Chiltern Bears

Chiltern Bears from the Chiltern Toy Company

Named after the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire where the factory was situated in a town called Chesham the Chiltern Toy co as we know it today started manufacturing its first bears in 1915 (although it had been making other toys earlier than this). The first Chiltern teddy bear was called The Master Teddy, a funny little fellow that was un-jointed and had a dressed cotton cloth body and mohair hands, face and paws. The most distinctive part of this Chiltern bear was the fact he had white painted glass eyes that made him have a googly eyed look and not at all like the later Chiltern bears we have come to love for their endearing faces. The owner of the company was a man called Joseph Eisenmann and unfortunately he did not live long enough to know how successful Chiltern would become at making bears. When he died in 1919 he left the company to his Son-in-Law Leon Rees who took Harry Stone as a business partner in 1920. Harry Stone had previously worked with J.K.Farnell of Farnell Bears fame, and together Leon and Harry formed H. G. Stone and Co. Under the Chiltern trademark they built one of the best known teddy bear manufacturers of the time.

One of the most outstanding bears that they created has to be the Chiltern Hugmee bear that arrived in the late 1920's. Recently here at Bourton Bears we had a telephone call from someone wanting to visit to look at our bears and especially looking for a 1920's Chiltern Hugmee bear. You can imagine our surprise when they arrived and we found out that they were the Grand children of the late Harry Stone. They were lucky as we always carry a good stock of Chiltern bears and we happened to have one of the early 1920's bears in stock. They said that they had never held one of these bears and the atmosphere in the room when they were talking about their Grandfather while holding the bear was enough to give you goose bumps. That sure is one visit to our showroom we will not forget!

This Hugmee range had the real appeal of the traditional bear look that continued into the 1930's and was called Hugmee as they were stuffed with soft Kapok (with the exception of the head that was excelsior)that made them more cuddly than bears stuffed solely with excelsior. They used top quality mohair and velveteen or cotton paw pads with carded soles to the feet on many early bears. The painted glass eyes were large and appealing and the unusual nose stitching with the upturned stitching at either end has been one way of identifying these bears today together with legs that are said to resemble chicken drumsticks. These early Chiltern bears generally had no labels but card tags that are extremely rare to find. During the 1930's shaved muzzles got longer and the bears came in a wide variety of sizes and colours including pink and blue, these were popular for obvious reasons.

A new idea in this period were bears that made growling noises and Chiltern were not slow to offer bears with squeakers and bellows style music boxes.

As the war started many manufacturing plants were turned over to aid the war effort and the Chiltern Factories were no exception and in 1940 they ceased making bears until after the war.

When factories that were commandeered for the War resumed their business, materials for manufacturing were short. This forced many companies to rethink their product and the Chiltern Toy Company was no exception. Pre war Chiltern bears had been made predominately from high quality mohair and this was not available and the fabric that was available was short in supply. The design of the Chiltern Hugmee bear range was changed to make shorter muzzles and limbs in order to get more bears out of each roll of fabric, and thankfully this was the birth of the flat faced Chiltern Hugmee style that sold in the thousands during the 1950/60s. This Chiltern bear must have one of the most appealing faces in the bear world and many people have one in their collection. The nose stitching on the post war Chiltern bears changed to vertical stitching in the shape of a shield. Amber glass eyes sewn into the bear from the back of the head continued into the 1950's until plastic was introduced in the late 50's to conform to new safety standards that were being introduced on children's toys.

It was not long before good quality mohair became available again and this produced some very endearing Chiltern bears of varying sizes in the 50's that today are prized among collectors many of which have fond memories of a similar bear from their childhood. During the 50's Chiltern introduced their first cloth label that was glued to the foot of their bears and read CHILTERN HYGENIC TOYS MADE IN ENGLAND in blue on a white background. Unfortunately this label often came off so finding a bear with this on his foot pad will always be difficult and expect to pay a premium for this.

Chiltern bears' paw pads during this period were mainly made of high quality velvet or rexine.

In 1953 Chiltern produced an unusual bear known as the Ting a Ling because of the noise he made when shaken. This bear was a different pattern to the Chiltern Hugmee range and had big flat feet so the bear could stand and an inset muzzle made of short mohair. This bear was not the only musical Chiltern bear to be designed as there was a range of squeeze me bellows bears and wind up musical bears introduced into the Hugmee and Bruin bear ranges. Other additions to the Chiltern range during this period included a range of Hugmee pandas that are very difficult to get hold of in good condition.

In the late 50's to keep ahead in the bear world they introduced the plastic nose onto their successful Hugmee range. This nose is said to have been from their range of push along dogs and was done as an experiment. This nose was a success especially as it conformed to the new safety regulations and can be found on many of the later bears produced towards the final Chiltern years.

One of my favourite bears produced by Chiltern has to be the bear on a bicycle. This little bear was the first design to be produced by Pam Howells when she started at the Chiltern factory. This Chiltern bear was based on a character from the cartoon Dumbo sits on his cycle and when pulled along his little legs go up and down as if he is pedalling and is so amusing to watch. The original prototype was much more detailed and in mohair, unlike the final production model that Chiltern obviously changed for costs reasons. Pam Howells still designs and sells her fabulous bears today and don't miss the chance to visit her at the next teddy fair she has a stand.

Leon Rees the driving force behind the Chiltern Toy Co died in 1963 and in 1964 Chiltern was taken over by a large group. In 1967 it became a subsidiary of Chad Valley and bears manufactured during this short period can be found with both names on the labels, before the name The Chiltern Toy Co disappeared for good.

If anyone out there has any information or pictures regarding The Chiltern Toy Co in the early days Graham Stone one of Harry's Grand Children would love to know more and if you contact us we will make sure you are put in touch so that they can learn more about the history of their Grandfather.