Teddy Bear Museum & new Pier open in Basingstoke
Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage officially opened two new attractions at Milestones Museum last Monday.
The minister opened Mr Simpson’s Teddy Bear Museum and the Milestones Pier at Basingstoke’s museum of living history, operated by charity Hampshire Cultural Trust.
Mr Simpson’s Teddy Bear Museum is a walk through the history of the teddy bear and is the result of a legacy from Mr William – Bill – Simpson, whose collection of teddy bears began in 1917 when his father bought him his first bear, Rupert, while he was on leave from the First World War. Bill’s love for teddy bears grew and he became an avid collector throughout his life, amassing a valuable collection of more than 260 bears. Bill Simpson left his entire collection, along with a legacy for the bears to be cared for and kept together, to HCT’s predecessor, Hampshire County Council Museums Service. The bears have now been conserved and, as a result of Bill’s generous legacy, are on display together for the first time.
The museum’s former penny arcade has also been completely transformed as the Milestones Pier, a unique seaside experience with a traditional boardwalk and vintage arcade machines from the turn of the 20th century through to the 1980s. Objects from the collections cared for by Hampshire Cultural Trust feature strongly in both new attractions, showcasing and celebrating Hampshire’s social and cultural heritage.
Milestones was closed to the public for 37 weeks during the pandemic, but work carried on behind the scenes, including the conservation of all of Mr Simpson’s bears, much of which was completed by HCT’s team of conservators working from home. Their extraordinary efforts were recognised with a nomination for Restoration or Conservation Project of the Year in the 2021 Museum and Heritage Awards.
Milestones Museum is Hampshire’s museum of living history, welcoming more than 100,000 visitors a year.
It tells the story of Hampshire’s social and industrial history over the past 150 years and contains a network of Victorian and 1930s streets with shops, factories and houses, plus an impressive collection of vehicles and machinery from the Industrial Revolution onwards and has a working Edwardian pub and 1940s sweet shop. Costumed interpreters in the streetscape engage with visitors, telling stories and bringing history to life.