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The skills of British saddlers were celebrated on 3 February at the Society of Master Saddlers national annual saddlery awards.

The main honour went to Mark Romain (pictured right), of the Saddlery Training Centre in Salisbury, Wiltshire, who was awarded a Fellowship. “I’m lost for words and thrilled,” he told H&H.

Prominent winners on the night included Laura Dempsey, who won The Side-Saddle Association Trophy for the best side-saddle and Mary Wing To who took the prize for the best harness. Ellie Duggan won best entry by an apprentice and Helen Leedham took ‘best in show’ with her leather clock.

The Master, Peter Lewis, praised the quality of the saddlers: “The competition is going from strength to strength — there were over 80 entries this year — and these awards show what is so good about British saddlery.”

Commentator Mike Tucker, who was acting as celebrity judge, added his praise: “I’m aghast by the wonderful work. I’m inspired by what I’ve seen and believe the industry is in very good hands — the apprentice work looks very exciting for the future.”

The awards, which have been run annually since 1974, were held at Saddlers Hall, London.

Award winners

Master & apprentice — Isobel Russell and her apprentice Joanna Heard

President’s Choice: a leather Item for use in the office — Helen Leedham

Open saddle— Scott Smith, Ryder Saddlery

Trade saddle — Stephen Delaney, Vale Brothers

Apprentice or trainee trade saddle — Michael Roper, Ryder Saddlery

Small Business saddle makers who manufacture no more than 6 saddles a year — Tim James

Side-saddle, Laura Dempsey

Open bridle — Catrien Coppens

Open harness — Mary Wing To

Intermediate bridle — Kathrine Holm

Trainee saddle — Elena Duggan, Gerry Reynolds Saddlery & STC

Trainee bridlework — Jennifer Sayers, Capel Manor College

Trainee bridle — Myra Bee

The Neil McCarraher Trophy for the most attractive and commercially viable saddle — Vale Brothers

The Side Saddle Association Trophy for the best side saddle — Laura Dempsey

The Tony Byrne Memorial Trophy for the best Harness entry by an Apprentice or Trainee — Mary Wing To

The Tony Russell Memorial Trophy for the best harness entry — Mary Wing To

The Alf Batchelor Memorial Trophy for the best bridlework entry — Catrien Coppens

The Les Coker Millennium Trophy for the best entry by an Apprentice — Ellie Duggan

The Bruce Emtage Memorial Plate for the Best in Show — Helen Leedham