History Of The Rocking Horse
By Neil Wade
The rocking horse as we know it dates back to the 17th Century when wooden rocking horses first appeared in Europe. A very few of these early rocking horses still survive in museums and private collections. These include one of the earliest ridden by King Charles I of England when he was a boy. Socrates’ children are also said to have ridden rocking horses.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that wooden rocking horses began to appear as handcrafted creations. Probably, the most famous is the classic English Dapple Grey rocking horse.
During the 19th Century, wooden toy making evolved from a cottage industry into a factory production.
Rocking horses were popular throughout Great Britain during Georgian and Victorian times. They also flourished in Germany and in America until the middle of the Twentieth Century, when production of wooden rocking horses almost disappeared.
G & J Lines, two brothers George and Joseph, started in the 1850s and went on to become the largest Rocking Horse company in England. Joseph Lines’s three sons left the business in 1919 to start their own Rocking Horse business under the name of Lines Bros.
They became a large company in their own right selling Rocking Horses all over the world and in 1950 they supplied a horse to Queen Elizabeth II for the young Prince Charles.
Another famous Rocking Horse maker was F.H. Ayres of London who started in the 1860s and has a reputation for making some of the finest horses of that era. F.H Ayres took out a patent in 1888 with details of a device that allowed the neck to swivel, turning the head.
Today, antique wooden rocking horses have become collector’s items while new artists have emerged with their own designs to make the collector’s items of the future. There is a great range of designs and styles available and horses are made in a wide variety of materials.
The art of making rocking horses is enjoying a resurgence and these projects are not for the faint of heart, they are true art forms requiring the hand carving of hard woods, painting, and even the creation of saddles and bridles.The art of making rocking horses is enjoying a resurgence and these projects are not for the faint of heart, they are true art forms requiring the hand carving of hard woods, painting, and even the creation of saddles and bridles.