A new Pop-Up exhibition will start on 2nd April 2024. Opening Tuesday to Saturday 10am -4pm.
Pop-Up Museum: Merchant’s House, 13 High Street, Launceston, PL15 8ER
When I started volunteering for the museum, I found a heap of toys donated but not yet examined or accessioned. I was pleased to find a variety of Pelham puppets. These delighted me, as I had Pelham puppets as a child.
The company was started by Bob Pelham in 1947. Bob had planned to become an architect, but the war had intervened. In Germany, Bob was nicknamed the Wonky Donkey Officer, because he had started making toys out of wooden beads, moved by strings attached to a springy base. Post-war he continued selling toys fashioned from the few materials available at that time. This business failed, but his father sold a car for £130 which helped start Pelham Puppets. A workshop, set up in Marlborough, produced puppets from recycled materials from scrap yards and government surplus. Feet were fashioned from tarpaulin toggles and heads were bought from a supplier of balls for coconut shies.
Hamleys allowed Bob to demonstrate the puppets, and later he showed them all over England, exhibiting in trade fairs. The Queen was even photographed operating a puppet. By the mid-1950s television was using puppets in children’s programmes and success was guaranteed. The range increased and Pelhams worked with several well-known puppeteers such as Harry Corbett.
In 1980, Bob decided to give Giant Bimbo, the clown puppet which had welcomed visitors for years, a haircut. This was his last act with a puppet as later the same day he died. The company struggled on until 1986, when production ceased.