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Britain's oldest teddy bear factory in Ironbridge celebrates 90 years

By Mat Growcott | Ironbridge | News | Published: | Last Updated:

Britain’s oldest remaining teddy bear manufacturer, based in Shropshire, is celebrating nine decades of business in 2020 with the launch of a limited edition bear to kick off its 90th year.

Merrythought, which still hand-makes each teddy bear in the same Ironbridge factory where it first opened its doors in September 1930, is starting the landmark year by releasing a 90th anniversary commemorative teddy bear.

As well as the limited edition teddy, managing director Sarah Holmes, great granddaughter of Merrythought founder Gordon Holmes, is also planning a year of high-profile collaborations, including expanding to the US and Asia.

She said: “2020 is a hugely exciting year for us as a business, not only are we celebrating the 90th anniversary but we’re also planning to expand into several new overseas markets, including Asia and the US.

The limited edition special bear created to celebrate the firm’s 90th anniversary

“Closer to home, we’re holding a specialist collectors’ event in September for our keen Merrythought fans and a teddy bear’s picnic for local school children in Ironbridge in the summer.”

The special bear, of which only 300 will be available, blends together the ruby (40th) and golden (50th) anniversary year colours throughout its design and has Merrythought’s 90th anniversary logo embroidered onto its left paw.

Sarah, who last year welcomed a fifth generation to the family firm when she celebrated the arrival of her son Rollo, said the company had remained true to its origins by continuing to make bears by hand as part of a skilled, 15-stage process.

Royal babies

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“Our teddy bears are still produced by hand in almost the same way that they were when my great-grandfather started the company all those years ago, and that’s a key reason that our bears have stood the test of time and continue to do so,” Sarah said.

The firm has supplied several royal babies and famous children with bears, and has worked with high profile brands such as Mulberry. Burberry, British Airways and the Savoy Hotel.

It has also collaborated with charities including the Children's Air Ambulance and Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust, each of which have a teddy bear that raises funds for their causes.

Sarah Holmes of Merrythought in Ironbridge, with the limited edition special bear created to celebrate the firm’s 90th anniversary

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This year Merrythought will collaborate with a leading armed forces charity to release a commemorative bear to help raise funds and to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

“We are so excited to be celebrating our 90th year and feel immensely proud that we are doing so right here in the same factory where Merrythought first opened,” Sarah said.

“Merrythought is a legacy that has survived generation after generation, and I am proud that the company continues to hand-make the finest quality teddy bears here in Britain as it reaches 90 years in business.”

Mat Growcott

By Mat Growcott
Reporter - @MGrowcott_Star

Shropshire Star reporter

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