Kiwi equestrian trade boss joins ancient Saddlery Company

Beta executive director Claire Williams.
Beta executive director Claire Williams. © Bob Hook

A New Zealander is among four new members of Britain’s Worshipful Company of Saddlers, with Claire Williams adding her name to one of the City of London’s oldest livery companies.

Williams, executive director and secretary of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) joined Victoria Coleman of Frank Baines Saddlery, Godfrey Morris, a Master Saddler from The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, and World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers in being admitted to the freedom of the Company at a ceremony at Saddlers’ Hall near St Paul’s Cathedral at a reception this week for Britain’s equestrian Olympic and Paralympic squads.

Receiving the Freedom of a livery company involves being invited to become a member, usually in recognition of good service to a profession, trade or craft.

The Worshipful Company of Saddlers – also known as The Saddlers’ Company – has roots dating back to the 12th century. Williams said the book she signed as a member was only the second in the company’s history; the first entry in the book was from 1650. The earliest surviving records of a Guild of Saddlers in London dates from about 1160.

“It was a great honour to receive the Freedom of this venerable organisation,” said Williams, who has been at the helm of BETA since 2001.

“The Saddlers’ Company works incredibly hard to promote high standards, training and careers within the saddlery industry and also supports British equestrian activity right across the disciplines.

“And, of course, the Saddlers’ path often crosses with that of BETA’s as we strive for the best interests of equestrian manufacturers, distributors and retailers.”

Williams said at the ceremony she also got “probably my one and only chance to hold gold and silver medals”, courtesy of Paralympian Natasha Baker MBE. “I’m in awe of her achievements and proud to be able to celebrate her and all Equestrian Team GB successes.”

Natasha Baker's Tokyo 2020 Paralympic medals at Saddler's Hall during the Worshipful Company of Saddlers ceremony this week.
Natasha Baker’s Tokyo 2020 Paralympic medals at Saddler’s Hall during the Worshipful Company of Saddlers’ ceremony this week.

Godfrey Morris is a serving soldier and Master Saddler with the Royal Horse Artillery; Victoria Coleman is a director of Frank Baines Saddlery, the Walsall manufacturer founded by her father Frank Baines and which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

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