F H Ayres (Sporting Equipment & Rocking Horses)

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Established in 1810, London, F H Ayres were one of the oldest retailers of sporting equipment in the United Kingdom. They added golf clubs to their range during the mid 1880's using various club makers to produce clubs bearing their own brand name. Business was so brisk that they even ran their own forge to produce the iron heads. They introduced their own cleek mark, the Maltese Cross at the beginning of the 1900's. They also sold clubs from a number of the recognized makers, often specializing in patented models and were given exclusive sales rights for these clubs. They eventually sold out to Slazenger.

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 F H 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.

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A late 19th Century wooden Ayres rocking horse
A late 19th Century dapple grey painted wooden rocking horse by F.H. Ayres, with flowing mane, on stained pine 'Safety Stand' trestle base - c1880...
Church Street Antiques