The name 'Pelham' is taken from the creator Bob Pelham who was the founder of the company and continued to head the company until his death in 1980 assisted by his wife Ann Pelham who continued with the business until 1986.
Pelham Puppets were first made in the United Kingdom from 1947 onwards under the title Wonky Toys Ltd the company changed its name in 1948 to the now better known Pelham Puppet brand. Mainly known for making Pelham marionettes the company also manufactured glove puppets, rod puppets and ventriloquist puppets.
There are many ranges in Pelham Puppets but the main ones are The LS range 12 inch puppets with half wooden ball feet, wooden heads and waxed string holding the parts together. The SS range, similar to the LS range but with wooden toggle feet and screw eyes holding the body together. The SL range, usually with moulded heads and either held together with string or screw eyes. The SM range with moving mouths usually made from larger wooden balls for heads but some have molded heads. The JC range, a smaller simpler puppet intended for younger children. The Jumpette range, smaller puppet again, much simpler and intended for infants and toddlers. The A or Animal usually non anthropomorphic versions of animals. The Minipup a range of smaller animal puppets. The WH range, same size puppets as junior control pelham puppets except these tended to have larger heads and were the first pelham puppets to have printed faces. The Vent range, a simple ventriloquist puppet range of pelham puppets made from 1968 onwards.
Type SM Puppets. These are the puppets with moving jaws.
Type LA, LB, LD and A Pelham Puppets: These are early animals and birds made from wooden components and have the plywood 't-bar' controls.
Type GL Pelham Puppets: These are the glove puppets that were in production in the mid 1950s and 1960s.
The '1963 range': In 1963 a new series of animal and fairy tale characters were released. The animal characters were designed by Peter Carter-Page using Bob Pelham's sketches as a basis and the fairy tale characters, such as the King and Queen, were designed by Bob Pelham himself.
Type MR: These are the glove puppets and the string of the Magic Roundabout characters that appeared in 1966 onwards.
Type V: These are the Ventriloquil Pelham Puppets that appeared from 1968. Referred to as 'Vent Puppets' by Bob Pelham
Type No 2 Pelham Puppets: these are the 24" tall Pelham Puppets made using the heads originally made for the Vent puppets and fully strung in the same manner as Type SM Pelham Puppets. They began to appear on a regular basis from around 1977.
Type DL Pelham Puppets: This range introduced in 1981 include a number of Type SM and SL Pelham Puppets. They were more costly to produce than other puppets, so were separated from the Type SM and SL ranges for this reason only.
The factory was initially based in Marlborough, Wiltshire and a fire in 1961 created a hiatus during manufacture and led to new ranges being introduced and old lines being stopped. The factory was rebuilt and grew in size on the same location until it was sold and moved in 1985 to Collingbourne Ducis also in Wiltshire and then again sold and moved to Gloucestershire in the early 1990s but went into liquidation in 1993. In 2008 the Pelham Puppet company was revived by a former employee and the authorised historian of the Pelham Puppet company, David Leech of the original factory and now produces a new line of Pelham Puppets some echoing former styles and new characters also.
The boxes the puppets were packed in usually denote the time period that the puppets were made. 1947 - 1955 early boxes were two part trays with lids made of brown card and a label glued to the lid 1955 - 1961 yellow two part tray boxes with printing showing various puppets on one side with the Witch it shows the Mad Hatter in the centre 1962 - mid 1980's a yellow two part box with a snake charmer replaces the Mad Hatter on the side with a Witch 1963 onwards the larger yellow two part tray box has the three bears on the side 1968 onwards the box has a sleeve with cellophane window cut into it showing the puppet inside initially the window was the whole length of the box but later in... 1969 it was divided in half to create two windows with the logo between. 1980The deluxe box was created with a central window and a dragon on the side 1987Saw the appearance of the red and yellow candy striped boxes reminiscent of a Punch and Judy booth and also the blue 'collectors' series.
Pelham Puppets also made puppets to order for the professional market and have been used by various companies in their shows.
Puppets that are very common due to mass manufacturing are the SS Gypsy, SL Wolf, SS Clown, SL Bimbo, SS Tyrolean Boy & Girl, SS Mitzi & Fritzi, SS Dutch Boy & Girl, Sl Bimbo SM & SL Witch.
Some of the rarer Pelham Puppets include The Alice in Wonderland range from the 1950s (not to be confused with the later 1980s Alice), SM Hank, Mr Turnip, Sarah Swede, Colonel Beetroot from the television programme Whirligig. Lettuce Leefe, Harris Tweed (character), SL Bull, SL Cow, SL Fox, SM Huntsman, SM Villain.
What's your Pelham worth? Take a look at this list of Pelham price guide: sold listings for a value indication.