David Worland. Antique Bear Collector.
DAVID WORLAND TEDDY BEAR HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR.
Some of you may be familiar with my name and my involvement in the Teddy Bear collecting world, a world that is still an enjoyable part of my life even though I have not appeared publicly for some time. I left it finally, though somewhat reluctantly to pursue my other interests, primarily the history of the ancient Hellenistic world and the life, travels, and times of Alexander the Great. Recently a friend of mine has been pleading with me to re-enter that world, albeit if only occasionally as time permits.
When she asked me to write a bio for this website, one I see so wonderfully promoting the enjoyable and I believe, important hobby of Teddy bear collecting together with other associated childhood toys, she said to me, “David I can’t believe it. I have known you for twenty four years and I have never actually asked or heard you speak about how or why you first became interested in Teddy Bears.” This has led me to write it down for her and for all to read.
I have a favourite saying. I am not sure if I have heard it somewhere or if it formed in my own mind. I have not been able to find it recorded anywhere.
“There is no Room in the World, be it in a Palace or in a hut, that cannot be improved by a Teddy Bear”.
So here is the story of the discovery of my now constant companion, Brompton and how it changed my life for many years, taking me to wonderful places, and meeting friends I will never forget.
The real start of my fascination with TB’s was as a child, but my adult interest was when I saw a young woman in England on the BBC news who had just paid £4000 for a large Steiff at a Sotheby’s auction. It was then a world record. The bear was very large and beautiful and was being half-carried and half-dragged along by a small child. The bear was named Chester and I assume that it had been sold at one of Sotheby’s regional sales at Chester. I immediately rang my parents in Melbourne and asked them to find my old Ted and send it up to me in Sydney. When he arrived he was nothing like I remembered him as a child. He was smaller and had been made in England and had probably been handed down to me, as it was wartime and toys were not on everyone’s mind at that time. I immediately promised myself that I would visit both Sotheby’s and Christies when I was next in London to see what was coming up in their sales.
I did buy a beautiful mint, glass-eyed bear at the next sale, but the light of my Teddy bear life did not come to me until May 1990.
Back in the UK, my partner, Ian, and I were on our way to Scotland for some salmon fishing. We were in London, and I remember walking from my digs in Lennox Gardens across to see the next sale offering at Christies at South Ken. The bears and toys were still downstairs, racked and lotted. I was allowed down to have a quick look but I remember that, descending the stairs, I was determined not to spend any more money on teddy bears. Well, Brompton had something more to say about that. He was at the end of the row and wrapped in plastic. His beautiful cinnamon colour and the quality of his mohair was immediately apparent. One shoulder needed attention at the seam, but as I held him up to the light to get a better look at his face I heard him say very clearly “You’re mine.” I was startled and looked around, but looking back at his face in the dim basement light it was clear where the voice had come from.
Two weeks later I returned to the saleroom to do battle against almost all of the world’s teddy dealers who had also seen value in the the 23in., circa 1907, Cinnamon Steiff with button-in-ear. With his words still ringing in my head I put my paddle up, and kept it up.
A few days later after a few rotator cuff stitches and a gentle clean and brush he was sitting up in his own seat on Concorde at twice the speed of sound crossing the Atlantic on his way to his new home in Australia. We have been inseparable ever since. He has travelled the world with me, twice more on Concorde, but that’s another story.