(For interesting rocking horse links and other horse links, please scroll to the bottom of the page)
Antique rocking horses? Rocking horse heirlooms? Rocking horse tradition? As rocking horse making virtually evaporated as Britain's young men went off to fight in the Great War(or First World War) in 1914, all of these concepts must have seemed far-fetched and outlandish.
English rocking horse workshops fell silent and most of the rocking horse companies disappeared never to return. The end of the war in 1918 inevitably lead to a new age. It has been said that in previous times, every child might expect to see a horse every day of his or her life. Soon though, horses were to become less a part of daily life in the towns and cities, so toy horses and rocking horses began to lose some of their appeal in the face of novel wheeled toys.
THE HAYDAY OF THE ROCKING HORSE
There had been no sign of this demise in the early years of the 20th Century prior to the war. British rocking horse making boomed and each year many a new rocking horse workshop sprang up to meet the increasing demand for rocking horses.
It is perhaps surprising to us nowadays in the age of brands, but most rocking horse makers and companies gave little thought to including identifying marks on their rocking horse designs. This was partially because many rocking horses were sold in department stores that had no interest in promoting the rocking horse maker. Indeed, it is not uncommon these days to see older horses with the names of Harrods, Army and Navy Stores or Barkers of Kensington stencilled on the stand. In truth though, most of the rocking horse producers comprised an individual rocking horse carver or two, or small groups of craftsmen. It is unlikely that these small groups of rocking horse makers either identified with a particular rocking horse brand or that they thought of their rocking horses as future heirlooms.
F.H. AYRES ROCKING HORSES
The London maker, F.H. Ayres, was to a limited extent an exception in that Ayres rocking horses would sometimes have a maker's stamp and their enduring designs (most observers regard the Ayres rocking horse as the pinnacle of Victorian rocking horse design) make them both more appealing and more easily identifiable than most of their contemporaries. By the way, Ayres rocking horse production survived the First World War, but not the Second World War.
G&J LINES ROCKING HORSES
G&J Lines was one of the most prominent of the Victorian and Edwardian rocking horse makers, but they too failed to survive the First World War, though the family business did re-surface as Lines Brothers. They may have been the first to adopt a rocking horse production-line with individuals responsible for particular parts or stages of assembly. They metamorphosised again to become Tri-ang and so enjoyed a longer life than most of their rivals, even though they too could not hold back the tide of the choice of mass-produced alternative toys.
COLLINSON ROCKING HORSES
Liverpool rocking horse maker J. Collinson, which had also spawned nearby Baby Carriages, survived even longer before their final closure around 1990, but they too found that they could not square the cost circle of producing a hand-made rocking horse in a mass-production age.
ROCKING HORSE RESTORATION
Rocking horse making is dead! Long live rocking horse making! As cheap plastics abound, mass materials and many homes threaten to drown in low-quality disposable toys, the hand-carved traditional rocking horse is enjoying a revival: talented and dedicated rocking horse makers have found discerning rocking horse buyers who can and will invest in the joy, the treasure and the heirloom that is a hand-carved rocking horse. The rocking horse dream is alive and rocking horse making seems back to stay!
For those who are fortunate enough to own an old rocking horse, the key is to find the right rocking horse restorer. What a minefield! Rocking horses are easily devalued and ruined in the wrong hands. Look for a restorer who values authenticity and does not just turn out 'identikit' rocking horses.
Rocking Horse LinksThe Kensington Rocking Horse Company
A small group of the top and most experienced rocking horse makers and restorers is grouped together in this rocking horse company. Two other leading rocking horse makers, National rocking horse and British rocking horses have also joined the Kensington Rocking Horse stable
Toy Horses by V&A Museum
Horse LinksHorse Books and Videos.com - one of the largest selections of horse riding books, horse videos and DVDs
Horse Racing UK - Horse Racing UK and Related Links