Syd Hill & Sons is an esteemed company and brand in the saddlery industry, since it’s founding in 1865.
For 150 years, we have prided ourselves in designing, manufacturing and providing our loyal customers with the best quality saddlery, and six generations on and we are still striving to do so.
In the mid 1800’s, craft saddler John Hill arrived in Sydney from England where he swapped a gallon of rum for a block of land. John lived in Sydney for six years until deciding to move to Brisbane. Being the only saddler in Queensland, he started his business in George Street, opposite the Treasury building.
John's four sons, Frederick, Herbert, Steven and Harry were all tradesmen and worked for their father. Frederick excelled and was soon presented with medals and awards at the universal exposition of 1889 in Paris for his craftsmanship in saddlery.
When the Boer War struck in 1899, Herbert, Steven and Harry parted ways to start their own trade, while Fredrick continued on in the family business. He became responsible for equipping 15 soldiers each fortnight with their total outfit required for war. Fredrick’s son, Syd would spend time after school painting hardware khaki and in 1934, the company was passed down to him.
Syd had three sons, Fred (Frederick), Jim (James) and Arthur (Len). Carrying on the tradition, they commenced their trade with their father, until 1939 when WWII struck. Fred and Jim were unable to serve due to medical issues so they continued their study while Len served in The Battle of Wau, returning in 1946.
In 1948, Syd retired and left the company to his sons Fred and Jim to run the manufacturing, and Len to run the office. Jim’s innovative skills and foresight into the needs and wants of the new generation of horseman succeeded in turning the company into the largest manufacturer of leather saddlery and goods in the southern hemisphere. Fred had two sons before losing his life in a tragic car accident. Len had four children and Jim, three. In 1975 Jim’s youngest, Paul started learning the mastery of saddle and pattern making.
Their reputation grew and at the peak of trading employed 135 staff members. Syd Hill and Sons saw international acclaim when they were commissioned to make the saddles for the 1982 release of ‘The Man from Snowy River’ and thus started their partnership with Collin Dangaard. Saddles were manufactured for the Guards of Buckingham Palace and numerous cities mounted police services, including Denver, Canada, New York City and Noumea. Syd Hill became a sought after brand name, desirable to celebrities, politicians and royalty alike.
It was regarded such an privilege, to own a Syd Hill saddle that when the Honourable Malcolm Fraser visited The White House, he presented former President Ronald Reagan with a Drafter Poley.
Another highlight was when Paul had the honour of meeting Prince Charles of Wales on his 1981 visit to Australia, a photo of which still hangs in Brisbane City Town Hall.
Other VIP customers include Patrick Swayze, William Shatner, Bo Derek, Shania Twain, Jonny Cash and Charlie Watts.
In 1993, Jim and Len retired and Paul and his wife Leanne carried on as the directors of Syd Hill and Sons. As the years passed, the equestrian industry was hit with hardship, drought and disease. Through all of this we have strived to adapt our products to the needs of the economic climate and our dedicated consumers, developing new and innovative saddles that re- define saddlery while upholding the standards and traditions set 150 years ago.
This is only a brief history of the people and the company that contributed so hugely to the modernisation of saddlery and riding.
Jim Hill now is memorialised in the Stockman’s hall of Fame and forever in the hearts of the Australian and International equestrian industry.
Paul Hill continues to manufacture and design saddles for Syd Hill & Sons, based in Queensland.