A staple of the nursery receives the traditional treatment at Windmill Antiques in North Yorkshire, England, where proprietors Brian and Jean Tildesley replicate Victorian and Edwardian rocking horses, as well as rejuvenate steeds that have been ridden long and hard over the decades. The Tildesleys, who for years had owned an antique furniture shop, became specialists in the whimsical niche “by mistake, actually,” says Jean. About 15 years ago they did their first rocking horse restoration, which, Jean continues, “did really well, so we did another. Brian then began making patterns [for more horses], and then we didn’t have time for the antique shop.”
The bodies are carved from hardwood and then coated with layers of gesso, a mixture of glue and whiting that craftsmen have used for hundreds of years. The gesso hardens to form a smooth base for the layers of paint and varnish that are applied to create a classic English dappled gray. Finished with manes and tails of real horsehair and outfitted with leather tack, the horses are mounted on bow rockers or safety stands, ready to become instant heirlooms.