© Copyright Betty Longbottom
E.B. Balmforth Ltd. was founded in 1880 by Edwin Berry Balmforth and started his business as leather lace manufacturers in Macauley Street, Leeds. He was joined by his brother Thomas Balmforth.
About the turn of the century, it became necessary to move into larger premises in Meanwood Road, Leeds (pictured above). With the additional space available, the company developed their products over the next 100 years to become the largest leather lace manufacturers in the World.
In 1928, the company was incorporated and with the additional space available, developed their products over the next hundred years to become the largest leather grip manufacturers in Europe. Thomas Balmforth’s two sons, Thomas and George William, who as the second generation, developed the business during the difficult period before and after the second World War. Thomas was responsible for the dressed leather side while George William developed the grip business which was first started in 1930.
It was he who carried out the initial experiments and trials to produce a tacky leather grip and who developed the closely guarded secret formula to treat leather for golf and tennis grips to obtain the ideal degree of “tacky content”, for which Balmforth grips have become well known throughout the world. The Fairway grip, which is widely regarded as “the best grip in the world” is produced from the finest calfskins and quality is carefully controlled throughout manufacture from the choice of skins to the final finishing processes and inspection. This grip is treated with the Balmforth process to give the ideal degree of tackiness to enable the sportsman to obtain perfect control over his racket or golf club. Most of the leading tennis professionals have fitted Fairway grips to their rackets and this grip has been used by many winners of International Tennis Tournaments.
Mark Balmforth, the present chairman and managing director of the company, is the great great nephew of the founder and thus represents the fourth generation. In 2000 E.B. Balmforth relocated to Balmforth Business Park, Sawmill Lane, Helmsley, YO62 5DQ. The empty extensive Meanwood Road premises were demolished in 2008. Today the company continues to produce leather laces and lacing and thonging on reels in a great variety of widths and colours and Fairway leather sports grips. Over the years they have developed dressed leather production and today offer a range of lining leathers, tooling leathers and finished hides and skins. The majority of company sales are worldwide exports.
Photo: David Pratt