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Gyles Brandreth's teddy bear collection finds new home at Newby Hall

PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 July 2016

Gyles Brandeth

Gyles Brandeth

not Archant

Newby Hall creates a paw-pose built haven for Gyles Brandreth's teddy bear collection

Fozzy Bear and friends in the grounds of their new home at Newby Hall, near RiponFozzy Bear and friends in the grounds of their new home at Newby Hall, near Ripon

If you go down to the woods south of Ripon today, you’re in for a big surprise. For what seems like every bear that ever there was has gathered there for certain because… well, that’s where they live now. Superstars of the bear world, including Paddington, Fozzy, Sooty and Pudsey, now call Newby Hall home after arch arctophile Gyles Brandreth gifted his collection – one of the largest in the world – to the estate.

The former MP’s obsession with bears began with his childhood teddy, Growler. He started collecting in earnest as a teenager and was spurred on in adult life by his son, Benet, his daughters Aphra and Saethryd, and his wife Michelle Brown, who wrote The Teddy Bear Hall of Fame, cataloguing the collection and telling the history of the toy.

Among his famous furry friends, who now share the purpose-built Bear House in the grounds of Newby Hall, are Mr Bean’s knitted teddy, Tony Blair’s companion Lynton, and Francois, the late French president Francois Mitterand’s bear.

There are also rare and unusual examples, including an early Steiff, early English toys by Merrythought and the Pauline Grattan collection of 20th century Hermann dressed bears.

Brandreth’s collection was previously ensconced in a museum in Stratford-upon-Avon and at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, but he was always on the lookout for a permanent home for them to be together forever as one happy, furry family.

He met Richard Compton, whose family has lived at Newby Hall since 1748, during an interview for the BBC’s The One Show. They chatted, the conversation turned to bears (as well it might) and the deal was done.

The resulting Bear House is now open, offering the public the chance to see their favourite bears at work, rest and play in a series of tableaux painted by Richard’s wife, conservation expert Lucinda Compton, their daughter Sasha and book illustrator Georgina McBain.

There’s also a small library of specially selected reading material (yes, Paw and Peace is in there, as is Jane Bear and the Encyclopaedia Beartannica, although A Taste of Honey is sadly overlooked) and a newly-commissioned Newby Hall bear is available to buy in the gift shop.

You can even pretend you’re buying it for a child if you like. Your secret’s safe with us. w

For more information about Newby Hall and the Bear House, visit newbyhall.com

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