Barnsby – the oldest saddlery company in the world

Barnsby – the oldest saddlery company in the world

By Victoria Elsbury-Legg

For over two hundred years, saddles (including the Cliff Barnsby Whitney Polo Saddle and the J.A. Barnsby & Son English Polo Saddle) have been stamped by saddlers Barnsby with the wording ‘handmade in England since 1793’.  It was George Cliff who first began the family trade, starting his apprenticeship in Walsall, the centre of the English Saddlery industry in 1793, with his son Jabez founding the company in later years.  Seven generations on and until recent weeks the same family has carried on the tradition of producing some of the finest English leather saddles and bridles, displaying craftsmanship and family ties that are in short supply in modern times.  

Barnsby continued to ensure their products met the demands of modern riders by working with many respected elite international equestrians from a cross-section of disciplines from Mary King, Guy Williams and Ginny Leng, to Anky van Grunsven and John & Michael Whitaker, combining this with the skills learnt through generations of craftsmanship.  Uniquely, they also held a Royal Warrant as ‘supplier of Saddlery & Lorinery to H M Queen Elizabeth II,’ making saddles for the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and The Household Cavalry (the seats of which are still made on the same wooden seat forming blocks originally used in 1900).

Sadly in recent weeks the equine world almost lost some of its most enduring history as Barnsby has gone into administration.  The company and its historic name have not however been lost, after an international marketing campaign by Metis Partners (one of the UK’s leading intellectual property (IP) specialists) secured top ecommerce retailers, Sports HQ, part of Worcestershire-based S247 PLC, as a buyer.

Nat Baldwin, of Metis Partners, who organised the global marketing drive, said: “We are delighted to have been able to produce such a successful result for the Jabez Cliff name and the Barnsby brand.

“The company has strong links with the British military and royalty and even made footballs which were used in four FA Cup Finals and the 1928 Olympic Games. The buyer has an excellent reputation for recognising the value in such brands and keeping them at the forefront of public attention.”

So a little bit of English equine history will to continue to live on.