Dame Judi Dench’s much-loved childhood teddy bear is the most recent addition to the world’s largest collection of famous teddy bears which is on permanent loan to the Newby Hall Charitable Trust from broadcaster Gyles Brandreth.
Dame Judi’s eponymous ‘Bear’ is holidaying in Yorkshire this summer, along with another new arrival belonging to actor and star of many West End productions, Thelma Ruby – whose bear is an original 1958 Sooty presented to her by Harry Corbett himself after she starred with him at the Leeds City Varieties.
The bears will spend their holidays with an extensive collection of more than a thousand teddy bears assembled by enthusiasts Gyles Brandreth and his wife, Michele Brown and gifted to Newby last year.
They were welcomed to Newby Hall by Gyles when he visited recently (Wednesday 28 June) to open the new library scene tableau, specially commissioned for the Bear House. Books in the library include Paw and Peace, Jane Bear and the Encyclopedia Beartannica. Literary bears are well represented in the collection by ‘bear of very little brain’ Winnie the Pooh, the original star of the Paddington 1972 animated TV series and the Bear of Avon, William Shakesbeare himself. Shakesbeare was designed by Gyles Brandreth.
Other VIB ‘s (Very Important Bears) in the Bear House include Muppet Show stalwart Fozzie Bear donated by Jim Henson himself and the original Children in Need’s Pudsey Bear.
Dame Judi said: Bear was my beloved childhood companion and went everywhere with me. He’s a little careworn after all this time but very excited to be going back to Yorkshire – I was brought up in York – and he’s been missing that part of the country.
I’ve been involved with Brandreth Bears for more than 20 years now in my capacity as artistic director of the Royal Shakesbeare Company. Our productions have included King Bear, MacBear and the Merry Bears of Windsor. Gyles wants us to put on Romeo and Paddington but I’m not sure about that!
Gyles said: Teddy bears have been popular for more than a century and I am delighted to see that they continue to attract arctophiles of all ages to Newby Hall. These bears are my pride and joy, a life time’s collection, and I am honoured that people like Dame Judi want their bears to be a part of it.
I hope that the Newby Hall Bear House will continue to attract visitors and bears alike and that I will have the privilege of opening more scenes as they are created.
Newby Hall owner Richard Compton said: This past year has seen unprecedented success with Gyles’ collection and the Bear House. It is one of the most popular attractions at Newby and never fails to put a smile on the faces of our visitors whatever their age. We would like to thank everyone who has donated a bear to the collection and to Gyles for his continued support.