Frank's family connections to the saddle making trade go back over 200 years. Frank’s grandfather was a bridle and harness maker and he fascinated young Frank with stories of the trade. Frank's great-great-grandfather George Evans, had walked with his mother from Herefordshire to Walsall, to start learning to be a saddle maker when he was just 13. The 44 mile walk would have taken around 20 hours! Frank was inspired and determined to follow in their footsteps and continue the family tradition. In 1962, when he was 15 years old he left school and began his Saddler Apprenticeship at Enoch Antill in Walsall.
1974 - Moving on
After 12 years at Antill's, Frank wanted to broaden his horizons. He moved to Falcon Saddlery where he became involved in the design and making of new saddles which Frank really enjoyed. He made a saddle for the late international show jumper Caroline Bradley MBE, who became the first female winner of the Puissance at the Horse of the Year Show in 1974. Frank was starting to show a real flair for understanding the individual needs of horse and rider, which was crucial to his later success.
1979 - Recognition begins
In 1979 Frank was entered into the prestigious Society of Master Saddlers Saddle Competition and scooped first prize for his jumping saddle. It was the first of many, and a turning point in Frank’s career as his skills began to be noticed. Frank went on to win the same competition again the following year.
1981 - New horizons
Following a huge fire at the saddlery where Frank worked, he decided to take the plunge and start up business on his own. Along with his wife Jane, an experienced leather machinist, they began making saddles in their own kitchen and Frank Baines Saddlery was born. Originally making saddles for one client, Hasbo, in Sweden, as the 1980s unfolded they began to make them for other clients. They began exhibiting saddles at trade events and shows all over the world. Awards and recognition kept on coming; In 1985 Frank won 1st place in The Society of Master Saddlers Saddle Competition for the third time in five years, and a saddle made in the workshops won a Spoga award for the best New International Saddlery Product.
1987 - Pastures new and royal connections
As the company continued to grow the Saddlery moved to bigger premises in Northcote Street, where it remains today. Awards continued to roll in and in 1988, for the first time The Worshipful Company of Saddlers awarded high honours to 3 saddlers from the company. Frank for Master Saddler of the Year, and saddlers Keith and Jeremy taking second and third prizes for craftsmanship. Shortly afterwards Frank was appointed to The Committee of the Society of Master Saddlers. Frank was also honoured to be commissioned to make a saddle for the Royal Tournament, which was later presented to Badminton Horse winner Ian Stark by HRH Princess Anne. The Saddlery also expanded their range by launching their first bridle work collection.
1990 - Growing stronger
The new decade got off to a flying start with two further awards for both Frank and Saddler Pete at the Society of Master Saddlers Saddle Competition. Frank was also honoured to be selected for Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers in recognition of his services and skills. Later that year Frank was also granted Freedom of the City of London. Frank was commissioned by the charity Riding for the Disabled to make a pigskin saddle which was presented to HRH Princess Anne at Alexandra Palace. The saddle was so well received the Saddlery started to produce them for sale.
1991 - People are the future
Due to the increased demand for his saddles Frank needed to grow his workforce again. However, there was a shortage of skilled workers, so Frank decided to set up a training scheme so that his new work force could gain the necessary skills by taking the national Skill Assessment and Qualification Scheme for Saddlers. The company went on to be awarded the first National Training Award - for its investment in training staff and commitment to workforce development . The award itself was presented by HRH The Prince of Wales and the company was honoured to receive letters from the then Prime Minister, John Mayor and HRH Prince Charles, both of whom acknowledged the importance of developing a strong workforce to secure the future of the company and the country as a whole. In 1992, Frank also became Liveryman of the of the Worshipful Company of the Saddlemakers of the City of London.
In 1993 Frank, Keith and Simon won 5 awards at the Society of Master Saddlers Saddle Competition a...
2016 - Sweet Symphony
In 2016 following Frank's retirement, his son Garry and daughter Victoria, officially take over the running of the business. They immediately focus on introducing a brand new range of saddles. Each was designed in close development with their team of saddlers and customers, reviewing every aspect of each saddle with a particular focus on fit. The resulting Symphony range heralds a contemporary look that delivers exceptional performance and luxury and has become hugely popular all over the world.
2019 - The Operetta lands
We launched the Operetta Dressage saddle in late 2019. It has gone on to become one of our most popular Dressage saddles and has won many awards. It's a versatile saddle with a super-soft knee block for closeness and support, it gives the horse lots of room freedom of movement and provides even pressure distribution. It also has a striking, sleek design which riders love. It is currently our best selling saddle. Everyone was excited when the Saddlery was featured on BBC's Flog It, covering the science and exacting standards of measuring a horse to make a bespoke saddle.
2020 - Innovating times
2020 gets off to a flying start when our digital saddle configurator Build My Baines, wins the Highly Commended Award in the Technology category at BETA International 2020. It allows riders to design their dream saddle on screen by choosing colours, leathers and crystals. It takes the guesswork out of choosing custom parts for the rider. The configurator was the first of its kind to hit the market.
Like the rest of the world, as COVID 19 hit the the UK we were forced to lay down our tools for a few months.
2021 - We turn 40!
Our Director Victoria visits London to be granted Freedom of the Saddlers’ Company by Redemption of the Trade.
In November we reach our 40th birthday, a huge milestone for us.
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