Saturday, July 9, 2011

Antiquing Trip to England: Day 6, Canterbury

Our day in Canterbury was one of my favorites, as it included a tour of a teddy bear factory. Canterbury Bears has been making uniquely English teds for 32 years, sending them to collectors all over the world from their workshop just outside the ancient city.

The workshop may look quietly unassuming from the outside...

...but inside, it's a riot of bears, parts of bears, piles of mohair, shelves of trims, boxes of eyes, intriguing machines, and friendly ladies stitching teddy bear smiles.

 Colorfully dyed mohair waits to be cut into bear parts.

 Metal dies for cutting out bear parts.

The machine that stamps out the bear parts, 
using the dies like a cookie cutter.

 A box full of newly stamped out bear parts.

The stuffing machine. The nozzle (just touching the chair back) is inserted into a bear, then the machine blows it full of stuffing.
We were told the bears' eyes are not sewn on until after this step,
"so they can't see what's being done to them."

Speaking of eyes, here are some of the varieties:

Hand-sewing the eyes, nose, and mouth on a nearly-finished bear.

 After a tour of the workshop, we were invited to browse the shelves and purchase bears to take home. We got to see prototypes and archival pieces too, and it was lots of fun to poke around.

I got this little ted, whom I absolutely adore.

A shelf of bears. The little white one was 
a never produced prototype
that went home with a very lucky tour guest.

After our factory visit was over, we headed into Canterbury. The skyline of the medieval walled city is dominated by the famous cathedral, which looms over everything:

The cathedral's origins lie all the way back in 597 AD, but the oldest remaining section, the crypt, is from the 11th century.

A particularly beautiful corner in the cathedral's cloisters.

The cathedral is full of monumental stained glass windows; the oldest is this, the Adam Window (so named for the figure of Adam, digging with a spade, in the bottom row, third from the left) which dates from 1176!

No scones today: instead I tried something new, a Bakewell Tart. It was a pastry shell filled with raspberry jam and almond sponge cake, with a shortbread star on top. Completely delicious.

Speaking of delicious things: we saw fabulous candy shops in every town we visited. They had an almost magical quality, like the candy store in the Harry Potter books. This one, The Sugar Boy, was one of my favorites.

There were surprisingly few antique stores in Canterbury; in fact, we were told by the owner of the one we did find that it was pretty much the only one. Good thing we found it, too: it had a case full of old bears.

Repairs were ongoing at this old antique shop.

 Inside: a big, beautiful vintage bear greeted us. 
Sadly, he was too big and heavy to get home (42 inches!)
so as far as I know, he's still sitting there now.

At the back of the store, though, was this case
filled with smaller bears:
some old, some new, and all wonderful.

I got this unusual ted, which I think may be from Australia, made by Barton Waugh. In the case above, he's on the right side, back row, in the middle. Noseless. Below, he here is after his nosectomy:

Just before leaving Canterbury, we stopped by its Information Centre and loaded up on postcards. Sitting by the register was this great little Canterbury Bear I hadn't seen at the factory earlier: a small version of their Union Jack patterned bear, appropriately named...Jack. He is clearly very happy to have gone back to the States with me.

Coming up next: Day 7, the Victorian seaside resort of Eastbourne.

1 comment:

  1. I'm completely blown away by your beautiful photographs and all the wonderful information you include!
    I love the little guy you bought at the factory too! He is a sweetie!
    What a lucky lady you are to have been able to take part in such a terrific tour, Tracy!