The company started by Frederick Henry Ayres in London produced beautiful rocking horses
from the middle
of the 19th century until about 1950. In 1940 the original company was taken over by Sykes and soon after by Slazenger. David Kiss's new book has all the details.
Occasionally the horses carried a manufacturer's stamp or plate but most either did not or the marks have disappeared over the years.
Ayres horses are generally regarded as better than all others but although they are undoubtedly wonderful, there are other makers who produced equally lovely rocking horses.
Ayres produced a great variety of horses over the years but many are clearly identifiable even when unmarked or when overpainted. The heads are beautiful, often with well carved ears and fine muzzles. The lower jaws are quite often missing or have been replaced because they have broken off at the fine curb groove by pulling too hard on the reins. The body size is usually generous and very well proportioned. The legs are delicately carved, sometimes seeming impossibly thin in the cannon bone and pastern areas.
The paintwork on Ayres horses can often be recognized even although there are several styles including large and small dapple patterns. The top of the range models are extensively dappled while cheaper horses may have quite sparse colouring but the application of the decoration is careful and consistent. The swing stands generally have distinctive pillar shapes. Old and special models may be different, bow rockers are far more tricky to identify and the rare metal spring - swing stands are not well documented.
The following pages show a few examples of Ayres rocking horses. Heights are noted; floor to
the highest point of the horse on its stand.