History of the English Rocking Horse . . .
This brief story dates back to the 19th century, although the Rocking Horse goes back much further, the ‘commercial Rocking Horse’ emerged at the time of the industrial revolution.
Then, as today the Rocking Horse became a popular toy in children’s nurseries. A well constructed horse with leather saddle, bridle, rains, real horse hair main and tail, plus the slow laborious task of the craftsman carving out the detail of the horse made for a quality and highly priced toy which only the wealthy could afford.
As the Rocking Horse gained in popularity companies came into being and several are known to this day as the great Rocking Horse makers of this era.
One of those companies was J. Collinson of Liverpool who originated in 1836 and carried on until 1993. In 1851 Queen Victoria visited the company and chose a dapple grey horse. From then on Collinson only made this colour.
Dapple grey was and still is the most popular colour and has become the traditional appearance for many Rocking Horse makers who model their horses on the Victorian style.
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. They are now very rare and command a very high price if one can be found.
In the 19th century English Rocking Horses were renowned the world over with their majestic style and flowing elegance mounted on large bow rockers that added to the dashing style of that era.
Then in 1877 an American named P.J. Marqua of Cincinnati. Ohio. Patented the safety stand. This is the swing stand as we know it today that rocks the horse too and fro by the motion of swing bars mounted on a stand that remains static.
In 1880 a British patent was granted and Rocking Horses on swinger stands became the most popular choice. The main reason being safety but also for compactness as a horse on swinger stand needed less space lengthwise than a bow rocker.
The golden age of the Rocking Horse was during the Victorian era and many associate a Rocking Horse to this.
There is something magical about a Victorian Rocking Horse and here at Cherished Rocking Horses we aim to keep this style alive by modelling our horses on this wonderful era.
The History of the Carousel Horse ...
The origin of the Carousel Horse goes back to the 11th century, when Spanish Crusaders noticed how Turks played a game on horseback. The Spanish Crusaders took this game back to their native land and named it Carosella which means ‘little war’. This game then traveled to France where it became known as Carousel and became a game of horsemanship in a form of jousting. The French version of the game consisted of a horseback rider carrying a wooden lance charging towards rings suspended from tree branches on ribbons and the object of the game was to spear the ring. The game became popular among the upper class.
A great deal of money was paid for the upper classes to have their sons trained in this noble art and great status was bestowed on those who did well at the game.
Then along came the wooden Carousel Horse carved by French craftsmen who saw a need for training novices without having to ride a real horse, the wooden horse was attached to a pole that rotated with the horse and rings would be hanging at certain points where the rider would spear them as he leaned over. The wood carver would carve the horses to the style of a horse in full dress as seen in jousting tournaments.
This type of Carousel became very popular among the wealthy French families and as the centuries passed it became purely a game at around 1780.
So what was originally a tool for training fighters on horseback became a game and later still it then became purely a fairground ride. Several horses were mounted on a round platform that revolved on a centre point. In the event of them having to be moved around from town to town they were by definition fairly small and made from light materials as were available at the time.
As the industrial revolution came along and the introduction of the steam engine this gave the opportunity for bigger and more elaborate Carousels. They were now made with the poles moving up and down to replicate the gallop of a horse and the whole Carousel turned on a central pivot that was powered by a steam engine.
The Americans made very large carousels with elaborately carved horses three and four rows deep and brightly painted as were all of the Carousel to the style of the original fairground ride. Various styles of horses would appear, other animals also such as dragons and wild animal types, all highly decorated works of art. This was the golden age of the Carousel.
Many styles appeared of various animals and creatures and later carvers would carve styles to various themes such as oranges and lemons or fairies for instance.
American Carousels were a thriving art up to the 1920s depression. As this took hold many amusement parks and Carousel owners went out of business leaving these beautiful works of art and engineering to rot and rust or be scrapped.
Out of the thousands of Carousels made during the heyday of the American Carousel only around 200 at most remain. There is still much interest in the Carousel in America and many craftsmen and women are kept busy restoring them to their former glory. Their value is very high and they are very collectable.
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