William Gordon Holmes (Merrythought’s present Directors great-grandfather) goes into partnership with George Laxton to open Holmes, Laxton & Co., a mohair spinning mill in Yorkshire where imported raw materials are spun into high quality mohair yarn.



Family firm JK Farnell & Co Ltd produce the first British teddy bear – a fully jointed, mohair bear with hand stitched nose and claws.

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Holmes and Laxton buy Dyson Hall & Co. Ltd – a weaving company in Huddersfield. Here mohair yarn is made into the perfect teddy bear material.



With the assistance of Clifton Rendle of Chad Valley and Henry Janisch of J. K. Farnell (two leading British soft toy manufacturers) Gordon Holmes diversifies his textile businesses by founding Merrythought Toys. Production begins at a factory owned by The Coalbrookdale Company in Ironbridge, Shropshire - the home of the Industrial Revolution (now a World Heritage Site)

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Merrythought’s talented designer Florence Attwood produces the company’s first catalogue – an imaginative range of 32 toys including the first Merrythought teddy bear ‘Magnet’ (‘M’ series).

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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, stocking Merrythought products were testament to the company’s instantaneous success in breaking into an increasingly competitive soft toy market.



The first pandas are created just a year or two after the western world was told about these unusual Chinese animals – they soon became a hugely popular design.

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World War II begins and the British Admiralty move into Merrythought’s Coalbrookdale factory to commence vital map-making work. Merrythought’s 200 strong workforce move to nearby premises and at the Government’s request produce textile items for the war such as chevrons, helmet linings, igniter bags, gas mask bags and hot water bottle covers.

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Merrythought re-starts the production of soft toys at the Ironbridge factory despite difficulties faced by a shortage of supplies. A smaller range of designs including ‘M’ series, ‘H’ series teddy bears and pandas is produced.



The iconic Punkinhead or 'Punkie Bear' is created – one of Florence Attwood’s last designs and a hugely popular bear still avidly collected today.

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Bernard Trayton Holmes, son of the founder, joins the company and his enterprising and occasionally eccentric character begins to shape the future of Merrythought. Merrythought continues to increase its product range which now includes a number of animals, dolls and gollys as well as teddy bears.



Jean Barber is appointed as new chief designer and throughout the 1950s Merrythought continues to produce traditional looking teddy bears as well as an increasing range of animals and push-along toys including many different horses, dogs and cats. Merrythought also continues with its range of dolls.



Merrythought purchases the factory site in Ironbridge from The Coalbrookdale Company and Trayton Holmes begins modernising production. An automatic stuffing machine is bought from America (still used today) to help keep up with increasing production.



The hugely popular Cheeky Bear makes its catalogue debut ‘The new bear of irresistible charm. Fully jointed, kapok filled, bells in ears’ – a bear still made and adored 60 years after it was first designed.

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With the help of sales director James (Jimmy) Matthews, Merrythought is one of, if not, the first British toy company to break into new markets in Europe - One of only six British companies exhibiting at the Nuremberg trade show in 1958. Export to colonial nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand shortly follow.



Between 1954 and 1980 licensed character toys become a huge feature of Merrythought’s product range, and include ‘Sooty’, ‘Yogi Bear’, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ as well as Disney characters such as 'Donald Duck', 'Mickey Mouse', 'Pluto', 'Lady and Tramp',' Bambi' and 'Thumper' to name a few.



Hobby horses, rocking horses and push-along toys, first introduced in the 1950s, continue to be hugely popular in the 1960s - the range includes 'Nellie Elephant', 'Rocking Shetland Pony', 'Bob Tail' (a sheep dog) and the particularly popular 'Pablo Donkey'.



The GM design ‘London Gold’ is launched – still a best seller today.



The Merrythought bear Mr Whoppit, mascot of land and water speed record holder Donald Campbell, is the only survivor when Donald’s boat Bluebird crashes during a 300 mph record attempt.



The soft toy industry begins to hit difficult times – blamed on a combination of new Far Eastern imports and more modern toys hitting the market. Desperation to move with the times causes the demise of many major names including Chiltern, J.K. Farnell and Chad Valley. Merrythought survives by bucking the trend in continuing with its production of high quality, traditionally styled teddy bears. Bears in uniforms, such as the London Beefeater, Guardsman and Policeman are also introduced with great success.



William Oliver Holmes (grandson of the founder) joins the company, working alongside his father before becoming Managing Director in the early 1980s. Despite being the third generation of the Holmes family to run the business Oliver is a pioneer in his own right and brings a huge amount of energy and vision to Merrythought.

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Alongside Merrythought’s fully jointed mohair bears a new range of realistic, fine synthetic plush bears and animals emerge. Popular designs such as Cuddle-Cubs, Tickle Tummies, nightdress cases and glove puppets increase Merrythought’s range of children’s soft toy products.



An increase in the popularity of collectable items in the US influences 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 is the Edwardian Bear a traditional mohair, boxed, hand signed, fully jointed bear with a limit of 1000 units.



Rocking horses and hobby horses are hugely popular in the 1980s - all components including wooden joints and metal frames are made onsite in Ironbridge.



Iconic 6 ft + showpieces are made for a number of retailers including Harrods and Hamleys.



Merrythought celebrates its Diamond Jubilee by launching its first International collectable bear. The unexpected demand of this collectable product urges Merrythought to run a separate collectors catalogue alongside the traditional soft toy catalogue in 1991 - the age of the teddy bear collector begins.



The acclaimed bear, Master Mischief, designed by Jacqueline Revitt, wins Merrythought the Teddy Bear of The Year award (TOBY) in 1992.



Oliver Holmes founds the Merrythought International Collector’s Club and opens the Merrythought factory to the world for the first time the following summer.



The Millenium is celebrated with a huge party and fireworks display at the Merrythought factory in Ironbridge.



Merrythought celebrates 80 years of British soft toy manufacturing – and is now the last remaining teddy bear factory in England. A series of 80th Birthday bears are produced.



Managing Director Oliver Holmes dies, aged just 60, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Merrythought passes to his three daughters, the eldest of whom, Sarah and Hannah Holmes, both in their 20s, take over the management of the company with immediate effect.



Merrythought is asked to be a licensee for The London 2012 Olympic Games and produces the official teddy bear for the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and Team GB. Special limited edition bears are also made to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

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Merrythought produce a Special Edition celebratory teddy bear to mark the arrival of Prince George of Cambridge. 


Merrythought celebrates its 85th Anniversary, three generations after William Gordon Holmes first opened the famous teddy bear factory in Ironbridge in 1930. 


To celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's 90th Birthday Merrythought created a splendid limited edition teddy bear. Encapsulating Queen Elizabeth's grace and refined sense of dress, the unique teddy bear was made from the most opulent mohair in a rich buttermilk shade, with a commemorative royal cypher embroidered onto the left paw. Through studying the designs of her preferred dressmaker, a beautifully authentic overcoat and matching hat were created from the finest lilac silk, one of her favourite colours.