Merrythought memories treasured by families in Shropshire and beyond

When Britain’s oldest remaining teddy bear manufacturer, Merrythought, celebrated 90 years of business earlier this month by asking people to share their special memories, it wasn’t expecting to see double.

Merrythought Bear shop in Ironbridge celebrated its 90th birthday by asking its followers to send in their stories and memories from the past 90 years. Pictured left is MD Sarah Holmes and gen manager Ian Wicklen
Merrythought Bear shop in Ironbridge celebrated its 90th birthday by asking its followers to send in their stories and memories from the past 90 years. Pictured left is MD Sarah Holmes and gen manager Ian Wicklen

But that’s exactly what happened when one Merrythought fan shared an adorable picture of her father clutching his prized Merrythought ‘Bingie’ teddy bear, alongside another snap of her grandson cradling the same bear more than eight decades later.

Ironbridge-based Merrythought turned 90 on September 10 and, as part of its celebrations, asked followers across Shropshire and around the world to contribute to its #MyMerrythought campaign by sharing their own Merrythought stories and photographs from the past 90 years.

The firm then picked a random #MyMerrythought story and photograph to win a special prize; a limited-edition 90th commemorative teddy bear.

More than 300 people entered the competition, from countries as far as New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Australia.

Lucky Lucy Harwood, 53, from Bristol will receive one of the now sold-out limited-edition teddy bears after entering a replica photograph of her grandson, George, in the same position as her father, Alfred, with the same teddy bear – 86 years apart.

George Harwood in the same position as his grandfather, Alfred, with the same teddy bear - 86 years apart
George Harwood in the same position as his grandfather, Alfred, with the same teddy bear - 86 years apart

“Merrythought is such a big part of our family, so to have been a part of the 90th campaign is just super special for us,” she said.

“We all have our own Merrythought bear but the most notable of them all is the most-definitely the original teddy bear that has been passed down through the generations.

“I am so pleased to have won a limited-edition 90th teddy bear – this will definitely take pride of place in our home. Thank you Merrythought.”

Stacey Beaman, from St Georges, Telford, has always had a connection to Merrythought.

Her family has passed down the same bear through generations, so she thought it would be perfect to send a picture of her two year old son, Elliot, with the bear for the shop's campaign.

Elliot Short, two, from St. Georges with his Merrythought bear at Lilleshall Abbey

"It all started with my uncle when he was born in 1930," she said. "He was given a Merrythought bear as a gift, and that then got passed down to my dad, who passed it to me. Now, the same bear has been passed to Elliot.

"He was given another bear when he was born, from my dad, another one when he was christened, another at his first Christmas – so he is building up quite a collection now. They are just nice to keep really."

The picture of Elliot with his Merrythought bear was taken at Lilleshall Abbey, near Newport, and captures little Elliot's love for the family bear.

"My dad bought Elliot the three has has now," Stacy added. "He often says why don't you let him play with them, but I want him to be able to keep them and pass them down to his own children. The picture we submitted to the #MyMerrythought campaign was actually taken at Lilleshall Abbey.

"A photographer had previously approached us and said Elliot was really photogenic, would we mind if she photographed him. She said to bring his favourite teddy bear – I thought I'd bring his Merrythought bear.

"My dad is so funny, every time he takes Elliot to the shop in Ironbridge to look around, he comes out with a new bear."

Managing Director Sarah Holmes, the great-granddaughter of the company’s founder Gordon Holmes, said the response to their special anniversary had been heartwarming.

Cat from New Zealand with her Merrythought, Ted, in 1979

“We were completely overwhelmed with the response to our #MyMerrythought campaign,” she said.

“More than 300 Merrythought fans from across the world got in touch to share their memories and pictures, and their stories were so heartwarming to read.

“It really shows how important Merrythought teddy bears are to their owners – they are true lifelong companions who make every ordinary day that bit brighter.

“A massive thank you to everyone who took part, and for all the cards and well wishes surrounding our anniversary.”

The firm, which continues to hand-make each teddy bear from the same original factory in the world heritage site of Ironbridge, displayed some of the entries in the Ironbridge shop and on social media during the 90th birthday week.

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