Jervis,Steven and Leonard Collinson, early 1990s

Collinson horses are some of the easiest to identify for several reasons: their popularity, their extremely consistent and distinctive appearance, and the fact that they were made until very recently. The company of J Collinson and Sons originated in 1836 in Liverpool and the business continued in the same family ownership, through 5 generations until December 1993 when it closed. Apparently Queen Victoria visited the company in 1851 and chose a dapple grey horse to ride, after which this was the only colour made.

I'm very grateful to Jervis Collinson for this photo. It shows Jervis ( on the left ), his son Steven and his brother Leonard with some of the last Collinson horses made in the early 1990s.

The type of Collinson seen now is often described as being old / antique / Victorian but in fact almost all of them are much younger and were made in the second half of the 20th century. These horses usually had corduroy saddle seats and vinyl saddle flaps and cloths. Horses made earlier than about 1940 had leather or leathercloth saddle materials. Most of the post 1950 horses have decorated nails for eyes, a few had wooden or plastic eyes.

Note that many post 1950 Collinson horses had their heads turned to one side. Recently people are advertising these horses on ebay as rare and Victorian - they are not! Do not be fooled by auctioneers, dealers or museums trying to persuade you that these are old horses. It is becoming a COMMON PROBLEM / SCAM and some people are intentionally trying to mislead their buyers.
They are also deliberately trying to confuse horses with their heads turned to one side with the 'turning head' very rare Ayres horses. These special steeds have a head that moves and are completely different.
One website has even used my picture of the horse head below and put it on their site as a 'Victorian' Collinson. I know it is not because the owner who brought it in for repairs, bought it new in 1960. I've asked the offending bunch to correct the error and acknowledge the photo but no response. Pity.

After the second world war the company was trying to produce a hand made item in an age of mechanism and everything possible was done to cut down the time needed to make a horse. The carving on the later Collinson horses is very simplified, particularly around the head.

Old Collinson rockers are much harder to find and they can be very nice horses with detailed head and neck carving, glass eyes and turned pillars.

head detail 38 inch high Collinson horse 
approx 1960 The relatively modern Collinson horses have large, bold and dramatic dapples that often cover most of the horse - quite unlike the exactly placed patches of dapples that some other makers favoured. Another helpful feature is the rectangular section pillars of the swing stand. The top of the pillars is covered by a diamond shaped piece of wood. There are other manufacturers who used similar stands (eg Baby Carriages) but their horses do not look like Collinsons. The legs of Collinson horses are clearly different from many other English rocking horses. They are relatively thick with big feet because they are made of pine like the rest of the horse. Beech was used for legs by most makers as it is strong enough to support the horse and rider. Pine splits more easily so wider legs are needed.

The legs are not morticed into the body like most other old horses. They are fixed into rebates in the body with very long nails. This construction method is not the best: the legs loosen quickly and repairs are difficult because the nails bend and then start to split the legs. The stands can also be hard to repair because the pillars are also fixed with long nails though the rails rather than the better system of pillar spigots going through rails and being wedged and glued in place.

Examples include:

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