My grandfather's rocking horse was featured on the Titanic - and now I'm reviving the family business, vows Bedford carpenter

Grandson's tools and methods have hardly changed

By Clare Turner
Tuesday, 10th November 2020, 4:15 pm

In 1899, a journeyman called Richard Hignett decided to turn his hand to rocking horses.

Quickly developing a keen skill for the craft, he built a successful family business - selling ponies to notable clients including shipping firm the White Star Line which bought one for the Titanic.

Richard taught his new trade to his sons, who eventually taught their own children the skills and techniques required to make high-quality rocking horses that can last for generations.

One of Jim Hignett's rocking horses

Today, Richard’s grandson Jim Hignett is reviving the family business after a two-decade hiatus. The only surviving carpenter in the family, he is one of the last remaining links to the once-thriving Victorian rocking horse industry.

The tools and methods Jim uses in his bespoke workshop in Wootton have hardly changed since the time of his grandfather - except for using modern glue and child-friendly paints.

Jim said: “The only tool I use that my grandfather wouldn’t have had is an electric sander."

It takes Jim about three weeks to hand carve each horse from the best quality wood available - usually poplar and ash. He paints each horse by hand and finishes them with vegetable-tanned leather saddlery and real horse hair.

One of Jim Hignett's rocking horses

Jim hopes his business venture will preserve the traditional craftsmanship passed down from his grandfather.

He said: “I’ve been making rocking horses since I was 11 and these are the best ones yet. I just want to keep the art of rocking-horse making alive.”

You can find out more about Mr Hignett’s Horses here or buy one online here