Teddy bears are taking up residence in Lynn’s True’s Yard Museum. And for three weeks only this delightful gathering will be on display, featuring a few instantly recognisable characters and some truly extraordinary pieces.
Lindsey Bavin, the museum manager, has been busy this week preparing the display “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of” and there is an official opening at noon today, Good Friday, when light refreshments will be served. You could almost call it a teddy bears’ picnic!
Among the stars of the show is a miniature replica of Alfonzo, a bright red 107-year-old famous Steiff bear which was originally from Russia, and there’s also a replica of a rare Steiff Titanic black memorial bear.
All the bears on display have been loaned to True’s Yard by Lindsay Campbell, of Lynn, from the collection she has built up over many years.
She said: “I have always been interested in teddy bears and started collecting about 30 years ago, but it was only some 12 or 13 years ago that I really took it seriously and now they are all around the house – except the bathroom!”
A retired librarian, Lindsay has been a member of King’s Lynn Town Guides for more than 20 years. She loaned two bears for the museum’s recent First World War exhibition – one British and the other German – and they created a lot of interest at the time ... which sparked off the idea for this new display.
Lindsey Bavin adds: “The German bear is Emily Rose, her maker is unknown but she is dated between 1912-1915; the English bear is Jarvis who is a Farnell and dated to the same period. I’ve positioned them holding hands to symbolise the innocence of youth in a time of war.”
The story of the original Alfonzo is particularly fascinating as it was a present from the Russian Grand Duke George Michailovitch to his five-year-old daughter, Princess Xenia, at Christmas in 1908. He wears a yellow Cossack outfit, made by Xenia’s English nanny, Miss Ball.
In July 1914, the princess and her mother travelled to Buckingham Palace to visit her mother’s cousin, King George V, and, of course, Alfonzo went too. When war broke out, it was considered that returning to Russia would be too dangerous, so Xenia and her mother remained in England.
Then, in 1919, during the Russian Revolution, Grand Duke George was assassinated, and Xenia became even closer to her teddy bear, the only gift she had with her from her adored father.
After she married, Xenia and Alfonzo went to live in the United States, and after her death in 1965, Alfonzo passed to her daughter. In 1989, it was decided that Alfonzo should go to a specialist sale at Christie’s auction house in London – Ian Pout, proprietor of Teddy Bears of Witney, was looking for a “special bear” and bid for Alfonzo, paying the then record price of £12,000 for a teddy bear.
Since then, Alfonzo sits in pride of place in a niche behind the shop counter, where he receives many visitors from all round the world. He celebrated his centenary in 2008 with a grand birthday party. Little wonder that Alfonzo is considered the most romantic of all teddy bears!
True’s Yard is open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm; admission £3 for adults, £2.50 for concessions.