Thursday, 28 August 2008

Making Chiltern Memories

Most people who know me, know I have a passion for the English 'Chiltern Hugmee' teddy bear. I have written snippets about what I consider to be this Rolls Royce of English teddy bear, in previous posts, (see but what I haven't yet found time to share with you, is the result of my 2008 Chiltern 'Tribute Bear' project! Before I launch into the details, here is a potted history of the Chiltern Hygenic Toy Company to give you a little background, the details of which I have sourced from

A few of my own special Chiltern Hugmee teddy bears

Chiltern Toy Works was opened by Joseph Eisenmann in 1908, in Buckinghamshire. The company took its name from the Chiltern Hills which surround the area. Initially the Chiltern toy factory produced dolls, but in 1915 they introduced their first bear, the Master Teddy. On Joseph's death in 1919 Leon Rees, inherited the Chiltern factory and in 1920 the firm relocated to larger premises at Waterside in Chesham. In 1920 Leon went into partnership with Harry Stone, formerly of J.K.Farnell and a new company H G Stone and Co. Ltd. was formed. Leon was responsible for marketing and sales and Harry for design and manufacture. In 1921 the company opened a second factory at Grove Rd Tottenham, London. The new company continued to use the established Chiltern trademark and the name Chiltern Toys was registered by the company in 1924. In 1923 a range of bears called Hugmee's were introduced, and proved so popular that they remained in in production until 1967.

My work in progress!

I have wanted to create my own 'Hugmee' style bear since first learning about their history, courtesy of Pauline Cockrill's fascinating 'The Ultimate Teddy Bear Book', way back in the early 1990's. However, I soon became aware this would not be a simple exercise for a novice bearmaker! There is something about the unique proportions of these bears, with their little arms, short legs and large, flat faced heads, which is tricky to capture accurately. By rights, those huge heads should have the bear overbalancing, falling flat into his poor old nose, but somehow, everything about this bear's unusually disproportionate shape works perfectly.

My completed 17" Chiltern Tribute Bear, 'Leon'

For many years, I happily settled for adding the occasional vintage Hugmee to my ever-growing collection of teddy bears, while I developed my bear crafting skills. Earlier this year though, my sister Fiona sadly reached the conclusion it was unlikely she would return to her own bear making and alongside many other components, gave me her stash of mohair. Joy of joys, hidden at the bottom of the pile was the perfect piece of mohair for my special tribute bear!

My 'Leon' Tribute bear (right) shown with an original Chiltern Hugmee, musical bear

I think one of the many special qualities of Chiltern Hugmee bears, is their mohair. These lovely old bears were characteristically created from dense gold English mohair. English mohair is pretty hard to come by these days, I remember Fiona originally bought this particular piece of mohair when we first began making our own bears in the 90's; in fact, back in those exciting early days, she used it to create a big bear named 'Edward', a bear with a handsome hint of Chiltern about him, ... I wonder where he is now?

A Chiltern trio ... Spot the tribute bear!

Creating the pattern for Leon was a nail-bitingly drawn out process of trial and error. I took endless measurements from my vintage Hugmees, hunted through old copies of 'Hugglets' magazine (no longer in print) for Hugmee pattern hints and scoured the pages of my early 'Christies' auction catalogues for inspiration. Gradually my pattern came together and I started to realise my tribute bear could be a real possibility! Interestingly, I soon became aware that my usual bear making techniques wouldn't suffice if this bear was to have any aura of authenticity about him ... for example, I take a pride in super-neat hand embroidered, block style noses for my own range of bears, but Leon required me to stitch a slightly less than perfect, shield shaped nose, which was very frustrating. Also, I usually ladder stitch the ears to my bears heads as the last job, after my own bears are completely finished, but oh no, Leon had to have his ears stitched into the seams of his head pieces as they were being sewn together, an altogether different technique and one I felt quite ill at ease with. Then there was his stuffing, my usual polyester and plastic pellets were far too heavy for a Chiltern Hugmee style bear, so instead I needed to use kapok and boy oh boy, is that different to work with! It flies up your nose and sticks to your clothing, it's messy and fiddly too! Muzzle trimming was a real challenge too, my modern day neatly trimmed muzzles certainly wouldn't suffice, I had to resist that temptation and leave this bear untrimmed if he was to stand shoulder to shoulder with his brother bears! Unlike the original Hugmees, I decided not to use excelsior stuffing in my bear, after all, this was intended as a tribute bear, not a replica and as such, I felt entitled to cut myself just a little slack. I did incorporate some typical amber glass eyes with black pupils though, just like the originals and of course, my bear has a voice - not the original squeaker or music box, but as close as I could get with a traditional cardboard growler.


Creating Leon has been a huge pleasure for me and one I wanted to share, so Leon now has a new owner and of course, I still have my memories!


  1. Wow Paula!! He looks absolutely fabulous! I loved reading the story of how he came about. Hugz, Laura

  2. Hi Paula, he is gorgeous. It was nice to read the story behind him. Seeing you make this bear though is interesting as it has given me a greater appreciation of the bears you usually create. The precision of detail that goes into them which I have always admired.

    The photos you have on the blog are really nice, is it someone in your family that is a photographer, I mean the ones with you and the bear. My favourite bear is Raffles, that colourway is goregous. Beverley

  3. Hello, thanks for stopping by to find out more about what I've been up to, I'm really glad you found the read interesting!

    Beverley, the way techniques have moved forwards in bear crafting over the years is fascinating. Taking a step back in time to try and recreate the original techniques is more difficult than it probably looks. It certainly taught me a thing or two! Thank you for your kind comments about my own bears, it's lovely to have them appreciated. As for the promotional photographs, they were taken by my clever sister Tina,who is a professional photographer. If you would like to see more of Tina's work, you can find it at

  4. How adorable, I love the Leon bear. Just adorable faces on them. And the bows, OMG, how cute. You are very talented. Tell Leon I said HI......

  5. Thanks Tracy ... good to hear from you, thank you for popping by!


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