The group enjoys a varied set of social events throughout the year. Here are the forthcoming events and reports from previously held events.
Summer Skittles Evening with Solihull Group
An experimental joint venture took place on August 24th, in the form of a skittles match with Solihull Advanced Motorists. It was held in the Masons Arms pub in Long Marston and was the result of an invitation by Solihull’s events organiser, David Heath.
We fielded a team of 16, just matching their numbers, and it turned out to be a great success, sharing supper tables and enjoying meeting the very sociable Solihull members. Unfortunately we lost to them 160 – 151, but with the promise of the event turning into an annual fixture, we will have better luck next time!
Visit to the Walsall Leather Museum and Wightwick Manor
Our event in July was a visit to the Leather Museum in Walsall. The leather industry has been making some of the world’s finest leather goods for 200 years, including saddles and bridles for the royal family.
In 1988, Walsall Council converted an original Victorian factory building into a fascinating museum to celebrate this great tradition and the achievements of the leather craftsmen.
The harnesses which were needed in such huge quantities for the horse drawn vehicles in those days consisted not only of leather but also of the minor metal items such as the stirrups, bits, horse brasses for decoration etc. The workers who made these were named Loriners and it was because the metals they used were found locally that this industry was based in Walsall, The leather industry followed them and also got established there.
Our guide showed us the great variety of dressed hides and how they were prepared for different uses. The cowhides are tanned, which is the process of converting the protein of the raw hides into a stable material. This involves removing (by hand in the old days) the hair and the fat layer inside the skin. The hide then has to be soaked in a liquor to remove the protein and this used to be a vile smelling liquid consisting of urine and other unsavoury constituents, for many days until the hide has been totally penetrated. If this is not done, the hide becomes dry and brittle and cannot be manipulated.
The hides are then split into 3 layers, the top layer used for good quality saddlery, purses etc. while the under layers are turned into lovely soft suede, used for gloves and clothing. The leather can be dyed and stamped to produce patterns such as ostrich and snakeskin. You can always tell the real skin because the cowhide leather feels smooth, whereas the real skins are rough to the touch.
We were given a demonstration of purse making on a 100 year old treadle sewing machine, but the saddles and bridles had to be stitched by hand.
After the tour we enjoyed a light lunch in the Saddle Room Café, and a browse round the well-stocked shop. Then the group drove to nearby Wolverhampton to visit the National Trust house, Wightwick Manor, a Victorian manor house built and furnished under the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement. Well worth a visit.
All in all a good day out!