rh7

ANTHONY DEW

A 17th Century revival

This (left) is the oldest surviving rocking horse in the world. It is reputed to have been made for Prince Charles, born 1600, to exercise his weak legs (he had rickets) and to teach him to ride.

 

King Charles later became known as a fine horseman, so the rocking horse had obviously done its job, before he came to a sorry end. The rocking horse was purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum a few years ago and is on display at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London.

I was able to sketch, measure and photograph it, and then made the version (right), my best guess as to what it was like when first made. It is the same size and employs the same materials as the original, which it was displayed alongside in the V&A.

 

This horse is therefore the ancestor of many thousands of others. It is very simply made and has no 'stops' to prevent it rocking right over. It would never pass our health and safety regulations today.

This is one of our children (probably Kate) test riding one of my first Toddlers rocking horses.

 

Based on the traditional 17th Century style of the Prince Charles horse, our version was made from plywood, with solid wood footrests and head either carved (as shown) or a simple silhouette.

 

We made many versions of this design including a flat pack for home assembly. It worked really well, with an exciting yet safe rocking action. The plan is still available, published by The Rocking Horse Shop.

This is my 'Royal Cavalier', another modern variation of the old 17th Century 'slad-sided' rocking horse. It featured silk-screened flowers, a carved head with removable bridle and adjustable footrests, and was intended for children from around 3 to 6 years old.

 

We produced this horse from around 1984 to 1990. It was our first attempt at batch production and I even had a huge copy carving machine built to make the head since I knew it would be incredibly boring to have to hand carve hundreds of heads all the same.

 

It rocked well but never sold in the big numbers we'd hoped so we dropped it. Anyway I preferred hand carving one-offs, and could carve faster and better than the machine.