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Princess Anne arrives in Walsall to celebrate town's saddle-making heritage

By Annabal Bagdi | Walsall | News | Published: | Last Updated:

The Princess Royal delighted onlookers when she made a special trip to celebrate the region's saddlery trade.

Albion England Saddler, Paul Smith shares his craft with HRH

Well-wishers lined the street as the 67-year-old made her way to Walsall for the royal visit on Monday.

It came as representatives of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers brought guests together at Walsall College to celebrate saddlery and leather manufacture.

Princess Anne is guest of honour at the Worshipful Company of Saddlers tea reception

Art and design tutor Sam Eagleton grabbed her Union Jack flags, waving them in excitement as Princess Anne arrived at the college's Wisemore Campus.

The Willenhall resident said: "I just love our Royal family. They do so much for our country.

"To have Princess Anne visit the college is amazing. It was brilliant. I have never been so excited.

"I have never seen any of the Royal family before and it feel like I have met a Hollywood star. This is something to be proud of."

Princess Anne is guest of honour at the Worshipful Company of Saddlers tea reception

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Princess Anne is guest of honour at the Worshipful Company of Saddlers tea reception

Princess Anne was greeted at the college's Hub, in Littleton Street, by college principal Jatinder Sharma before being quickly escorted into the building.

Donning a blue two-piece, she met with bosses behind saddlery and leather goods companies from across the region to highlight the Black Country's growth.

Mayor of Walsall Councillor Marco Longhi also joined the festivities, which included a tea reception to 'champion British saddlery'.

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The visit focused on ways future generations could be provided with skills and development opportunities needed in the industry, as well as improving rider and horse performance and welfare.

Albion England Saddler, Nick Aldridge shares his craft with Princess Anne

Her Royal Highness was also given a guided tour of the Albion England factory by the company’s founders Paul and Sherry Belton.

Sherry Belton, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Albion England, said: “We thoroughly enjoyed showcasing our work here in Walsall and are very proud of the contribution Albion England has made over the years to the areas thriving saddlery and leather goods market.

"The business has diversified beyond all belief since it began and continues to be a glowing example of the prosperity within the equine industry and Walsall’s leather skills offering.

"It was a joy to hear HRH The Princess Royal’s contributions and an honour to be selected as one of the hosts within this visit.”

Annie Belton-Green gives gifts to HRH The Princess Royal

Albion England has been part of the Walsall saddlery scene since 1985 and has produced saddles from its HQ for more than three decades.

The Princess Royal gave a speech in which she said: “As Perpetual Master of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers part of our role is to support and ‘Champion British Saddlery’, so today has been particularly useful in learning what the challenges and opportunities are.

"There is no doubt in my mind that all are extremely ‘Proud of Walsall’ and the role that the town has played in these industries in the past, and still does today.

"This ‘Celebration’ of your products in the Hub has served to underscore the ambition you all have and the success you enjoy.”

HRH The Princess Royal enjoys a tour of Albion England's factory
Paul Belton and HRH The Princess Royal
Sherry Belton and HRH The Princess Royal

It was also a day of celebration for Rupert and Vanessa Fairfax who were gifted with The Queens’ Award for Enterprise by Princess Anne.

The pair behind Walsall manufacturer Fairfax Saddles won the award, within the 'Innovation' category, after developing a new design for the girth holding a horse saddle in place.

The improved comfort and freedom of movement delivered by the company's new Performance Girth was demonstrated when it was used by the gold medal-winning British equestrian team at the 2012 Olympics.

It was the first time the award was handed to a saddlery business in Walsall.

Certificates were also given by the royal to employees who recently completed their Worshipful Company of Saddlers’ training schemes.

Annabal Bagdi

By Annabal Bagdi
@AnnabalB_Star

Senior reporter based at head office in Wolverhampton.

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