IronbridgeMerrythought Teddy Bear Shop
Dale End Road
Shropshire TF8 7NJ
A special treat awaits young-at-heart visitors to the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, England because it is the home of the world famous Merrythought Teddy Bears and toys. This family run business has been hand-making the highly collectable bears for over 80 years.
Over this period, a huge range of teddy bears, soft toys, dolls, push-along toys, rocking horses and other animals have been created in the famous factory behind the shop.
This unique shop is home to a huge range of traditional and limited edition teddy bears, Cheeky Bears, Punkie bears and unusual Merrythought soft toys from hobby horses to hippos. All of the current collection are in stock as well as a number of rare discontinued items and shop exclusives. There is a small museum within the shop.
A Merrythought bear is usually fully jointed with articulated arms, legs and head. The bears are hand crafted from a variety of bespoke mohair and other fabrics including alpaca, other wools, silks and cottons.
7 days a week, 10:00 to 17:00 hours
William Gordon Holmes (great-grandfather of Merrythought’s present Directors) goes into partnership with George Laxton to open a mohair spinning mill in Yorkshire. Holmes, Laxton & Co. spin the imported raw materials into high quality mohair yarn.,
First British Teddy Bear
In 1908, around the same time as W G Holmes is setting up his business, family firm JK Farnell & Co Ltd produce the first British teddy bear – a fully jointed, mohair bear with hand stitched nose and claws.
Holmes and Laxton buy Dyson Hall & Co. Ltd – a weaving company in Huddersfield. Here mohair yarn is made into the perfect teddy bear material.
So how on earth did soft toys come to be manufactured in an area known for its heavy metal industries?
It all started in 1930 when Gordon Holmes, with the assistance of two leading British soft toy manufacturers (Clifton Rendle of Chad Valley and Henry Janisch of J. K. Farnell ) diversified the textile businesses by founding Merrythought Toys. Production began at a factory owned by The Coalbrookdale Company in Ironbridge.
In 1931 Merrythought produced its first teddy bear designed by Florence Attwood. Expressed in the company’s first catalogues is Merrythought’s promise of ‘Quality, Courtesy, Service and Economy’. The high end retailers, such as, Harrods, Hamleys and Selfridges, stocked Merrythought products and were testament to the company’s instantaneous success in breaking into an increasingly competitive soft toy market.
Some Company Milestones
The first pandas were created just a year or two after the western world was told about these unusual Chinese animals. Over the years Merrythought has created nearly 100 different shapes and sizes of panda.
World War II began and the British Admiralty moved into Merrythought’s Coalbrookdale factory to commence vital map-making work. Merrythought’s 200 strong workforce moved to nearby premises and toy making is suspended for a while. At the Government’s request they produce textile items for the war such as chevrons, helmet linings, igniter bags, gas mask bags and hot water bottle covers.
Merrythought re-started the production of soft toys at the Ironbridge factory despite difficulties faced by a shortage of supplies.
The iconic Punkinhead or 'Punkie Bear' was created – one of Florence Attwood’s last designs and a hugely popular bear still avidly collected today.
Bernard Trayton Holmes, son of the founder, joined the company and his enterprising and occasionally eccentric character began to shape the future of Merrythought. The product range increased to include a number of animals, dolls and gollys as well as teddy bears.
Merrythought purchased the factory site in Ironbridge from The Coalbrookdale Company and Trayton Holmes began modernising production. An automatic stuffing machine was bought from America (still in use today).
The hugely popular Cheeky Bear made its catalogue debut. He was fully jointed, kapok filled, bells in ears and is still made. There is a story that ‘Cheeky’ got his name from Queen Elizabeth II. Apparently, when she saw him at the 1950s British Industries Fair she pronounced him "a cheeky little bear". Merrythought bears remain a favourite of the British Royal children.
Merrythought broke into the European market and started exporting to Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Between 1954 and 1980 licensed character toys including Disney favourites became a huge feature of Merrythought’s product range.
The GM design ‘London Gold’ was launched.
The Merrythought bear Mr Whoppit, mascot of land and water speed record holder Donald Campbell, was the only survivor when Donald’s boat Bluebird crashed during a 300 mph record attempt.
Despite the soft toy industry declining, Merrythought survived by continuing with its production of high quality, traditionally styled teddy bears. Bears in uniforms, such as the London Beefeater, Guardsman and Policeman were also introduced with great success.
William Oliver Holmes (grandson of the founder) became Managing Director. He brought a huge amount of energy and vision to Merrythought. Alongside the Company’s fully jointed mohair bears a new range of realistic, fine synthetic plush bears and animals emerged.
An increase in the popularity of collectable items in the US influenced Merrythought to produce a line of Limited Edition Collectable bears to expand into the American market. The first limited bear to be put into production was the Edwardian Bear, a traditional mohair, boxed, hand signed, fully jointed bear with a limit of 1000 units.
Rocking horses and hobby horses were hugely popular and all components including wooden joints and metal frames were made onsite in Ironbridge.
Merrythought celebrated its Diamond Jubilee by launching its first International collectable bear. The success of this venture encouraged Merrythought to run a separate collectors catalogue alongside the traditional soft toy catalogue in 1991 - the age of the teddy bear collector began.
Merrythought won the Teddy Bear of The Year award (TOBY) for Mr Mischief.
Oliver Holmes founded the Merrythought International Collector’s Club.
Managing Director Oliver Holmes died; Merrythought passed to his three daughters, the elder of whom, Sarah and Hannah Holmes, both in their 20s, took over the management of the company.
Merrythought was asked to be a licensee for The London 2012 Olympic Games and produced the official teddy bear for the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and Team GB. Special limited edition bears were also made to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Merrythought produced a Special Edition celebratory teddy bear to mark the arrival of Prince George of Cambridge.
Contact & Further Information
Telephone    +44 (0)1952 433 044  
Mail    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
About Merrythought, Visiting &  
Getting There
Look for the large immaculately dressed Bear.  See Web: Merrythought Teddy Bear Shop

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