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As a Teddy Bear lover, I am so pleased to be mum to a gorgeous 3yr old girl, which gives me the perfect excuse to visit places such as this. Now forget Shakespeare, (as most have you did the moment you left the school gates). If you go to Stratford Upon Avon, the Teddy Bear Museum is the places to visit! This is home to a fantastic collection of bears from over twenty different countries. All housed in a lovely Elizabethan farmhouse, still with oak beams and narrow staircases. It is easy to find, being situated on Greenhill street which is one of the main streets in Stratford. Also easy to spot by the six foot soldier bear that stands outside. It has been open in it's present form since 1988, and is owned by Gyles Brandreth and his wife Michele (Gyles of woolly jumper fame!) The admission prices are low, and under three's go for free. The staff were so warm and welcoming as we arrived, and when we left, giving our daughter a Jelly teddy to eat. When we entered we were given an eye-spy sheet, and we could look for the various things on the sheet as we passed through and tick them of. There are no prizes for this, but it was fun to do and it soon became quite competitive to see who could spot what first. Now you may be thinking that teddy bears are not your thing, but the historical aspect of some of these bears is fascinating, and they do give a lot of information for you to read about each bear as you pass through. After paying your admission fee, you enter 'Teddy Roosevelt Hallway' where you can see an incredible nineteenth century hatstand depicting how bears used to be displayed and read about how the teddy bear got it's name. There is also a huge bench of bears that you can pick up and hug. My daughter loved this and insisted on hugging each bear in turn. From there you climb the stairs to the 'Bears Bedroom'. This room houses a huge number o f bears, far too many for us to count, ( we did try but we kept getting confused, so I'll just stick to the bear facts!) In the centre of the room is a large bed, and as on all good beds there is a bear, but this one is a large Steiff teddy from Germany made in the 1920's. There is a bear on wheels, which is also German and was made around 1910. There are bears that are clockwork, bears that are mechanical, bears that are bald!, electric bears, and even a bear that reads a newspaper. We stood for ages looking at them and pointing them out to each other, only moving along , when a small girl (greatly resembling our daughter) realised she could walk under the rope and reach these bears! (a thing to watch out for when visiting here with little ones. These type of ropes make it very easy to see the exhibits, but very easy for small people to get where they shouldn't be) We wandered along into the music room. Now this room houses mainly handmade dressed teddys, many of which were specially created for the museum. They include work from some of Britains leading teddy bear makers, such as Jill Smith and Deans of Gwent to name but a couple. (If I listed them all here I would bearly have room for anything else). The room is laid out as if a wedding has, or is about to take place. A thing that would not be possible in a music room if Gyles Brandreth had not sponsered the 1994 Marriage act, when he was a member of parliament. This act allowed weddings to take place in places other than churches or register offices. In the 'Picture Gallery' you can see photographs of bears from between the 1930's to the late 1970's and these come from around the world. You can also see cartoon bears such as the Bruin Bears and Biffo the Bear. As you enter the Library you will see many bears who are or who once were owned by the rich and famous. Barbara Cartlands bear is there, and is suitably b edecked in jewels. Percy from Longleat, who belongs to the Marquess of Bath. Edwina Currie's bear (who I believe is one of the few bears who doesn't eat eggs). Even Margaret Thatchers bear Humphrey, (who looks very brow beaten and quite relieved to be spending his twilight years in a museum). The list of bears belonging to people such as these goes on and on, so I shall stop there and hope one day you will see for yourselves Before you start your journey back down the narrow staircase to the real world again, you go through the 'Hall of Fame'. Halfway up the stairs, to there you meet an old , well loved bear who only has one eye. This bear belongs to Jeffrey Archer, who, I'm sure, is grinning and 'bearing' things at the moment! The oldest bear in the hall of fame is Arden, who's owner started the first Elizabeth Arden salon in the UK. You can see examples of famous bear manufacturers from around the world. Then you come across, bears that are famous in there own right. Such as Winnie the Pooh, Rupert the Bear, Paddington and the Teds from Playschool. The original Sooty is on display there , as is the original Fozzie Bear, donated by the late Jim Henson. I have only given the briefest of rundowns on what you can find here, you would never get to the end if I listed them all, there are so many to see. Before you leave this magical place, you can wander around the shop which sells the most gorgeous bears, although some of them are very highly priced. There are a whole plethera of bear related items on sale here, and it is so tempting, especially if you are a bear fan. belsdad kept very tight hold of my hand here (no idea why? ) It really is a wonderfull place, full of joy and magic for everyone. If you get the chance then take a look for yourself, you'll bearly be able to contain yourselves!
So, why would anyone want to visit Stratford-on-Avon?Apparently it was the birth-place of someone called William something or other and it has a nice river and so on. However, the main attraction for anyone who considers they have real soul is, of course, the Teddy Bear Museum. Famous throughout the world - and beyond - the Teddy Bear Museum was founded in 1988 by Michelle and Gyles Brandreth (yes - that one). It is housed in one of Stratford's Elizabethan buildings on Greenhill Street, within easy walking distance of the town centre. What was, in Shakepeare's day a humble farmhouse, now houses an amazing collection of teddy bears from over 20 countries. The house is divided into separate viewing areas where humans can look in on the bears without disturbing them too much. The first room - the bedroom - has a display ranging from a rare Steiff of around 1920 to many more modern but obviously well-loved examples like Bonnie Langford's Wendy Boston bear from the 1960s. The Music Room is home to some of the finest handmade dressed teddies in the world. Here you will find a number of bears specially created for the museum as well as some wonderful rare comics depicting bears. In the library you will find bears that previously owned such well-known people as Barbara Cartland, the sixth Marquess of Bath, Edwina Currie, Neil Kinnock, Margaret Thatcher, Prince Philip . . the list goes on. The Hall of Fame has a Best of British section containing fine old bears from companies like Chiltern Toys, Chad Valley, JK Farnell and Merrythought, while the American All-Stars features Humphrey Beargart, Lauren Bearcall and, of course, the world's most famous family of bears, Steiff. Here we also find Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington, Rupert Bear as well as the original Big Ted and Little Ted, Sooty, Yogi and Pudsey bears. The last room , the Teddy Bears' Picnic shows many bears in their natural habitat while Mr Bean's bear looks on. It is a delight to see that there are responsible people in the world who really take notice of a teddy bear's true function - to give delight to young and old alike. If you are visiting Stratford for whatever reason, the Teddy Bear Museum must be first on your list of 'must visits'. Don't miss it!