Site of teddy bear factory, Abergavenny

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Site of teddy bear factory, Queen Street, Abergavenny

The Wendy Boston soft toy factory once stood near here. It was on the other side of Queen Street from what are now the premises of builders’ merchant Robert Price. The company made thousands of teddy bears and pioneered safety and hygiene features. The toys pictured here are part of Abergavenny Museum’s collection, including the unfinished owl and monkey’s head (below).

Wendy Williams, nee Boston, began making soft toys in the Second World War. Her husband Ken had been injured while serving in the Royal Air Force and the couple were forced to move from Birmingham when their home was badly damaged in an air raid.

After a Cardiff shop began to stock her toys, Wendy set up a small factory in Crickhowell. As business picked up, the company opened an Abergavenny factory in 1947.

A fire at the Queen Street factory in 1955 caused damage estimated at £20,000. Among the lost goods were finished toys ready for export to North America, Australia and Africa. The factory soon reopened. It housed the company’s main office. By the early 1960s the company employed 100 people, mostly women, at its sites in Abergavenny, Hengoed and Crickhowell.

While Wendy focused on designing toys, Ken – who had pre-war experience in marketing and journalism – managed the company. He was also an inventor. He patented nylon eyes which were locked into soft toys, ensuring no child could easily remove them. The products were marketed as “Play Safe” toys to parents, who were familiar with the wires securing the eyes on other companies’ teddies.

In 1954 Wendy Boston produced the world’s first fully washable teddies, after Ken hit on the idea of filling them with nylon foam. The toys were demonstrated on television in 1955. The advertisement on the right dates from 1958.


The company was also one of the earliest to package toys in boxes with transparent fronts, made of acetate film.

In 1968 the company was taken over by Denys Fisher Toys. Wendy Boston Playsafe Toys closed in 1976. Its toys are sought after by collectors today.

With thanks to Janet Herrod of Abergavenny Museum for the photos

Postcode: NP7 5AS    View Location Map

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