Introduction

 

 

After my training I established my business Unicorn Leather Saddlery in 1988 and was the only Saddler in Caterham on the Hill in Surrey until 2016. I moved and I am  now based in West Wales in the beautiful Welsh countryside.

I trained at Cordwainer’s College in Hackney in Rural Saddlery and Bridle making skills in 1987-88. In 1987, Cordwainer’s was the only Saddlery College offering full time training in traditional English saddlery, harness and bridle making.

I also hold a Lorinery Certificate.

 

Since leaving training college in 1988 I have been designing, making, altering and repairing saddlery and other non saddlery items in my own workshop and all round the South East of England and now in Wales.

I spent many years with a mobile workshop out on site at various stables and saddlery shops in all weathers fitting, flocking and repairing saddles, repairing bridlework and rugs. 

I use the best English leather, textiles and fittings where I am able to but in recent years my main suppliers of raw materials have been providing the trade with materials and fittings from overseas. Some of these are good quality, it is not supporting the UK manufacturers but sometimes we have no choice as the UK foundries and textile mills are slowly closing down, leaving us with little choice.

                                                           My charity work

 

In previous years I have put some time aside for charity work. I have made and repaired leatherwork for dog rescue charities. In 2010 I gave some free tuition to volunteers of the Brooke Hospital to train them to make headcollars for Donkeys in the Middle East, Africa and Egypt.

I have made and altered surgical equipment for people who needed a helping hand to get them on the right road to recovery. I've designed and made various equipment to help with wound management for horses and dogs.

I have worked on the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. I was asked to make leatherwork (window pulls and door stays) for the restoration of the railway carriage that was last in service during the reign of Queen Victoria.

My most recent charity event (Sept 2013) was a Memory Walk for the Alzheimers and Dementia Society.

I was lucky to live in such a beautiful area where it's a pleasure to go on a sponsored walk!

 

                    

                                        Bluebells in the woods  where I walked my dogs

 

 

 I have  made and have donated 50 nylon webbing dog collars, as well as supplying free of charge blankets and dog coats to Romanian Animal Aid

The dog's in Romania often die an agonising brutal death in public shelters. I believe they can help the local volunteers to educate the local people in Romania to supply professional care these dogs urgently need.

                                                 

                                                                 My Other Work

 

I have made, repaired or designed a variety of items over the years, including golf bags, curtains, car seats, armour for medieval re enactment, surcoats, dog coats, soft tops for cars, covers for boats, gun cases, the list is endless!

In 2013 I repaired Gladiatorial leather armour owned by the National Theatre that had been hired by the a local theatrical workshop for the Caterham festival as well as to be used by the Minack Theatre in Cornwall. The armour was in a sorry state and was a challenge to get these sets of armour ready for Shakespeare's Anthony & Cleopatra that it was to be used for.

 

                

                Scenes from Anthony & Cleopatra at the Minack Theare over looking the sea

                             showing the roman leather armour in use after it's restoration

 

I was approached in 2014 by Surrey Hills Gliding club who are based at Kenley airfield 2 minutes from my old house. RAF Kenley is the WW2 fighter station used during the Battle of Britain and where Douglas Bader was stationed for a while. The gliding school asked me to manufacture the winch cable parachutes that are used during take off. I saw what they were using and what was currently on the market. They were of poor design and construction. With my saddlery experience and material science skills I improved the design, the parachutes they had been using were sometimes only lasting a few weeks. The  parachutes I am making them are often lasting them several months which offers them incredibly good value.

              

                                                                         LOCATAS TM

I have unique products I have designed myself including the Locata™ , which I'm now concentrating on. The original Locata was called the Equine Emergency SOS and that was born in 2007. After several improvements on design I now have 5 variants of it.

There are Locatas for horses and humans.

I've turned away from retailing massed produced imported saddlery items as there's far too much competition to make it viable. Instead I'm now manufacturing my own saddlery products.

I discontinued saddle fitting and flocking as from April 2012.

I do the occasional repair here and there for friends.

In August 2017 I  scaled down my business to part time instead of full time.

 

Any questions please e-mail me.

Austin Back,

Unicorn Leather Saddlery 2010

 

 

Here I am with Peggy who was head of the wardrobe department in the Miller Centre in Caterham Valley, Surrey. I was showing her how to make medieval shoes, I do some work for the centre now and again as it's required.Sadly Peggy was diagnosed with cancer not long after this photo was taken (2012) and passed away not long afterwards, RIP Peggy it was an honour to know and work for you, you are sadly missed.

 

                                 

           This is one of the knives Saddler's use                Here is a round knife being used to                                                                                                  skive down, it's used for cutting, 

                                                                                                      skiving, shaping & working                                                                                                       the leather.

                                                                                             It's as sharp as a stanley knife blade

 

             

                                                My workshop in Caterham

 

               

At the Oxted & Edenbridge Agricultural and Country Show 2008, a reunion of

Cordwainer's students after 20 years , we hadn't all been together like this since

we all trained in 1987-88.From left to right:Sarah Rathbone (Cheshire),

Emma Stevenson (Essex), Julia Horwood (Surrey) and me (Surrey)

 

 

                                 

                                                                                 

 One man and his three dogs!

 

  

 

Most recent photo of me is the one below, now sporting a beard sitting in the garden in June 2013!

Since moving to Wales I have also found the most wonderful girlfriend and I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with her.