Thriving saddles firm wins stars’ approval

Business is booming at a saddle-making firm with bases in Cannock and Walsall that has increased staff to 20 and has a £1million plus turnover.

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Paralympian stars , left , Sophie Wells and Natasha Baker collect their new saddles from Black Country saddles in Bridgtown. Pictured with owners , left , Robert Cullen and John Hartley.

Black Country Saddles supplies Paralympic gold medallists Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells.

They were at the company this week to pick up their new saddles. The firm is now considered to be in the top three bespoke saddle-makers in the world. It designs and makes saddles by hand for clients in America, Canada, Australia and a scattering of countries across Europe.

The business, which exports more than half of its products, was started by friends Rob Cullen, from Cannock, and John Hartley, of Walsall, both 56, who started as apprentices at a factory in Walsall.

They started their own business in the town 20 years ago, expanding to Cannock in 2010.

Managing director Mark Bryan said: “The firm is bucking the trend with its modern new factory in Cannock, very far from the image of dark satanic mills that the leather industry traditionally conjures up. Our base here is almost purpose-built.

“When you consider that it started as a two-man business in a garage, it’s clear it has come a long way, and it has the capacity to grow further.”

The Walsall factory is one of around 70 firms in the town still making leather products. Although the industry is strong in Germany and France, Walsall is still considered a world leader.

The Wednesbury Road site produces the wood and metal trees that form the foundation of the saddle while the addition of the wool flocking and leather is carried out at Bridgtown, Cannock.

The firm makes saddles to order, ranging in price from £1,000 to £2,500.

Black Country Saddles sponsors the two Paralympic riders.