‘If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise.
If you go down to the woods today, you’d better go in disguise.
For every bear that ever there was will gather there together
because today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.’
So goes the nursery rhyme, still sung today by British children everywhere, its inspiration allegedly deriving from the West-country woodland where the lyricist, Jimmy Kennedy spent the best years of his childhood.
For over a century, teddy bears have held a nostalgic position at the heart of British culture. Some have even reached the lofty heights of ‘National Treasure’ status. For instance, A.A. Milne’s honey-snaffling ‘Winnie-the-Pooh,’ was fundamental to the rebuilding of the war-torn nation’s morale in its desperate hour of need, when he first graced British homes in 1926. In later years, it was Michael Bond’s marmalade-loving Paddington Bear who captured the hearts of the nation. To this day, the bear’s endearingly polite and kindhearted awkwardness endures as the epitome of Britishness, with a stuffed toy replica being the first item given by British tunnellers to their French counterparts, upon the completion of the Channel tunnel in 1994. From the early 1900s, teddy bears have traditionally been treasured companions to British children everywhere and were often kept well into adulthood and passed down through the generations due to the love and affection they represented.
In recent years, however, quality teddy bears have noticed a steep decline as British toy factories have struggled to keep pace with their East Asian counterparts. As children are growing increasingly reliant on technology over traditional toys, there remain few manufacturers that can reliably attest to upholding the high standards of quality Teddy-making and the sentimental value attached to it that was evident throughout the 20th century.
The Strand Palace Hotel is lucky enough to have one of the few remaining handmade teddy bear manufacturers on its doorstep. Nestled among the cobbled streets of the Covent Garden market, the award-winning ‘Bedford bears’ have been making these prized possessions for homes all over the world since their first appearance on the British toy manufacturing scene in 1985. Each bear is hand stitched and stuffed with the utmost love and attention, using only the best quality mohair, wool and cotton and is modified according to each owner’s particular preferences. As well as traditional British teddy bears, they have also recently branched out into equally exquisite hand-stitched Panda bears. A perfect gift for any special occasion, this market stall is a must-visit for any tourist looking for that special something to take back to their loved ones, for as the great Winnie the Pooh himself declared, ‘sometimes the smallest things take up the biggest place in your heart.’
By Anna-Marie Owen, Founder of Bedford Bears
Through the Strand Palace Artisans Offer, we are delighted to be able to bring you an exclusive saving. When you book your accommodation direct online, Bedford Bears offer guests 10% off their range.