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J Collinson and Sons - Rocking Horse Manufacturers

In a time before technology and gadgets, the must have toy for many young children was the rocking horse.

Rocking horse workshop, Collinson and sons, 1969

The company of J Collinson and Sons who began operations in 1836 were the finest manufacturer of these hand crafted rocking horses. The firm of Collinson continued in the same family ownership, through 5 generations until December 1993 when it closed. Queen Victoria visited the company in 1851 and is said to have chosen a dapple grey horse to ride from that point onward they only made dapple grey horses.

The rocking horse in its current form is widely believed to have first appeared in the early 17th century. It was around this time that bow rockers were invented, introducing rocking to the world of toy horses. Made from solid wood, they were heavy and their centre of gravity was high, so they could easily topple over. It was in the Victorian age that the ‘safety stand’ was introduced and the idea of making the horses hollow was conceived. This made the horses lighter and more stable, and gave birth to the idea of a secret compartment being fitted into the horse’s underbelly.

Collinson horses are easy to identify, those made around the 1940s had leather or leather cloth saddle materials. Post 1950 horses have decorated nails for eyes, and some had wooden or plastic eyes. The modern horses have large, bold dapples that cover most of the horse and their legs are relatively thick with big hooves.

Jervis Collinson ( left ), his son Steven and his brother Leonard with some of the last Collinson horses made in the early 1990s. Credit http://www.oldrockinghorses.co.uk

'Blackie' the rocking horse helped to make generations of Liverpool children very happy was made by J Collinson and Sons. He was the much-loved highlight of Blackler's children's clothing department and later Alder Hey Children's Hospital. Blackie was gifted to Alder Hey by the department store when they sadly closed their doors for the last time in April 1988 after 80 years. He went on to become a well-loved feature of the central admissions and cardiac clinic.

Blackie the Blackler's Rocking |Horse made by J Collinson and Sons

He was kindly donated to the Museum of Liverpool by Alder Hey Children's Hospital League of Friends in 2004.


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