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Merrythought

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Company History

Date Event
1919
WG Holmes went into partnership with GH Laxton. Although the demand for mohair, for use in clothing and furnishings, had declined Holmes & Laxton made mohair yarns in a small spinning mill in Oakworth, Yorkshire
1920 Holmes & Laxton buy Dyson Hall & Co. of Huddersfield, a weaving company, to use that mohair yarn.
1930

Merrythought was founded and the trademark registered. Premises were leased at Coalbrookdale (now Ironbridge) in Shropshire. Holmes & Laxton hired AC Janisch, who had been in charge of sales at JK Farnell, and CJ Rendle from Chad Valley. Rendle brought with him a number of other experienced workers including designer Florence Atwood.

1931 The first company catalogue was produced and introduced Merrythought's first range of teddy bears with designs by Florence Atwood.
1935 After expansion became the largest soft toy factory in England
WWII During the war the factory was requisitioned for map-making so Merrythought moved to temporary premises in Wellington and make textiles for the armed forces
1949 CJ Rendle died. Florence Atwood died. BT (Trayton) Holmes (son of WG Holmes) joined the company
1955 An automatic stuffing machine, using compressed air, was purchased and imported from America
1956 Merrythought bought their factory premises from Coalbrookdale Company
1972 Oliver Holmes, son of Trayton Holmes joined the company. Oliver is now the Managing Director.
1988 Merrythought shop and museum opened
2006

Merrythought unable to remain competitive. Goods produced abroad had the advantage of lower manufacturing costs and overheads. Merrythought ceased production on 27 November.
On 14 December Merrythought Toys Limited (by now Smudged Limited) went into voluntary liquidation.

2007 On 24 January Merrythought Limited purchased assets of Smudged Limited. Merrythought born again with intent of producing a smaller range of soft toys aimed more at the collectors market.

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Merrythought Bears

1930's Punkinhead 1960's Cheeky 1990's Cheeky
1930's Merrythought Merrythought Punkinhead Merrythought Cheeky Merrythought Cheeky

These are just a few examples, visit our Vintage Bears or our New Bears web pages where, depending on availability, you will find more Merrythought bears.

In addition to "normal" teddy bears Merrythought produced Bingie bear, a sitting bear cub but with jointed head and arms, Bingie appeared in Merrythought's first catalogue along with another called Tumpy who was made from a soft wool plush with a white nose and chest. Tumpy only appeared in the first two catalogues and would be a rare find today but Bingie continued until 1938. A family of dressed Bingie bears appeared in 1933: a Granadier Guardsman, Highlander and Sailors - all of whom had mohair heads and paws but their bodies, beneath clothing, were made of brushed cotton. The Dutch Bear was introduced in 1938, it's head, arms and body was made from alpaca and he wore wide corduroy trousers.

Punkinhead was commissioned in 1950 by Eatons, a department store in Canada. The body was made of brown mohair with a gold mohair chest and ear linings and velvet muzzle. His white mohair top knot is very distinctive. He wore felt shorts, which are often missing today. Punkinhead is considered to be the forerunner to Cheeky.

One of the most popular Merrythought bears is Cheeky who was designed by Jean Barber and introduced in 1956. Cheeky has a large round head and velvet muzzle. A whole range of Cheeky bears have been produced: originally made in gold plush and gold mohair or art silk plush with bells in his ears. There have been Cheeky bears with musical movements, Cheeky muffs and glove puppets. In 1966 Mr and Mrs Twisty Cheeky were introduced, they had an internal frame that could be twisted into different positions, only the head was made of mohair and the remainder of the body appeared dressed. Cheeky is still made today and Merrythought provide a website which allows customers to design a personal bear made from a wide range of coloured mohairs.
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Merrythought Bear Identification

  • Teddy Bears produced in the 1930's were marked with a celluloid button in the ear

    Merrythought celluloid button

  • Earliest cloth tags read:

    MADE IN ENGLAND BY MERRYTHOUGHT
    LTD

  • From 1930's to 1957, the cloth tag on foot read:

    MERRYTHOUGHT
    HYGENIC TOYS
    MADE IN ENGLAND

  • After 1957, the cloth tag read:

    MERRYTHOUGHT
    IRONBRIDGE, SHROPS
    MADE IN ENGLAND

  • Nose: vertical stitching with the outermost stitches on each side being elongated and extending downwards until the 1950's
  • Paw pads of early bears may have webbed stitching
  • Muzzle: usually shaved before 1960's

If you would like to know more about Merrythought visit our bookshop where you will find "More Merrythought Magic" by Pat Rush. It's a hardback book containing 200 pages packed with information about Merrythought bears, koalas and pandas and numerous colour photographs. I would recommend this book to those with a specific interest in Merrythought bears.

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