My interest in John Brush saddles began when Brendan Morris found a rare survivor on his farm in New South Wales. He posted some photos in  The Australian Social History Facebook Group.

John Brush saddle circa 1900 (courtesy Brendan Morris)
John Brush saddle  (photos courtesy of Brendan Morris)

John Brush established a saddlery and harness store in Sydney in 1840. It was during a period of severe economic depression, but nevertheless the business thrived.

A piece published in The Sydney Stock and Station Journal on November 1 1898 gave a brief outline of its history.

About 60 years ago the firm was founded by John Brush, in the Haymarket. Think of what the Sydney Haymarket was 60 years ago! Great Scot! Sydney was a poor little town then, but the Haymarket was an important part of it. John Brush was a good business man, and he moved with the times. He left the Haymarket, and set up in Brickfield Hill……about 36 years ago he moved into George Street.

The saddlery in Sydeny
The original building in George Street. (Sydney Stock & Station Journal, 1 Nov. 1898)

The business continued to expand and in 1898  fine new premises were erected in George Street;

John Brush Building George St Sydney
The John Brush Building, George Street Sydney (Image courtesy of Brendan Morris}

In April 1900 an intriguing  testimonial letter was received from Charles Tisdall, the agent in Persia for the British and Foreign Bible Society;

Dear Sirs,

In November 1898, you made me a saddle to order, and when delivering it you asked me to let you know what I thought of it after about a year’s trial……I rode it all over the mountain passes between Hushiri and Shiraz, and then rode on “chupper” or post horses (broken-down, under-fed animals), on which I had to work my passage to Julfa in five days (i.e. from 60 to 80 miles per day, getting fresh horses about every 20miles.)

Although I had never ridden in the saddle before, it never chafed or tired me, and I had not been on a horse for months. I have much pleasure in stating that it is, without doubt, the best saddle I ever possessed or rode on, and trust soon to give you an order for a lady’s saddle for my sister, who will be passing through Sydney soon.

I am, yours faithfully, Chas. E. G. Tisdall

Mr Tisdall’s sister was probably seeking  a side-saddle, which  were popular with gentlewomen of the era.

 Saddlery advertisement

John Brush  was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Sydney Show. Below is a photo of their pavilion;

Royal Sydney Show Exhibit.
Featuring the latest pneumatic collars in 1909. (Mudgee Guardian, 22 April 1909)
John Brush show pavilion at Sydney Show 1920
At the show, 1920 (Sydney Mail, 14 April 1920)

On display at the 1920 Royal Sydney Show was a John Brush saddle used throughout WWI by Lt. Col. R.F. Fitzgerald, D.S.O., who had served in Egypt, France and Belgium. Many of the Australian Light Horsemen in the Great War used the saddles.

Naturally the arrival of the motor car spelled the beginning of the end for the business, at least in urban Australia.  However, catalogues  were still being produced in the 1950s. To survive for well over a century is quite an achievement.

John Bush 1950s catalogue
1950s catalogue
John Brush Catalogue 1938
1938 catalogue. (National Library of Australia)
John Brush Pack Saddle
  1. The John Brush story brought back many memories, being a horsey person. There was a saddler in Lithgow (where the tin shed is now) and as the story goes he accidently sowed his beard to a
    saddle he was repairing.
    I enjoy your stories and look forward to them.


    • Pauline

      Oh, how funny about the Lithgow Saddler! I’m glad you enjoy my stories.

  2. Great read! Not much online about these saddles and they seem hard to find, are they worth much?

  3. Hello
    Do you know when they closed down? What date?
    Many thanks

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