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British Industrial History

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Jabez Cliff and Co

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May 1976. Flexalan.

of Globe Works, Walsall, England. Telephone: Walsall 331. Cables: "Cliff, Walsall." (1929)

Ditto Address and Cables. Telephone: Walsall 4131. (1947)

George Cliff the father of the company’s founder, Jabez Cliff, commenced his apprenticeship in the saddlery trade in Walsall in 1793. The company has been owned and run by his descendants throughout its history, with the seventh generation of the same family now involved in the business.

1793 George Cliff, who worked in the leather trade, lived in Badger’s Yard in Park Street, where he made leather breeches. He and his wife Elizabeth had five children, four boys and a girl. In 1793 his son, thirteen-year-old George followed his father into the trade and began his apprenticeship in bridle preparing. In time his own son Jabez, whose brothers and sisters all died in infancy, carried on the family tradition.

1873 At that time horses were virtually the only form of transport, carrying both goods and people, and the saddler and bridlemaker occupied a position of prime importance. Jabez Cliff started up his own saddlery business, Jabez Cliff and Co, in Portland Street, Walsall.

1881 Jabez Cliff and his two sons Samuel and George all died during the typhoid epidemic that swept across Britain. His wife and daughter Mary kept the business going until Mary married skilled bridlemaker Frederick Tibbits in 1882.

1902 Their only son Jabez Cliff Tibbits joined the company.

1906 Not far from the Cliff factory were the premises of the world renowned saddle making company J. A. Barnsby and Sons, who were situated at Globe Works in Lower Forster Street. Jabez Cliff Tibbits put in a bid for the firm. Their offer was accepted, and the two companies amalgamated. Jabez Cliff and Co saddles retained the prestigious Barnsby label, whilst the high quality bridles were manufactured under the Cliff name, thus creating the saddlery brand Cliff-Barnsby.

Their main export markets were Germany and Russia - an unfortunate position for a company to be in during the decade that saw the international tensions which eventually led to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. Jabez Cliff Tibbits realised that the time had come to diversify into other areas of the leather trade. The company began to manufacture a wide range of sports products and leather goods, turning our cricket and other hard and soft-balls, golf bags and holdalls, travel goods and leather cases.

1920s The company patented the Globe non-tear football. The innovative new ball gained fame when it was used in four FA Cup Finals and the 1928 Olympic Games.

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Footballs, Basket Balls, Volley Balls, Polo Balls, Tennis Balls, Cricket Balls (waterproof), Hockey Balls (waterproof), Golf Bags, Bowl Bags, Sports Bags, Belts, Dog Collars, Riding Saddlery, Travelling Requisites. (Stand No. B.9) [1]

1939 The years of the second world war saw a change of direction for the company towards the production of Bren gun pouches, ammunition belts, webbing and leather goods for the Ministry of Defence. The links with the military that began during the 1940s continued to flourish through the years.

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Barnsby Saddles, Bridles, Reins, Head Collars, etc., for Hunting, Polo, Racing, Riding. Globe Footballs, Balls for Hockey, Cricket, Rounders, Baseball, Netball, Water Polo, Leather Travel Goods, Golf Bags, Sports Bags. (Earls Court, 1st Floor, Stand No.452) [2]

1948 Jabez Cliff Tibbits was knighted by King George VI for his services to the town.

When British task forces in the Falklands realised that the country’s inhospitable terrain called for four-legged transport, it was to Jabez Cliff and Co that they turned with their urgent request for pack saddlery so that vital equipment and weapons could be transported by mules.

1990 The company was later honoured by Her Majesty the Queen, who awarded Jabez Cliff and Co the Royal Warrant as Saddler and Loriner.

The company’s capabilities include the manufacture of saddlery equipment to the military units of the Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, the Household Cavalry, the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police. They supply military units throughout the world with ceremonial equipment. Though the company has seen many changes and developments over the years, younger descendants of George Cliff have continued to join the family firm, with the name Cliff becoming traditional within the family. Now into its seventh generation, Jabez Cliff and Co is well established as a traditional family firm in the true sense of the word.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] Barnsby Website