Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fine English Rocking Horses - Whoa!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fine English Rocking Horses-Whoa!

   I haven't added any posts recently, but fortunately I heard from Jessica Darnton from Fine English Rocking Horses. I could write about toys from my already accessible sources, but I waited. It's been hot here in Montreal, and I was busy with a few other things. Thankfully I got the  permission from Jessica to write about her fine rocking horses. I'd seen a few on Liveauctioneers, but I couldn't find one auctioneer with enough images to work with. I did a search on the Net, and "voila", I found  Fine English Rocking  Horses

   My wife Heidi liked to ride horses, so when we dated and a bit later when we were married, we'd ride. I never rode before, and I'm not a rider. I like to look at horses, rather than ride them, and horses seem to sense this. So every time I got very "tame" horse, he or she always know I wasn't going to be "the boss". One horse decided to lie down for a nap, another simply returned home to the barn, and another one decided to have a snack of grass in the meadow. I photographed them in Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) where they have an exceptional field and facilities for jumping events.  Jumping horses with trained riders are exceptional to watch, especially when I was on the field with them. They're beautiful both in looks and watching them ride.

   Returning to Fine English Rocking Horses, as I was working to make the horses show best (Photoshop), I started to notice the details and differences among the horses. If you look too quickly at the photos, all of the horses may appear too similar, but they're not. What I also liked is that Jessica had given the horses names, unless of course, the original maker of the horses had named his horses (models).

   The horses are hand carved from wood. When the woodworking is finished, the horses have a layer of gesso applied to them just like a painter adds this coat to a canvas. Then the fine detail such as the eyelashes are carefully hand-painted on. The eyes are mostly glass, and the hair can be from horse or even cow. What also is most interesting is just how large some of these rocking horses can be!

   Jessica also restores these fine items, which in some cases are in fact true antiques (100 years old at least!). 

   Jessica found the time to proofread the post, and found that I had erred in the name of her outstanding company.  While reading her letter, she had most generously taken the time to write a biography about herself and  Fine English Rocking Horses

 Below, in Jessica Darnton's own words is her story:

"For as long as I can remember my love of all things equine coupled with an artistic nature led me to developing an interest in the rocking kind! little did i know what a journey this would lead me down. 

From my first refurbishment for my own interest, to being asked to refurbish on behalf of others. As I became more involved and yearned to learn more, I participated on a course with a rocking horse maker, to learn some of the tecniques involved in refurbishing. He introduced me to a forum of rocking horse enthusiasts, including restorers with many years expertise in the field that were kind enough to give away some of their trade secrets!. This is where I learnt, most of what I know now and my interest led to the antique side of things. A passion for antique rocking horses was born! 

Rocking horses, just like teddy bears each have a character of their own, which is why I choose to name them 
( if they haven't already been named by a previous owner ) before joining the FineEnglishRockingHorses herd.

Sometimes a rocking horse will come and join the stables with a definite provenance such as 'legend' He was given this name by his previous owner & although I haven't asked why he was named this, I presume it is because he is a legend... an absolute rarity of a horse with his original paintwork intact that has stood the test of time from 1850 ! 

As in the case of 'Reckless', I chose to name him this as his last home was Cassilis Castle in Scotland. I could just imagine him having to be 'Reckless', as his knight sat astride, clad in armour,asked him to gallop  ahead to face his components..., charging through wars & strife, protecting the family stronghold, the Kennedy Clan.

Sundances name  'came to mind' due to her beautiful colour which seems to emanate from her being, almost like the dancing rays of the sun.

Smokey Blue... he just suited it!

Fine English Rocking Horses was founded from a love of these beautiful historic fine art pieces & a desire to share this with others...

For many, the yearning to own a rocking horse often stems from childhood, when either one couldn't afford one & so much wanted one, or was lucky enough to own a dear friend, which is no longer around, either through being sold on or in some cases as is known used for the fire wood, when times were hard.

Consequently in my experience, the rocking horse is not only for children, but adults too!

Clients can vary from parents looking for a future heirloom for a child to ride in the immediate, to a husband or wife, looking to purchase a very special present for their partner or dear friend.

Sometimes and more often than not, a client will be looking to purchase for their own satisfaction and to fulfil a long lost dream of acquiring a dear lifelong rocking horse friend.

Rocking horses also appeal to collectors of antiques who appreciate the historical side of things, but also would like to invest in a piece of history that will more often than not hold its value in an up and down world.

As fashions for antique furniture fluctuate, rocking horses remain popular to a varied clientel & seem to hold their value. They are in them selves not only a rocking horse but a piece of fine art, a moving sculpture & English history.

Fine English Rocking Horses are a collection of these fine historic specimens, which are also offered for sale. 

When refurbishing, I am sometimes asked to do 'bespoke refurbishments' such as Maisie. If an antique rocking horse has his original paintwork , I would never take this away. With bespoke refurbishments, often a horse will be used that has already lost any originality.

I believe that it is important to retain as much of the originality as is possible when an antique rocking horse is restored. Replacing 'like for like' when ever possible. Using sympathetic materials & genuine horse or cows hair (although cows hair is what will have been used all those years ago). 

Some of the horses I have refurbished myself & others I have purchased in to offer for resale. I look for quality, rarity, and sometimes just beauty when looking to add to the herd. Some of the unknown makes of rocking horse are as lovely in themselves as their well known counterparts.

I am a private dealer and viewings are by appointment in the UK. 

Kindest regards,


(Jessica Darnton)"

It's too bad Jessica is very busy, since I would have liked to see a blog title on her website. She writes very well and is most interesting.  And so below, are just some of the fine examples and restorations that have been done by Jessica.

Jessica wrote and sent me more photos, which I will add to a second post in the future.

Fine English Rocking Horses

I decided to  start with "Benjamin". I like wood, and seeing this horse "unpainted" was fantastic. To see so much wood shown with its fabulous grain, and then to see the rest of this marvellous riding horse was just great!

I forgot to mention that these rockers also have fine handmade leather saddlery.


 Try to  look at the expression of each horse as you browse through this post. Each horse seems to have a different expression on his/her face.

 Try to also have a look at the design of the rocker itself. Some rockers are much more simple, but nevertheless elegant in design.

Look at the painted detail that goes into the spotting and hair simulation on the coat.
I also like the way this horses' mane is shorter and braided.

Even the saddles are different! 

Just look at Peggoty's eyes!
Isn't she beautiful!

Just look at all of the detail and painstaking work that went into this fine antique.

The bow or curvature of this rocking horse is stupendous. I'm sure both the parents and child were very careful when a child was riding this horse! 

This beautifully-sculpted horse reminds me of Greek art or old painting of horses.  He's not the most handsome, but the beautiful musculature crafted by F. H. Ayres is ageless, and a favourite of mine.

I decided to close with Arabella. For a lady that's about 118 years old, she still is beautiful, even in her original state and unrestored.  Her majestic neck, her ears, nostrils and eyes, make her timeless. The master craftsman from J & G Lines would certainly be most proud to see that his creation is still around after all these years!

Thanks for dropping by,

and as always, have a great part of the day,
wherever you may be.

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