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.


  1. I love this kind of stuff - it's like Downton only real! Well done, you've done a load of research to find all this out. Let me know via HayNet if you find out any more about Major Farley.

  2. Rhonda Watts-Hettinger17 November 2012 at 01:27

    And here I am listening to History Detectives on the television... while you're doing the same for sidesaddle!!

    1. I LOVE researching the history found on the labels. I must say it is easier when the original was someone titled though.

  3. I have just read your Blog with great interest. Reuben Llewelyn Farley was my Great Uncle and Francis Dashwood Farley was my grandfather. I will send you a photo of Reuben by email. His side saddle is fascinating. It is also very interesting to see current estate agent photos of Wornditch Hall. Reuben did not marry and so there are no direct descendants. He died in 1954.
    Tom Farley (pictured in one of your links!)

  4. This is wonderful Tom, have just emailed you now. If you don't hear from me, let me know and I will resend my email address as it has been acting up. Thank you so much!!!

  5. Wow, what an interesting post, amazing that Champy has survived for so long and I'm glad he is in good hands! I see my cousin Tom got here first... I'm Josephine, another grand-daughter of Francis Farley and came across this while googling something to do with Francis. You are correct in saying that Reuben Farley's elder daughter Margaret didn't marry but his younger daughter Clara married Jack Wood. She lived to 100 and has many descendants. I have lots of memories of her and of Aunt Margaret but sadly none of my grandfather or great-uncles.

  6. Josephine here again. I see that some of the family info you posted has come from a site about the peerage. Tom, have you any idea why our ancestors are listed there? Nice though it is to be compared with Downton (lol!) I don't believe we have a single blue-tinged corpuscle between us. If you know differently please do enlighten me :)

  7. Am trying to find the family connections during the winter months. My nana Florence Farley wife if Thomas Farley born 1903 at West Bromwich. My mother's father. Nana used to tell me we were related to the 1st mayor of West Brom.
    Granddad's Granddad was Reuben Farley born 1846 -1886. Married Louisa Passmore 1851-1909.
    as I say I'm still working on the connection.
    She used to point out "The Farley Clock" on Carter's Green with a air pride + there's a "Farley Park" within the area.
    Reuben son, John m (Alice Sheldon) was my Grandfather Thomas's father.
    So far my research shows John & Alice lost 4 of their 6 children. Which has saddened me.
    Florence Belmore 25 child birth. 1924
    Louisa Farley 7, TB at B'ham Children's 1908
    Edwin 2, no record of this child's death.
    William Louis at 46 no record.
    Alice ------------57 no record.

  8. Hi Leila, I know this is an old post. But hope you don't mind a question about this. I'm curious where you found the label underneath the panel. I've got a saddle very similar to yours. Same kind of shape pommels and position and all the 'usual' ch&w features. ....but it is unmarked.(billets replaced. nails replaced etc) I don't want to take it apart but if I know where to look I hope I could perhaps find a mark like yours. Hope you can help. Br Marieke

    1. ps. I saw photo of it on ISSO-site.

  9. Hi Leila
    I stumbled across your post,and was excited to find information relating to labels on a C&W side saddle. I have one I brought back to Australia in 1994. It does not have a year or name on the label, only the size and serial number: 17 + 11 and 137. So guessing it's a 17" and seat is 11" wide. It looks like yours but has the narrow fixed and leaping head. I've taken a guess at it being around the 1920-1940 vintage, but now not so sure.