Jabez Cliff 1833-1881
Portland St Walsall 1873
Sir Cliff Tibbitts
The Globe Works pictured in 1926
The Cliff non-tear football used in the 1931 Wembley cup final
1932 - Amy Johnson at Aldridge Airport, Walsall, with a Cliff holdall
Captain Mark Phillips opening the extension in 1979 with former chairman Edwin Hickton
HRH The Princess Royal on her visit to Globe Works in 1992 with Jennifer, Kent and Cliff
The legendary Oliver Morton, 1915-2005
The dynasty founded by George Cliff more than 200 years ago almost foundered several times over in those days long ago when virtually every family, especially those living in poverty, had more than one child who died in infancy.
George, 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.
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. In 1873 the enterprising young Jabez Cliff started up his own saddlery business, Jabez Cliff & Co Ltd, in Portland Street, Walsall. Less than ten years later, however, tragedy struck.
Jabez Cliff and his two sons Samuel and George all died during the typhoid epidemic that swept across Britain in 1881. Marshalling their determination - and their own abilities in the trade - his wife and daughter Mary kept the business going until Mary married skilled bridlemaker Frederick Tibbits in 1882. Their only son Jabez Cliff Tibbits joined the company in 1902 - a move that was destined to be central to the company’s success.
Not far from the Cliff factory were the premises of the world renowned saddle making company J A Barnsby & Sons, who were situated at Globe Works in Lower Forster Street, and in 1906 the young Jabez Cliff Tibbits pulled off an amazing coup when he put in a daring bid for the firm. Their offer was accepted, and the two companies amalgamated. Jabez Cliff & Co Ltd 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. With sound judgement 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 hold-alls, travel goods and leather cases. In the early 1920’s Jabez Cliff Tibbits was appointed managing director.
During the decade of the 1920’s the company patented the Globe non-tear football. The innovative new ball proved to be a further feather in the firm’s cap, gaining fame when it was used in four FA Cup Finals and the 1928 Olympic Games.
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 1940’s continued to flourish through the years. When British task forces in the Falklands realised that the country’s inhospitable terrain called for four-legged transport, it was to Jabez Cliff & Co Ltd that they turned with their urgent request for pack saddlery so that vital equipment and weapons could be transported by mules. The company was later honoured by Her Majesty the Queen, who in 1990 awarded Jabez Cliff & Co the Royal Warrant as Saddler and Loriner.
The company’s capabilities include the manufacture of saddlery equipment to the prestigious 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.
Jabez Cliff Tibbits was knighted in 1948 by King George VI for his services to the town, and from that day on was known in the town as `Sir Cliff` During his lifetime Sir Cliff became a well-known and respected man in the community, and was elected Mayor of Walsall in 1939. Re-elected for a second term in 1940, he achieved the rank of Alderman of Walsall the following year. Cliff lived on until 1974.
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 & Company Ltd is well established as a traditional family firm in the true sense of the word.
This saw one of the biggest changes in Jabez Cliff & Company Ltd's history as we moved from Globe Works, our home for over 100 years, to Badgers Yard. The new location was previously an Arabian Stud that we had converted to offices, workshops and warehousing. It was officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal on Tuesday 21st September 2010. During this time, there were also changes from a personnel point of view with James Hitchen taking over as Managing Director and Tom Sharland as Production Director. With all these changes taking place, it felt like the start of a new era and with that, we felt we should be known as Barnsby rather than Jabez Cliff & Company Ltd.
Today, the company represents one of the biggest saddlery businesses in the UK, and is among the top five in the world. Barnsby has remained at the forefront in the saddlery trade for many years. They believe that their reputation for excellence lies in their experience over two centuries, the expertise of their staff, and in the high quality of the goods they produce.
Today the company’s main markets abroad include the USA, Western Europe, the Far East, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and the Pacific Rim, and their export goods include sporting goods, saddlery and other fine leather goods. The company’s export achievements were officially recognised when they were awarded third place in the Walsall Chamber’s exporter of the year competition. Their main customers, however, remain in the equestrian industry, and their quality products are used by many leading professional riders; Showjumpers Guy Williams and Jessica Dimmock, Eventers Mary King, Laura Collett and Victoria Bax and Great Britain`s paralympic gold medallist Lee Pearson.
Honesty in endeavour, a job well done, and the firm’s commitment to manufacturing goods of unsurpassed quality have greatly contributed to Barnsby’s success. A certificate from Walsall TEC underlines the company’s forward thinking attitude to the use of modern manufacturing techniques, and the team is already planning to adopt further state of the art technology in the future to continue to increase their efficiency. At the same time they aim to uphold in the years to come the high standards that have seen the company through the last two centuries.