By Marilyn Barber
The Wareham Bears have been given a big welcome to their new home at Wimborne Model Town with a grand opening attended by not only the town criers of Wimborne and Wareham, but also members of the family of Mary Hildesley who created the attraction in the late 1960s.
Following the closure of The Blue Pool last summer – which has since re-opened – it looked as if the Wareham Bears would be homeless, until the Model Town trustees offered them a permanent home.
Chairman of the Model Town trustees Iain Stevenson said: “This is a culmination of a journey and we are so pleased to now be able to give the Wareham Bears ‘a forever home’.
Iain thanked the Wareham and District Development Trust, the owners of Wareham Bears, for their assistance.
The town crier of Wareham Jacquie Hall, delivered a cry, followed by Wimborne town crier Chris Brown.
The Wareham Bears were created by Mary Hildesley and were first exhibited at her shop in the town in 1981, with profits going to a children’s sight charity, ‘Sight by Wings’.
The bears have had quite a journey having also been displayed at Wilton House, a theme park in Norfolk and at Wookey Hole.
Mary Hildesley’s daughter Mary Gordon, her husband Robert and Mary’s son Mike and wife Judy were delighted to be invited to attend the opening of the exhibition.
Mary Gordon said: “My mother became bored with running her art gallery, and so she started to collect the bears to amuse my children. She spotted these six inch Steiff bears in Harrods and eventually bought their entire stock.”
Mary Hildesley was a talented woman and in addition to dressing the bears and putting them in a variety of settings, she also wrote books which she illustrated in pastels.
Mary’s daughter said that every time the bears moved home it was her task to go to the attraction and check that each item was dust free and had been placed in the correct position.
Asked what her mother – who died in 2000 – would have thought about the bear’s new home at the Model Town she said: “She would have been thrilled that now her creations have been given a ‘forever home’.
Photos by Marilyn Barber
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