Fishergate Primary School, York, unveils antique rocking horses

A PRIMARY school in York has unveiled recently restored antique rocking horses which were discovered in its cellar.

Fishergate Primary School, in Escrick Street, made the remarkable discovery after Josh Burnell, the school’s history leader, was presented with a photograph by its longtime owner Michael Thorpe, 88.

The picture, dated around 1939, showed four of Michael’s brothers on the school’s rocking horses.

Josh ventured into the cellar and found that the rocking horses were still there.

York Press: The Rocking Horses Now RestoredRocking horses now restored (Image: Emily Horner)

The school then formed a luncheon club called “Operation Rocking Horse” to plan fundraisers in an attempt to restore them.

And following successful restoration work, the rocking horses were unveiled at the school on Sunday 27 November.

Students will have the chance to ride the rocking horses on their birthday.

York Press: Michael Thorpe, pictured with the rocking horse he rode as a childMichael Thorpe, pictured with the rocking horse he rode as a child (Image: Emily Horner)

Michael, who was a pupil at Fishergate from 1939 to 1949 with eight of his nine siblings, said: “I really enjoyed the school, I haven’t been back since I left. Back then I remember we had separate playgrounds for boys and girls.”

The rocking horses are part of Josh’s ‘Past and Present’ history project at school, which has seen him collect old artefacts, including class photos dating back to the 1930s, class books and the headmaster’s diaries found in the cellar, for students to learn about their history.

Former pupils and teachers were encouraged to tell their memories of the school on camera as part of a documentary to show to current pupils.

York Press: First entry in Director's Journal, dated August 1895First entry in the director’s diary, dated August 1895 (Image: Emily Horner)

Josh said: “I’ve learned throughout this project that history is about bringing communities together, it’s about connecting through people’s stories rather than artefacts.

“Unveiling the rocking horses to the children was the best moment of my teaching career, seeing their excited faces was like a thousand Christmases rolled into one.”

Principal from 1986 to 2003, Angela Johnson, attended the event and had fond memories of the rocking horses.

York Press: Pupils at Fishergate Primary School today with history leader Josh Burnell and rocking horses ahead of restorationPupils at Fishergate Primary School today with History Leader Josh Burnell and the rocking horses before restoration (Image: Fishergate Primary School)

She said: “In the mid-90s I found them in the cellar, I didn’t know where they came from but I didn’t think they were Victorian as the school was strict and regimented at the time.

“There was a Castlegate school in 1913 for girls and infants only, until 1932 when the juniors became co-educational.

“It closed in 1954 and the Castlegate children predominately transferred to Fishergate and it was said that the children used to swing through the streets on horses to Fishergate.

“I did the red one and it was placed on a blue PE mat in the children’s room and every time I went through that room there was someone on that horse until the day I left, so I’m delighted to see them. now.”

The headmaster’s diaries ran from the opening of the school in 1895 until about 15 years ago, and documented both world wars.

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