves: 2 x
ECL82; 1 x ECC83.
1977 to 1978WEM WESTMINSTER AMPLIFIER A strange looking amplifier with a recessed top-mounted control panel. This
amp appeared for a very short time in late-1977/early 1978, spanning the
period between the demise of the MkIX Westminster and the "AP" All-Purpose
version. It had a rated output of 10 watts through a 12" speaker and was
equipped with two inputs, volume, bass, and treble controls.