Have you heard of Amersham Toys and Hugmee bears?
In 1908, a German toymaker, Joseph Eisenmann started a new branch to make toys at the Chiltern Toy Works, Bellingdon Road, Chesham, initially making dolls but later adding a range of Teddies to their range. It was one of the first firms in the UK to make soft toys on a large scale. The factory was inherited in 1919 on Joseph’s death by his son-in-law, Leon Rees, who moved production in 1920 to Waterside in Chesham. He went into partnership with Harry Stone under the name of H G Stone & Co. A second factory began production at Tottenham in 1921. The Waterside factory commenced production of the very popular Hugmee bears in 1923. During the War, the Waterside site was taken over by David Shackman & Co who produced optical equipment and other goods for the war effort. Shackman stayed on at Waterside until 1981.
Although there was a break in toy-making during the war at the Chesham factory, the Tottenham factory continued to make some toys. After the war, production of wooden toys and soft toys moved from Waterside to the Amersham works on Moor Road in Chesham. A large new factory was built near Pontypool in 1947 – Chesham remained the centre for production of teddy bears. At the time our pastry set was produced, the factory in Chesham was staffed almost entirely by single young ladies. Hugmee bears remained in production until 1967.
In Amersham Museum there is also a doll’s house, one of the many wooden items they produced, such as doll’s house furniture, blackboards and easels, and a range of sports goods. At one time the factory employed 120 people and despatched some 600 tennis rackets each week. They also produced a range of wheeled toys, such as dolls’ pushchairs, pedal cars, wheelbarrows and stuffed animals on wheels.
It was, however, for the ‘Hugmee’ bears that the company was most famous. When a new factory was opened in Tottenham, a ‘Silky Teddy’ was brought out, and then a ‘Chubby’ bear complete with voice box, and a fawn plush ‘Cubby’ bear. Later the design of bears evolved, with longer shaved muzzles, and a variety of coloured fur – blue and pink. Later bears were provided with a growling noise, or squeakers or bellows-style music boxes.
In the British Industries Fair in 1947, the company was listed as manufacturers of ”Chiltern” Toys, “Hugmee” Teddy Bears and Plush Animals. “Panurge Pets” and animals on Wheels, Sheepskin Toys and Cuddly Dolls and in 1960, the company featured in Good Housekeeping.
When Leon Rees died in 1963 the factory was taken over by another group, which in 1967 became a subsidiary of Chad Valley. Subsequently, Chad Valley became part of the Sainsbury Group.
It is interesting to note that there were several toymakers long before this, including Chesham Wooden Toy Works and the Happy Day Toy Company in Severalls Avenue (off the Berkhamsted Road).