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A peek behind the scenes at Ironbridge's Merrythought teddy bear factory

By Shropshire Star, 30 November 2018, 14:12PM

The UK’s last teddy bear manufacturer has thrown open the doors of it Ironbridge factory to reveal how the most bespoke handmade toys in the UK are made – just in time for Christmas.

The fourth-generation family-run Merrythought factory launched nine decades ago in 1930, with its traditional bears a cult classic ever since – not only being frequently gifted to royals but even inspiring Winnie the Pooh.

Since the company was launched by original CEO Gordon Holmes, who owned a mohair spinning mill, it has been passed down through four generations and is now under the helm of Gordon’s great granddaughter Sarah Holmes.

Work on new teddy bears in the factory

Merrythought opened its doors to the public to reveal the scenes taking place in the run up to Christmas – with workers busily stitching noses, eyes and stuffing the bears, which sell for between £50 and £280.

Company director Sarah said: “Gordon discovered a beautiful brick foundry building in the heart of Shropshire, and with the help of a small team of highly skilled local seamstresses, Merrythought was born.

“This original workshop remains our home to this day.


“It’s an enchanting place where each soft toy is expertly brought to life using luxury materials and traditional craftsmanship.

“It’s something that means a lot to us, and our customers.”

Sarah said the company is famed for its British heritage and they pride themselves on being the last remaining company on the UK to make the classic British teddy bear, meaning every piece of material used to create the toy is British-sourced and handmade in Shropshire.


The icing on the cake for the national institution came in 2013 when staff were commissioned by The Royal Collection to make a limited-edition bear to celebrate the arrival of Prince George.

Now with Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle’s newborn expected in Spring 2019, they are hoping to be bestowed the same honour to celebrate the newborn’s arrival.

Sarah said: “The chance to design the royal bear came not long after my father Oliver passed away, so it really meant a lot to myself and the team.

“Number one of the edition was handed over to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.”

Interestingly, the Merrythought bear ‘Edward’ formed part of the inspiration behind Christopher Milne’s Winnie the Pooh character, after his wife bought the bear for their son.

And Sarah said the company believes in the importance of craftsmanship and the material used to create timeless teddies that lasts generations.

Sarah said: “Only soft toys of the highest quality are allowed to carry the trusted Merrythought label.

“We ensure the utmost care and attention to detail in everything we do, right down to the hand-embroidered nose and delightful smile that makes each teddy bear so unique.

“A Merrythought is not just a teddy bear; it’s an exquisite piece of British heritage to cherish and pass on to the next generation.”