Rocking horses are said to date from the early 17th Century with the Royal child, Charles I, being gifted one by his guardians to strengthen his legs and develop his riding skills. It is the earliest known form of what is now known as a 'bow rocker' and was to be followed much later when Queen Victoria's husband Albert introduced them into the Royal household at Christmas; a fun and frivolous activity in stark contrast to years previous when Christmas celebrations were seen as based in Pagan beliefs and banned.
Although 'play' horses have taken many forms over the years from the first hobby horse to the more sophisticated rocking and gliding horses, their appealing nature and the way that they lend themselves so well to imaginative play, ensures their place in our collective appreciation of both tradition and family.
Rocking horses were on somewhat of a 'rocky road' in the mid-20th Century and by the 1960s their manufacture was in serious decline but thankfully, a few skilled craftsmen began to restore old horses and to create new designs ensuring the survival of these beautiful objects. On such craftsman is Anthony Dew.
"I left home and school at 15; walked away to sea; survived storms, groundings, arrest by Red Guards for insulting Chairman Mao and going adrift in Panama. Back in England, bought a leaky old sailing boat to sail round the world - got as far as the English Channel. Turned down for dishwasher’s job in a greasy-spoon cafe (a career low); went to college to study Maths; switched to Art; took up woodcarving. Worked as joiner, metalwork teacher, seaman (again), postman, woodwork teacher and finally, rocking-horse designer, maker & restorer (which stuck)." - Anthony Dew
Not only is Anthony a skilled craftsman, he is also the author of more than six books on his craft including an intimate memoir.
"As any one who’s ever tried will tell you, it’s not easy to sell your own hand-crafted work, be it ever so exquisite. It’s harder still to make a good living from the products of your own mind and hand, but…" - Anthony Dew
“At the sharp end, to physically and with our own hands make something beautiful and worthwhile … to run all the processes from design through raw material to end product, from first contact to end user, that is something really special for everyone involved. There is a rare level of satisfaction here. And spiritual fulfilment too, I believe. To be able to do all that and make a good living, that is almost unique, and we can truly say we are the standard-bearers for a sustainable 21st Century way of being …” - Anthony Dew
“A must-read for anyone trying to juggle family, business and creative endeavours.” - Lara Stafford, Theatre of Science.
“There’s nothing like seeing your children or grandchildren riding a rocking-horse you have made - it will give you the most wonderful sense of achievement and satisfaction.” - Anthony Dew
"He knows what he’s talking about!" - Good Woodworking Magazine