Paul Leach is my favourite maker. The horses are wonderfully proportioned, sensitively carved and very expressive. They have more the look of a real horse than other rocking horses. Having said that, what is a Leach horse? It is very hard to find any information.
There is one in the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green and there is a picture of this horse on page 37 of Mullins but it does not do the horse justice.
The Bethnal Green horse is very special even although it has been crudely overpainted. The shape is imposing and beautiful - I've got several photos of it but they can't be published without negotiating a fee to the V&A museum. However you can go and see it and take your own photos but you might have to find out first whether is is currently on display or not. If it isn't, they may allow you to see it by appointment. This horse is the only Leach horse I know of with a makers label but I hope more will be found. The metal oval shaped label says
P Leach Manufacturer 305 Euston Road London
I've looked up Leach in some directories and found the following entries for rocking horse makers:
1852 Leach, Paul. 14 Low, Kennington Green
1882 Leach, Paul. 365 ( misprint? probably should be 305 )Euston Road NW
1884 Leach, Paul. 396 ( misprint again for 305? ) Euston Road, NW
1891 Leach, Paul & Co 11 Eccleston St SW
1895 Leach, Paul. 12 Hindon St SW
1899 Leach , Mrs Paul. 214 Vauxhall Bridge Rd SW
This was family business and there were 2 Paul Leach makers ( father and son ) and others. We don't know which of the family made which horses. The Leach family was in the rocking horse business for at least 47 years and I would not be surprised to find more dates and addresses in the future.
Leach rocking horses are quite variable and this is not surprising given the time the family were producing them. There seem to be different stand patterns, fixings and styles of horse. Importantly, some have stands and fixings very like Ayres horses and for these it is hard to decide if they might be Leach or Ayres. I think that it is quite likely that workers moved between the companies sometimes over the long time they were both manufacturing in London and the styles were copied or influenced by each other on occasions.
It is also important to say clearly that without a label or other documentary evidence, I cannot of course be sure that a horse is a Leach or anything else. Identification of such horses is a matter of expert opinion in every case but all anyone can do is show the evidence on which attributions are made. I'm sure more information will be found about Leach and Ayres and I'm looking forward to it very much while being aware that I may come to change some of my ideas. Research is like that.
Here are some of the features that I think indicate a Leach rocking horse:
Elongated heel of hoof and a well defined point to the fetlock giving a distinctive cut out shape behind the pastern
The body to neck-head proportions and sizes are more horse like than other rocking horses
Wide front to back spread of legs, strongly defined stifles and elbows
The back under the saddle may be lower than the rump ( some other makes of horses also have this )
Beautiful carving, deep and much detail and most of the horses I've seen have tongues.
Different rosette patterns to other makes
Threaded screw ends and nuts on swing irons
Swing stand horses set low on their stands - barely enough room to swing on some
Hoof rails with shaped and wider ends but only the top of the rail is raised. The rails are straight underneath
Unusual pillar shapes
Stands with moulded edges
Unusual clamp brackets
The following pages show examples of probable Leach horses - variable in style as noted previously and there must be other variations which I haven't seen.
If a horse is to be considered for inclusion in the group of horses thought to have been made by Paul Leach and associates it should have several of the features listed above .