Iconic rocking horse set to return to Lancaster

Lancaster's iconic rocking horse. James Mackie.
Lancaster's iconic rocking horse. James Mackie.

A listed shop sign which was the last memoir of Lancaster’s now defunct famous toy business Lawsons is set to be restored and returned to its rightful spot, as Gemma Sherlock reports.

After a long wait fans of an iconic rocking horse can now breathe a sigh of relief as the artefact is set to be lovingly restored.

James Mackie

James Mackie

The ornamental animal which sat on the wall of the former toy shop, Lawsons, is to be restored by Lancaster designer James Mackie.

It was removed from the building, most recently occupied by The Enchanted Kids Company, on New Street last September.

Visitors and residents were left wondering when and if their rocking horse would return.

The listed shop sign was the last memoir of the Lawsons toy business, owned by Matt and Liz Mackay, which was set up in 1837 – the same year the Lancaster Guardian was founded.

It is so much bigger than you think it is going to be, it weighs about a third of a tonne as well

James Mackie

Lancaster designer James Mackie is delighted to be the one responsible for restoring something he considers to be part of the city’s history.

Mr Mackie, who has designed and restored for some top names in showbuisness, said: “As a nine-year-old boy it was always a draw, that wonderful image of the rocking horse. When it disappeared I noticed, alongside everybody else.

“I think it is a big responsibility actually especially with the interest that has been shown.

“I am a bit nervous because all eyes will be on the finished product but this is right up my street.

Matt and Liz Mackay propriators of Lawsons on New Steet in Lancaster

Matt and Liz Mackay propriators of Lawsons on New Steet in Lancaster

“I am extremely connected to the heritage of Lancaster and it is very important to me that these things get done and I am privileged to be able to work on this.”

James is estimating the project will take a few months to complete.

The designer is thinking of every last detail for the famous shop sign including the type of hair to use for the mane and tail.

He said: “It will be a welcome challenge but it will be quite an interesting project.

“It is so much bigger than you think it is going to be, it weighs about a third of a tonne as well.

“My biggest challenge is the hair, should it go back as horse hair or not?”

Wood will be preserved where possible, whilst fittings will be replaced if needed with stainless steel.

The rocking horse restoration is being partly funded by the Lancaster Business Improvement District (BID) as part of their district grant scheme.

Paul Cusimano, chairman of the BID, said: “We are delighted to be involved with the restoration of the rocking horse, it has been missed by many visitors and residents of the city.

“I was stopped by a member of the public who asked me what happened to it, so it does spark a lot of interest, it is lovely we can now see it being fully restored and put to good use.”

The horse has been owned by the Lawson family for generations.

James said: “I know the family are very fond of that horse.

“Some of the responses off Facebook would lead you to believe that it had been neglected but they took it down to look after it with the intention of restoring it.

“I would like to say thank you to Liz for allowing me to do this and to the improvement district as I think it is a visionary strategy that they are putting in place.”

Matt Mackay said: “The last time Liz and I renovated the Rocking Horse was way back in the late 1980s maybe 1987 when the Lancaster Guardian wrote a feature story covering the brand new horse being reinstated to the shop front.

“So now 30 years later the horse became so weathered it was in desperate need of some love and attention.

“We assure you that it will be restored to the highest of standards. We know the Mackies have a genuine interest in the history of our city, like ourselves, and by working together will return shortly one of Lancaster’s best loved and nostalgic landmarks.”

Once restored the rocking horse will return to the shop on New Street.

Fans of the rocking horse will be able to see each stage of transformation as James will regularly post updates online and on our website at www.lancasterguardian.co.uk.