Frederick Henry Ayres manufactured rocking horses at their premises in 111 Aldegate London. They also produced sporting goods & a variety of toys which included toy push & pull along wood carved horses on wheels.
When looking to identify the make of a rocking horse, several factors need to be taken into consideration, such as the style of the upright turned posts on the swingstand, the shape of the hoofrails, metal brackets and swing irons and the carving style of the horse itself. Ayres rocking horses tend to be of a more masculine appearence than that of G & J Lines, their major competitor at that time. The earliest rocking horses were on bow rockers, until taken over by the swingstand which was considered a safer alternative, as bows tended to 'rock' & move across the floor when ridden, also 'crushing' little childrens toes.
Many rocking horses manufactured by F H Ayres were not trade marked, other than some of their very early period models, which sometimes can be found with an F H Stamp under the belly area (this is often uncovered during the restoration process of removing later layers of overpaint) or by way of an oval brass plaque with '118 Aldergate' inscribed & attached to the base of the wood stand. Sometimes evidence of a plaque by way of two holes where the escutcheon pins held the plaque in place exist, long after the plaque itself has been lost.
Other marks that have been found on Ayres rocking horses have included symbols such as a Maltese Cross and a Union Jack applied as a transfer to the stand base.
F H Ayres rocking horses were supplied to many outlets including the London Department Stores Harrods in Knightsbridge & Selfridges in Oxford Street London, & often had the name of the store applied to the bottom wood section of the swingstand base.
F H Ayres produced many different types of rocking horse including plain carved & extra carved style horses on bow rockers, the safety swingstand rocking horses to the 'D' type 'Special Carved rocking horses that although of a later period were carved with extra attention to detail to mimick the muscle tone of a real horse, with a turned & twisted set head to give the impression of a horse champing & pulling at the bit. Quite spectacular!
A difference to the usual wood safety swingstand design was that of the 'springstand' on which the hoofrails were attached to swing irons which hung from two strong metal springs, that were fixed to the wood stand base. This design perhaps wasn't as popular as the wooden safety swing stand as there appear to be less of the springstand rocking horse around.
William Sykes Ltd took over the company of F H Ayres arround 1940 and consequently these later 'Ayres' rocking horses can be found with 'H' shape plaques where part of the plaques inscription has been cut away. These later circa 1940's rocking horses can also be recognised by the cruder style of carving which included thicker pasterns to the horses front legs and 'beady' looking eyes, as a smaller glass eye seems to have been used enstead of the more generous sized ones in the earlier period horses.
Many people hold F H Ayres rocking horses in high esteem and they are certainly well carved, especially some of their earlier models that are quite breathaking in their quality and stance and as lovely as they are there are many more makes of rocking horse some of uknown manufacture that are as equally lovely if not more so...
As they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
Please note, the rocking horses on this page are not available for sale. The photos are for your interest.
F H Ayres Rocking Horse Plain carved Florence.
The photos below show 'Florence' a Large F H Ayres Rocking Horse in original unrestored condition with her leather saddlery intact.
She has her original paintwork over gesso intact and is in good condition for her age albeit her historic battle scars.
As mentioned previously Ayres horses tend to have a masculine look & Florence is quite unusual in that she has quite a feminine presence.
Compare her to 'William' further down.
F H Ayres Rocking Horse Plaincarved William
The below photos show 'William' a Large plain carved F H Ayres rocking horse in original unrestored condition with original dapples & leather saddlery intact. He also retains his metal mouth piece, original metal & fabric rosettes. Compare his more 'masculine' face carving to that of 'Florence' above.
F H Ayres Rocking Horse Plaincarved 'Skip'
Skip is an example of a plaincarved F H Ayres rocking horse restored to include preservation of his original paintwork.
His restoration was carried out by David Kiss - Present day rocking horse maker & restorer. The last thumbnail shows all 3 plain carved rocking horses in a line up, Skip, Florence & William.
F H Ayres Rocking Horse Plain carved 'Elenour'
Another fine example of a plaincarved F H Ayres rocking horse in unrestored original condition. She has her original pommel, saddlery, metal Ayres style rosettes & cows hair mane & tail intact. Note her aged frayed rosette ribbon & delicate eyelash detail.
F H Ayres Plain carved Unrestored Rocking Horse Undergoing Restoration
Below thumbnails show an Ayres horse in overpainted conditon undergoing restoration to include removing the later grey layers of overpaint.
This was a slow process which involved picking off the paint carefully to reveal his original dapples. Care had to be taken not to damage the original paintwork or underlying gesso.
F H Ayres Bow Rocking Horse Plain carved Restored
The first thumbnail below shows this F H Ayres plaincarved rocking horse on its original bow rockers in unrestored & overpainted condition. His restoration included repairing damage to his woodwork, re gessoing & repainting in the style of Ayres. His restorer finished him with a horsehair mane & tail & new leatherwork. The last 3 photos show him fully restored.
F H Ayres Extra Carved Rocking Horse
The below photos show 'Peggoty' a fully restored Extra carved F H Ayres rocking horse with an unusually pretty feminine dished face, not typical to the more masculine carving style of Ayres. Note the extra carving to the wood muscle blocks in her neck. Restored by Jan Rusling of Rocking Horse Elite.
F H Ayres Extra Carved Special 'D'Type Rocking Horse
The below photos show an exceptional example of a large special carved 'D' style rocking horse. He is in mostly original condition & retains his original paintwork and saddle. His tail is of cows hair, which he will have had fitted when manufactured. His blonde mane is a later addition. Note his chrome plated metal brackets & swingirons. ( The Ayres horse stands were fitted with a 4 bolt butterfly type bracket at each end of the swing stand other than the smallest of their models of horse which were given a 3 bolt bracket).
His stand base has the stencil 'Harrods Knightsbridge' which is where he was originally retails through.
The photos of his rump show the muscle definition that has been carved in to his wood either side of his spine to mimick muscle tone. Particular attention has been given to his face, with his tongue & segregated teeth.
F H Ayres Extra Carved Large Early Period Rocking Horse
Below is another example of a rocking horse with extra carving to his neck & legs. Although missing his jaw, he would have had a tongue had his jaw been intact. He has the typical 'stepped' hoofrails on his wood swingstand that were usually put with the extra carved models.
This particular rocking horse with his style of carving to include his thin legs, sloping rump & his body lying close to the top part of his stand all point to him having been manufactured in the earlier period.
F H Ayres Extra Carved Rocking Horse 'Brigadier'
An exeptional example of an F H Ayres rocking horse who has undergone a very sympathetic restoration to preserve his original paintwork & dapples. Note again the 'stepped' hoofrails. The last photo shows his natural aged patina of paintwork worn down to the underneath bluey grey basecoat & wood. Historical ageing is a beautiful process not easily replicated.