The first Paddington Bear toy was created by Gabrielle Designs in 1972, a small business run by Shirley and Eddie Clarkson. Like many toymakers, the couple tried out the bear on their children first, as a Christmas present. Little Joanna and Jeremy loved it!
The bear toy came after the Paddington books, written by Michael Bond and illustrated by Peggy Fortnum and first published in 1958. Characterised by a love of marmalade sandwiches - which never had the effect of making children like marmalade, incidentally - the story went that Paddington originated from deepest, darkest Peru. He was found on Paddington Station platform in london (hence his name) by a family who decided to adopt the furry friend.
Bond has mentioned before that Paddington Bear was modelled on the many evacuee children he'd seen footage of arriving on station platforms with signs around their necks, duffle coats and battered old suitcases (reminiscent of characters in Carrie's War). The final inspiration had come when Bond spotted a lone teddy bear on the shelf of his local toy shop. Just 10 days later, he'd already written his first Paddington Bear book. And the rest, they say, is history.
Paddington Bear is remembered as a classic British children's character, and went on to secure his popularity among the masses in a TV series based on his adventures. The toy bear, which came after the TV series and books, didn't deviate from Bond's creation much at all, apart from the addition of Wellington boots - apparently to help make the bear stand up straight (a stroke of genius by Shirley Clarkson). In the TV show Paddington received these boots one Christmas as a present, circa 1964, in an episode called Paddington Marches On. The earliest bears wore small children's boots manufactured by that most British of institutions, Dunlop, until they could no longer keep up with production rates. Gabrielle Designs then produced their own boots with paw prints moulded into the soles - cute!
The toy bear has always been a favourite with children, and Paddington breathed new life and interest into the standard design. He'd been so animated as a book and TV character that the toy was oozing personality. Though, had he been created a few decades later, you can't help but think we may have had a toy bear who could actually sip on his faux cup of cocoa in the style of Tiny Tears. All those years spend attempting to force a marmalade sandwich into his sewn-up mouth may have been done away with, too.
Of course, we love Paddington all the same, and because of this the little fella went on to appear on the big screen, plus in an advert for another British institution, Marmite. He's even got his own stamp and there's a bronze statue in his honour at Paddington Station. Bet we know which one you'd rather cuddle up to, though.