yeovil people

John Rundle & Family

Three generations of Saddlers & Harness Makers


John Rundle was born in Axminster, Devon, in 1843. He was the son of Master Currier (leather dresser) Richard Rundle, originally from St Neots, Cornwall, and his wife Lydia who was originally from Dundee, Scotland. In the 1851 census Richard was living with his parents in Lyme Street, Axminster, with his older brother Richard and younger siblings Elizabeth, Jerome and Alice. The 1861 census was very similar except that his father Richard was now listed as a shopkeeper, his brother Richard was a cabinetmaker and 18-year-old John was a harness maker. There were also five more siblings; sisters Lydia and Emily and brothers Henry, Brice and William.

In the summer of 1865 John married Eliza Smith (1841-1915) at Axminster but by the time of the 1871 census John and Eliza had moved to Yeovil and had a shop in Middle Street next-but-one to the corner with Union Street (photographed below). John was listed as a saddler and was living above the shop with Eliza and their three children; four-year-old Mary, two-year-old Arthur Henry and Alice aged eight months.

The Post Office Directory of 1875 listed John Rundle as a saddler of Middle Street and in the 1881 census he was listed as a saddler employing two boys. By this time they had two further children; John and Edmund (b1877, Yeovil). Mary and Arthur, the two eldest children, were both listed as draper's apprentices. John was listed as a saddler of Middle Street in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1882 and again in 1889 - even though he died in the winter of 1883, he was 41.

After the death of John his widow Eliza carried on at the shop. In the 1891 census she was listed as a 'Saddler & China Dealer', her daughter Mary now aged 24 was listed as an assistant to her mother and Arthur, aged 22, was listed as 'Saddler Manager'. Alice was a teacher at a board school and John was a solicitor's clerk while Edmund was listed as a scholar.


In the 1891 edition of 'Where to Buy' Eliza Rundle's business was given the following description -

Messrs. E Rundle and Son,
Saddlers and Harness Makers, 112, Middle Street,
and China and Earthenware Dealers, 103, Middle Street

Walsall had at one time a complete monopoly in harness making, but the enterprise of local tradesmen soon came to the assistance of the public, and now most of our prosperous towns and agricultural and hunting centres are well provided with sound, well-finished, and reliable work performed on the spot.

Messrs. E Rundle and Son, saddlers and harness makers, of 112, Middle Street, are thoroughly practical men, with long experience, and this gives them special advantages, as it is only by such qualifications that really good work can be guaranteed. The business premises are convenient of access both to the residents of Yeovil and the numerous country gentlemen, farmers, and others constantly visiting the borough.

Only the very best qualities of leather, pigskin, and other materials are employed, and with the assistance of experienced workmen, under the personal supervision of the principals, the most reliable harness, saddles, &c, finished in the very best style of workmanship, are turned out. The workshops are large and well arranged and the stock includes saddles for road and hunting purposes for ladies and gentlemen. These goods are remarkable for lightness, durability, graceful appearance, and superior finish, and are fitted with every modern improvement. Double and single harness in every style of mounting, also bits of all descriptions, bridles, spurs, stirrup-irons, whips, rugs, horsecloths, &c; in fact, every requisite for riding, hunting, driving and stable use, is in stock, and the high quality of the goods supplied during the past quarter of a century, have gained for them an extensive and influential patronage.

Messrs. Rundle and Son also keep a large stock of china and earthenware at their china warehouse, No 103, Middle Street. Breakfast, dinner and tea sets, toilet sets, vases and other goods in charming designs are always on view, as well as a varied assortment of strong and useful ware for general use. The prices throughout are very moderate, and particular care is taken in matchings. Messrs. Rundle and Son, by their energy and enterprise, and in the resources of both their shops, afford to the residents of the district a valuable supply of superior wares for use in the hunting field, on the road, and in their homes.



In 1895 it had two premises as in the publication 'Where to Buy' of that year the business was listed twice - as E Rundle & Son, China & Earthenware Dealers of 102 Middle Street and as E Rundle & Son, Saddlers & Harness Makers of 112 Middle Street.

By 1898 Arthur was running the saddle & harness making business as Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of that year listed him as a Saddler at 112 Middle Street (albeit as Arthur W Rundle) and in 1903 Whitby's listed him as a Saddler at 104 Middle Street. In the summer of 1893 Arthur married Mary Ann Griffin at Yeovil and in the 1901 census he was listed living at 112 Middle Street with Mary, their two young children, Dorothy and Arthur, and Mary's widowed mother Elizabeth Griffin. His mother, Eliza, however, was listed a couple of doors away at 103 (sic) Middle Street as a China Dealer and was living above the shop with her two sons John and Edward, her daughter Mary and her husband Sidney Thorne, a grocer's assistant.

In 1907 Collin's Yeovil Directory listed Arthur as a Saddle & Harness Maker of 104 Middle Street but sadly Arthur died on 12 January 1908 at the age of 39. After his death Mary carried on the business and in the 1911 census she is listed as a 40-year old widowed harness maker living at 104 Middle Street with her children Dorothy, Arthur and William. She was listed in Kelly's Directory of 1919 as Mrs AH Rundle, Saddler & Harness Maker of 104 Middle Street and again in Kelly's Directory of 1935.

The final listing for the business was in Edwin Snell & Son's Directory of 1954 when the entry listed AH Rundle, Saddler & Harness Maker of 104 Middle Street. This was Arthur and Mary's son Arthur, the third generation Saddler & Harness Maker. Shortly thereafter the shop premises was pulled down and the present building erected, initially occupied by outfitters Dunn & Co as seen in the final photograph below.




This map, based on the 1886 Ordnance Survey, shows John Rundle's saddle and harness-making premises shaded blue. The premises were the workshop and shop of the business from about 1870 until at least 1954 and through three generations of saddle and harness makers. The premises shaded pink was the china and earthenware goods shop of John's widow, Eliza.




This photograph probably dates to 1878 when John Rundle was the saddler and harness maker whose shop is at right, on the corner of Union Street, opposite the Castle Hotel.


An enlargement of the shop taken from the previous photograph to give a clearer view of John Rundle's premises. Although the sign is on the flank wall of the corner shop, John's shop was next door and in this enlargement a pair of his saddles are suspended from the first floor windows.


This sepia-toned photograph of about 1905 clearly shows the severe narrowing of Middle Street bearing in mind, of course, that this was the main road from London to the West Country at the time. The first property jutting out into the road was Eliza Rundle's china and earthenware shop, with her sign on the projecting side of the building. 


In this postcard, dated 1967, Dunn & Co occupy the new building that replaced the Rundle's saddle and harness maker's premises.