Hampshire Cultural Trust

The W L Simpson Teddy Bear Collection

William Simpson donated his collection of teddy bears to Hampshire County Council Museums Service in 2008. Part of the collection is on display at a specially built Teddy Bear shop at Milestones, Basingstoke. The rest of the bears are safely stored at the Hampshire Museums headquarters in Winchester and come out regularly for exhibitions and other activities.

The collection was built up by Mr. Simpson to illustrate the history and development of the teddy bear from the early 1900s to the present day.

Earliest bears include Bella, an unusual Steiff bear with a plain button dating from 1905 and Woodrow, an American bear made around 1908 by the Bruin Manufacturing Corporation. The French bear Andre was made out of coarse woven cloth at the beginning of the First World War, when the import of teddy bears to France from Germany was stopped. Bears from Austria, Poland and Ireland also feature.

Teddy bears
Left to right - Bella, Andre, Punky

The British teddy bear industry is well represented, with bears made by Farnell, Dean’s Rag Book Co., Peacock, Chad Valley and Chiltern (H G Stone). Terry Thomas, who dates from about 1913, was probably one of the early products of the London-based WJ Terry firm and Punky is a wild-haired 1951 ‘Punkinhead’ bear made by Merrythought Ltd. of Ironbridge.

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Left to right - Redford, Buddy, Clemacher, Bertram

Mr. Simpson has written widely on the subject of bears, both in articles and in his book about his first bear: ‘Me and My Teddy Bear’, published in 1997. He has also given talks to many groups on the history of bears. His interest however was not solely academic. The bears were treated with great affection. Each had its own name and many were dressed in home-made costumes. All were cherished as members of the Simpson family.


W L Simpson with one of his teaddy bears
W L Simpson

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Terry Thomas