Frederick J Chandler and Sir Gordon Richards

David Chandler

For over 200 years my family had a saddlery business (Frederick J Chandler) in Marlborough.

Up until 100 years ago most villages, towns and cities had saddlery and harness businesses which catered for the large number of horses being used in farming, business and transport.

My family’s business was a bit unusual in that we specialised in saddlery for the racing industry. This was, and still is, a niche market. It was also the reason that our business survived into modern times when the horse was replaced by the internal combustion engine.

The mainstream saddlery and harness businesses catering for farm and transport work disappeared while we survived.

I worked in the business from 1962 until 1983, touring round the racing stables in Newmarket, southern England and Chantilly in France.

Sir Gordon Richards’ race saddle on which he won the 1953 Derby
Sir Gordon Richards’ race saddle on which he won the 1953 Derby. Photo credit: David Chandler
Selection of Race Whips
Selection of Race Whips. Photo credit David Chandler

The Marlborough area has been a significant centre for the training of racehorses since the middle of the 19th century. The Ogbournes, Beckhampton and Manton Down stables all date their origins from the 19th century.

Our family business of F. J. Chandler finally closed down in 2001.

My father Jesse Chandler had stored some items from the business when he retired, in his house, where my sister (Caroline Loveday) discovered them when she was preparing the family house (Orchard Close) for sale.

Among the items were four jockey’s whips (1), two of which had been presented to champion Jockey’s Steve Donoghue (1922) and Sir Gordon Richards (1953) for their Derby wins. The other two are whips belonging to Fred Archer (1857 to 1886) and a race whip from the 1920’s made from whalebone. Whalebone produced some of the finest race whips up until WWII and I was frequently asked for them by stable lads – a vain hope!!  The other item my father had put aside was the race saddle (2) on which sir Gordon Richards had won his first Derby in 1953.

Sir Gordon Richards with the author, David Chandler (then Mayor) at the Marlborough Horse Show and Gymkhana on The Common in 1970. Photo credit David Chandler
Sir Gordon Richards with the author, David Chandler (then Mayor) at the Marlborough Horse Show and Gymkhana on The Common in 1970. Photo credit David Chandler

Sir Gordon still holds the record in England and Ireland for winners with a final score of 4,870 winners when he retired in 1954. However by 1953, in spite of having won fourteen classic races (3), and being Champion Jockey for twenty six of his over thirty years of race riding, the Derby eluded him. He was coming up to retirement and the whole country was behind him when he won on Pinza. The Queen in her Coronation year was hoping for a Derby win herself and was the first to congratulate Sir Gordon. Sir Gordon retired from race riding in 1954 and traded in his racing saddles for new race exercise saddles which he would need as a trainer.

Sir Gordon had been a resident of Marlborough for thirty years (Cross Lane) and a customer of F. J. Chandler since he started race riding in 1920 and being the first stable jockey for Fred Darling at Beckhampton from 1923. When he set up as trainer in 1954 he wanted everything exactly the same as it had been under Fred Darling. As Fred Darling had been a long term customer of F. J. Chandler it meant that Sir Gordon was a very good customer. Sir Gordon started off training at Ogbourne but moved to Whitsbury near Salisbury where I used to visit in the firm’s travelling van shop. Most flat race jockeys were and are based at Newmarket but Sir Gordon was based around here and was a great supporter of local charities.

He is worthy of having something in Marlborough named after him.

(1) & (2) The four historical race whips and Sir Gordon’s race saddle are to be given to the saddlers’ company of the city of London to go on permanent display at Saddlers’ Hall.

(3) The classic races on the flat are The Derby, Oaks, 1,000 Guineas, Selection of Race Whips 2,000 Guineas and the St Leger.

The Marlborough History Society would like to send their thanks to The Merchants House, Marlborough for kindly giving permission to post this article on our website. The article was published in The Marlborough Journal, Issue 74.