Friday, 30 November 2012

May I Introduce...

...Major Reuben Llewelyn Farley!

I had the fortune of Major Farley's great nephew, Tom Farley (Francis Dashwood Farley's grandson), contacting me with additional information on his great uncle and kindly sent me a photo of the dashing Major in his uniform.

It is so wonderful to put a face to the name written on an old saddle label and give the history of this side saddle, the human aspect. Tom informed me that his great uncle sadly died in 1954 and never married so had no direct descendants. I am very happy then, that Champy has ended up in my care instead of being in that antique shop's rubbish pile with a forgotten history.

Thank you Tom for all your help!

December 7, 2012 update! I was informed by a WWI re-enactor that judging from Major Farley's uniform in the photo, that this picture was taken right before the war in c. 1912- 1913, that he was a volunteer due to his side cap  and that the rank badges on his sleeve cuffs denote that he was a Lieutenant when the photo was taken. In 1917 the rank badges were moved off of the sleeve cuff to the shoulders as they were too conspicuous to snipers!

Monday, 26 November 2012


Typical to British weather, we have been inundated with rain causing severe flooding everywhere. Our stables have been fine but many other stables and fields around me have been submerged and the Ford River which runs at the back of us, got VERY high- so high that is started to reach the arch of the bridge!!

Usually we can hack to the bridge and get over it but not this time. Just a little bit down the lane from us, not even close to the bridge, we encountered this (note the current flowing through the middle of the five bar gate!!)...

We went a little further and could see the bridge in site but the water was already coming up near to the edge of Champy's off-side flap and my left foot was getting wet (rubber riding boots are your friend in the UK!).
I decided it would be too dangerous to go any further to the bridge (way in the distance ahead!) due to the fast flowing current and the height of the water...

So we headed back home where Hattie promptly fell asleep in the sun after her "swim". You can see how high the water came up her and that was only little bit down from our stable! If we had gone to the bridge, it would have been waist level on me (Hattie is 15.3hh) and she would have started swimming. Not the safest of things when you are side saddle ...

The weather did let up a little for the South Kilworth Riding Club awards presentation evening where Hattie and I picked up our year end prizes! We got two Champions and a Reserve along with two perpetual trophies (will have to make sure to win those again next year so we don't have to give them back!!).

Roll on next spring when the shows all start again!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Manly Side Saddle

I was curious to know the date of Champy as I figured he was about the 1920's mark due the transitional features he has from both eras of side saddle, i.e. plain sweepy seat from the late Victorian and Edwardian period but pommel and flap style of the 1920's- 1930's "Golden Era" of saddles.

The panels are nailed on at the front so couldn't drop them without taking out the nails (I'll leave that to my saddler when he comes to linen the panels) so carefully pulled the panel edge away approximately where the labels are usually stuck on and peered underneath.

There I spied the edge of a label saying Champion & Wilton and it turns out that Champy was made for a MAN!!!!!

The label says "India" at the top, then "Major Farley" with his saddle measurements underneath, "18 3/4"  for the length and "12" for the seat width. The label has the date of October 9, 1919 (so I wasn't that far off the mark, it IS a transitional style of saddle between the two eras) and the serial number of 1669.

It wasn't unheard of for soldiers who got injured in both world wars and who wanted to continue riding afterwards, to ride in a side saddle but who was this Major Farley? Was India the name of his horse or where the saddle was being sent to?? From his saddle measurements, he would have been around my height, 5'9" as the saddle fits me.

Thanks to the power of the internet, I did find a little more information on Major Farley ...

Reuben Llewelyn Farley was born in 1890 to Reuben Farley (1826- 1899), FIRST Mayor of West Bromwich, Staffordshire and Harrietta E. Fellowes, whom he married in 1887 (his third wife). Reuben Llewelyn was one of five children (3 boys and 2 girls, the two girls died unmarried) and with his two brothers, Captain Charles Finch Farley (1892- 1969) and Francis Dashwood Farley (b.1896), both serving in (and surviving) the first world war with Francis becoming Justice of the Peace for Warwickshire in 1941, Deputy Lieutenant of Warwickshire in 1954 and vice-chairman of the Warwickshire County Council between 1956 and 1958. A partial Farley family tree can be seen here along with the names of Reuben Sr.'s deceased wives, addresses where they lived and even the names of their servants that the family had when Reuben Jr. was a boy!

Major Farley's father, Rueben Farley, Mayor of West Bromwich...

At the start of World War I, Reuben Llewelyn, seems to have enlisted in the Cavalry as the September 8, 1914 edition of the London Gazette has a list of "temporary Second Lieutenants" in the Cavalry of which his name is listed. An interesting note, before the Second World War, cavalry recruits were required to be at least 5'2" tall, but could not exceed 5'9" which confirms that he was probably just eeked in for the height requirements and why his saddle fits me!

He was a major by 1917 when he was wounded and still a Major after the war in 1919 of the a reserve cavalry regiment and on June 3, 1919Major (A. /Lt.-Col.) Reuben Llewelyn Farley (Cavly. Res.) received an OBE.

In 1920, Major Farley bought Wornditch Hall, which is now a Grade II listed building in Kimbolton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, and which was originally built in the 18th century. The Wornditch Hall and outbuildings (including stables and tack room where Champy lived), are still there to this day and are currently for sale by private treaty if you have several million pounds to spend!! The shop where I bought Champy is about 30 miles from Kimbolton in the same county so it makes sense that perhaps the owner of the antique shop purchased the saddle along with other house contents after Major Farley died (I still have yet to find out this date).

Then in 1946 and 1949, Major Farley was nominated to be "Sheriffs in the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice on the Morrow of Saint Martin" for Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire and in 1950 was appointed Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire.

He was still alive in 1952 but I cannot find any mention if he married or not, photos, or any other information about him. There are still descendents of the Farley family around so as I find out more information about Major Farley, I will update this post.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Reversible Side Saddle Eye Candy!

You tend to find reversible side saddles pop up all at the same time, some are poor chop 'n weep jobs like this poor old reversible which has been on Ebay several times being passed pillar to post by various disappointed owners...

Can you spot the weep worthy chop job on this saddle apart from the chopped off off-side fixed head? Off-side safe has been cut down, bad recover job on the leaping head, no leather covering on the near-side fixed head. I was tempted to bid the first time this saddle was listed by the first seller but when I found out how much it would cost to rebuild the off-side head and undo all the poor alterations, I wisely decline as I don't think my bank or credit card would have been too happy!! Poor saddle, hope the current owner is able to get it restored.

Sometimes you get reversible oddities like Lillian Chaudhary's c. early 1890's reversible side saddle surcingle that she has in her collection! 

Then you get this Victorian BEAUTY made by Davis, owned by Jocelyn Danby of Danby Equestrian that she just recently bought for her collection and to restore.

According to Nick Creaton, "This saddle was made approximately between 1884 and 1890. I can tell you however he (Davis) referred to it as his "new style" ladies leather and it cost 3 shillings and sixpence (£17.50p) in 1890 . He made a speciality of Reversible side saddles "much recommended by the medical faculty for delicate and youthful riders, ensuring a graceful and upright figure, and relieving the strain on the different muscles". The cost of this saddle was £11 and a plain hog skin version could be had for £9.50p in 1890. For an extra 10 shillings you could have a double socket leaping head on each side."

What is neat about this saddle, is that the purse can be swapped to either side as well by using the leaping head socket and attaching it with the leaping head socket plug! Jocelyn said that she could make me a purse like this for my reversible Parker saddle but I will need to get a socket plug made for my saddle as it's missing the original one. I really like these purses on side saddles as they are handy when out hacking to put your phone and a hoof pick in them.

Detail of the beautiful seat and look how open the heads are on the saddle. Sometimes with these fixed head reversibles, the heads are shaped for very small legs so the space is quite narrow between the upright heads but these one seems to have quite ample spacing. The leaping head seems to a more open curve to it as well to suit an adult leg.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Meet Champy!

Hattie and I went for a glorious gallop the other day on my off-side saddle. Galloped up the hill, then walked down it and then tore off in the corner of the field, flying over the ridge and furrow field and jumping the water filled "ditch" (actually, just where the rain water pooled at the bottom of the furrow but Hattie didn't now that!). I felt VERY secure in my Beck (it is still hard work trying to keep my spine straight but at least I'm concious of it now) and am tempted to go hunting the next time there is a Side Saddle meet at the local hunt (won't be jumping hedges though- we'll go the flat non-jumping route!).

My friend Julia and I also also decided to take a road trip last weekend to do some antiquing as the weather was rubbish, her neighbours were being jerks and it was just a generally rubbish day. Old things always cheer us up and we drool at the architecture of the old houses we pass along the way. We ended up in a junky shop in the middle of nowhere and went in. There was nothing much there, just old tat, most of it overpriced and nothing special. It was all pretty depressing really and as I wandered around in a zombie state looking at all the crap "antiques", I stumbled upon a back room with the door open. I don't know if customers were supposed to go in the room or not, but the door was open and there were some things that had price tags on them so I went in. 

And there piled up on a card board box with load of broken old mouldy stuff, garbage, junk, was a c. 1920's Champion & Wilton!

 It looked at me and I looked at it (his name is Champy), and he told me to rescue him from this dump of a shop and take him home. Unfortunately, since he was in the "garbage pile", he had no price tag and the unhelpful salesperson didn't know a price nor did they want to sell Champy as the shop owner wasn't there. Champy was crying as he didn't want to be there with all the nasty things in the box so I made an offer, the salesperson went away to "consult" with the other salesperson there and then Champy came home with me. Champy was VERY happy when he arrived home to see that this was a horsey family and that there were other side saddles to be his friend! Parker (my reversible) and Little Adam (the pilch!) both introduced themselves and warned him that I would probably be taking him for a spin on the Hairy Miserable Beast.

Well, ride Champy I have and he is VERY comfy, the seat seems to be padded with something between the leather and webbing, I wonder if it's Illsey foam? His panels are a bit moth eaten (not too bad, a linen covering would sort that out) and the flocking needs sorting out in him but other than that (and needing new billets as the original ones are on there), it's actually quite ridable as is!

Some lazy photos of us riding in it. I didn't want to push Hattie too much as I didn't know if the old billets would give away or not!

The seat has a slight dip to it which I like and the pommels are comfy too. The seat is 17 1/2" from cutback to cantle (US 21 1/2") and is 13 1/2" wide so fits my bum better than my Whippy.

It has a Champion & Wilton style balance girth with point and buckle but luckily it came with such a balance girth which also happened to fit Hattie as I don't have any balance girths in this style. 

The saddle will need a point strap on the off-side for Hattie however, as the saddle slide forward about 2" after we walk, trotted and cantered. 

It did not go as far forward as my Edwardian Champion & Wilton did and she did not seem to mind it (if Hattie does not buck when trying a saddle, she likes it). You can see by the white scuff marks made by the edge of the numnah, how far the saddle went forward. A point strap and the flocking being sorted out will fix this. 

Interestingly, the saddle has a crupper loop at the back of it. I wonder if this saddle went forward on the horse who originally wore this as well? If so, why didn't the saddler just put a point strap on the off-side for maximum girth set? Other side saddles from this era, like Whippys, had off-side point straps. This saddle also has two back D-rings for attached a rolled up rain proof mac to the back of it too!

Usually Champion & Wilton trees do not fit Hattie as the off-side fork, curves too acutely inwards and pinches her off-side wither. This one seems to have a slightly more open head than all the other C&W's I have seen but without having a huge flair at the shoulders. It is VERY similar shaped to my Whippy- open at the head without being too flared at the shoulder and ribs. You can see that the tree shape follows her shape quite well.

This is the shape I need for modern astride saddles and what causes Hattie so much grief when trying to find her an astride saddle. The "narrow" modern trees fit her in the shoulder but pinch in the wither, the "medium" or "medium/wide" trees fit her in the wither but stick out like wings at the shoulders! I think we'll stick to old name side saddles.

Annoyingly, a little mouse also had fun with Champy sometime during the past 80+ years and chewed through the leather layers of the fixed head!! LUCKILY, the mouse chose to chew through the middle of the fixed head and hit the iron strapping on the tree so could no proceed any further and gave up. The fixed head is completely sound (it's only cosmetic what the mouse did), and it's neat to see all the layers of leather that the saddle maker used to build up the big flared head on the saddle!