History Of The English Leather Company
An Introduction To Oliver
Oliver Ridgway, the great grandson of Henry Ridgway, is the Managing Director of The English Leather Company. Oliver has worked side-by-side with his father (Paul) for over 15 years, producing leather for the equestrian trade and other goods manufacturers. In this time he has developed bridle leathers for the highly exclusive fashion market and leather goods trade.
Those who deal and work with Oliver regard him as a finishing specialist within the fashion trade and his products are sought after by manufacturers and craft workers alike. He has gained a strong reputation for expertly matching a whole range of colours for numerous clients who, naturally, have specific and often demanding requirements.
The Ridgway family has been producing leather for more than four generations and possess unparalleled levels of expertise in leather production and knowledge of the industry. An understanding of, and instinct for, sourcing, producing and finishing quality leather runs deep in the Ridgway blood.
Henry Ridgway, born 1871, owned and ran The Ridgway Leather Dressers and Finishers Company, based in The Bristol Road in Birmingham. The Company produced primarily upholstery leather for Austin and Morris cars. War conditions meant the company had to move from its original premises to Phoenix Works at Redditch, where the manufacture of leather for bicycle saddles was paramount. The factory was probably the largest producer in the world for this single purpose. Exports, particularly to West Africa were important. However, the bicycle trade declined and the manufacture of belts and leather goods took over.
As the country entered the post Second World War recession, there was an insufficient supply of leather going through the factory to sustain such a large concern. By this time, Paul was working for the company having attended Northampton Leather College. He worked as a commission agent for a few years using the contacts he had made whilst at Ridgways, but in 1983 he started a company as a Leather Finisher, working from converted stables at home, producing leather for the equestrian and leather goods trade. From there he moved to a purpose built small leather factory in the Teme Valley, where he was joined by his son, Oliver, after he left school.