A true British icon, Paddington Bear is known all over the world but did you know the story behind his adventures?
The man behind the marmalade-loving character is late author Michael Bond. The tale goes that he bought a small toy bear for his wife after seeing it left alone on the shelves of Selfridges one evening. He named him Paddington after the train station close to his home. Paddington Bear inspired Bond to put pen to paper and write stories about the bear’s life - taking inspiration from his own childhood memories.
Michael grew up in Reading during the Second World War where his parents opened their home to young children evacuated from London. He recalls some Jewish children who sat in front of the fire crying one evening because they had no idea what had happened to their parents - such events helped inspire the story of Paddington.
It starts in the jungle of Peru, where Paddington’s peaceful home is destroyed by a huge fire and his Aunt Lucy who looks after him is put into a home for ‘retired bears’. With nothing left and nowhere to go, Aunt Lucy sends Paddington on a difficult journey to London in the hope of a better life. All he has with him is a suitcase and a note that reads: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” But when Paddington arrives, London is not as welcoming as he had expected. He is ignored by almost everyone he meets until the kind Brown family offers him a place to stay. Once settled with the Brown family, the story follows Paddington’s adventures in the city - from his adventures on Portobello Road to eating marmalade at every opportunity he gets. He goes on to become a universally loved character, treasured by his optimism, sense of fair play and perfect manners - the perfect ingredients for a teddy bear companion!
The very first Paddington bear soft toy was created in the UK by a lady called Shirley Clarkson, who made it as a Christmas present for her children, Joanna and Jeremy Clarkson - yes, the world-famous motoring journalist!
So many people admired Shirley’s Paddington that she started to make some more until her company, Gabrielle Designs, was granted an official licence to sell them in the UK in 1972. In the years that followed, Paddington Bear flew off shelves worldwide.
In his autobiography, Michael Bond described the moment he first laid eyes on the bear: “It was created with love and was born with that undefinable ‘something’, known as star quality.”
At Merrythought, we were delighted to be asked to bring Paddington Bear to life again and recreate the bear to match Shirley Clarkson’s famous design. Available to buy through our friends at Danbury Mint, the exquisite hand-crafted bear has all the charm and vintage appeal of the original. From his gorgeous long-pile blond mohair, to his shiny black nose and friendly amber eyes, he’s simply delightful!
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