Lakeland Bears
The Advert
Little Pictures
Small World
The First Lakeland Bear

Lakeland Bears
how it all began

In 1986 Wendy Phillips, a knitwear designer living in the English Lake District, purchased an 18ins teddy bear from her local gift shop. Made by the Devon based company 'Little Folk', he was a handsome fellow and sat quietly beside her knitting machine whilst she worked. One day Wendy designed a little sweater for her furry friend and on it she knitted little pictures of rabbits, mice and hedgehogs. So smart did the bear look that the he was photographed (top picture) wearing the sweater and appeared in magazines up and down the land advertising Wendy's new knitting book which was aptly named 'Little Pictures'.

Knitters who saw the advert not only wanted the book of patterns but a bear as well and in 1987, after numerous requests, Wendy contacted Little Folk and the company agreed to produce 200 bears exclusively for her to sell alongside her knitting books. They were made in a special 'nut brown' fur and had suede pads and a 'Lakeland Bear' label.

By 1989 Wendy had produced another knitting book entitled 'Small World'. This featured machine knitted garment patterns for 18ins bears and dolls. The garments, modelled by bears in locations around the Lake District, were photographed by Wendy's husband John. It was decided that the scenes would make attractive postcards and so in March 1989, a collection of eight Lakeland Bear postcards appeared for sale in local gift shops. They were an immediate success.

The First Lakeland Bear Shop
The Lakeland Bear Map

The First
Lakeland Bear shop

Easter 1990 saw the opening of a tiny shop in South Terrace, Bowness-on-Windermere. It was simply named 'Lakeland Bears'. Lovingly dressed by Wendy and her mother each bear wore a knitted sweater, scarf and socks together with tweed or corduroy trousers and a cap. They all carried a rucksack containing a map and a walking stick. Sturdy footwear was considered essential and this came in the form of traditional north-country clogs supplied by a company that had manufactured clogs for generations. Over the years many thousands of pairs of tiny clogs were made for the bears to wear.

The Caravan

The Shop Grows

A year later the ground floor shop had doubled in size. Upstairs bears could be found rock-climbing, fishing and hiking. A colourful bear-sized gypsy caravan, beautifully designed and made by Wendy's father, was surrounded by bears chopping wood, sweeping leaves and caring for woodland creatures.

The Second Lakeland Bear Shop

Lakeland Bears on the Move

In January 1992 Lakeland Bears packed their belongings and made the short journey down the hill to larger premises.

2 Crag Brow, Bowness-on-Windermere became their home for the next 10 years.

Bruin Lodge

Bruin Lodge

The old shop was renamed 'Bruin Lodge' and became a holiday home that included tiny 'bear sized' furniture. Many visitors and their bears enjoyed happy holidays there before it was sold in 1996.

First Little Folk Label
Second Little Folk Label

Lakeland Bears and Little Folk

Little Folk, based in Devon, produced a great many Lakeland Bears exclusively for John and Wendy Phillips. The label shown top left was used for bears from 1987 until December 1991 when new European legislation specified the use of the CE mark (bottom left). Bears were made in various colours including creamy white, auburn, chocolate brown and grey but traditional honey coloured bears were always the most popular. There were five sizes from 9ins to 27ins

The Lakeland Bear Family

A special Lakeland Bear family

In the summer of 1993, so popular had the bears become, that Wendy and Little Folk began a joint venture. Wendy had written a Lakeland Bear story and Little Folk were to make and market the six characters featured. The bears were to be sold from shops around Britain. The six bears were Rowan Berridale (with little pet dinosaur), his sister Holly (with tiny teddy), Logan Berridale (with skis), Grandma Pearl (with her knitting), Bramble Oakwood (with walking stick) and Padlock Homes the indomitable detective (with magnifying glass). You will find two of Wendy stories featuring these characters on this web site

By September the order book for the six 'story bears' was growing and increasing numbers of hiking bears were being dressed by Wendy for sale in her shop. Then, suddenly and very sadly in the late autumn, one of the two original partners who had owned Little Folk died. Little Folk changed hands and Lakeland Bear production came to an abrupt end.

Deans Label - 1993 to 2002

Lakeland Bears and Dean's Rag Book Co. Ltd

Wendy and John will be forever grateful to Neil Miller, the company director of Dean's Rag Book Co. Ltd, who immediately agreed to take over production of Lakeland Bears. He wasted no time in creating new patterns and samples and after a few weeks Lakeland Bears (with a new label shown left) were being transported to the Lake District to be dressed in traditional outdoor clothing just in time for the opening of the 1994 holiday season.

Colour Box Figurines

Lakeland Bears and
Colour Box Figurines

In 1995 Colour Box created figurines of the six bears featured in Wendy's original story.

Happy Rambler Magazines
Rambling On News Letters

Lakeland Bears
Collectors Club

By popular demand the Lakeland Bears Collectors Club was started in Spring 1994 and five very colourful issues of 'The Happy Rambler', the official club magazine, were sent to members until 1995.

After this time, to keep membership costs at a minimum, a smaller black and white version known as 'Rambling On' was introduced and mailed once or twice a year to inform club members of all the Lakeland Bear news.

Grasmere and Rydal
Troutbeck to Ullswater

A Bear's-eye View of Lakeland - Guide Books

In 1997 Wendy began work on two Lake District guide books. The first 'A Bear's-eye View of Grasmere to Rydal' was published in 1998. The second 'A Bear's-eye View of Troutbeck to Ullswater' was published in 1999.

Both books required many months of research and each one contained fascinating information about the area illustrated by many of photographs of Lakeland Bears at work, rest and play.

The Ambleside Shop

A second Lakeland Bear shop in Ambleside

From 1999 to 2001 Lakeland Bears had a small shop in Ambleside.

King Dunmail

The Millenium

At the Ambleside shop great fun was had during the millennium celebrations. A large window display depicted life in Lakeland over the past 2000 years. Bears were dressed in wonderful costumes. On the left can be seen a bear dressed as King Dunmail who ruled the area a thousand years ago.

Bowness Shop 2002

Lakeland Bears 2002

Lakeland Bears closed their door for the last time on Saturday 29th June 2002. This photograph of their shop in Bowness-on-Windermere (left) was taken a few weeks earlier.

Bear Photos
Bear Photos

Photographs of bears in their new homes

From the start anyone purchasing a Lakeland Bear was encouraged to send to the shop a photograph of him enjoying life in his new home. Consequently over the years many thousands of photographs were received from Lakeland Bears living around the world. The shop walls were covered with an ever expanding collection of pictures and visiting customers never failed to seek out their own bear from the huge photo gallery of furry friends.

© John Phillips and Wendy Phillips