British business making wooden puppets for sale. Based in Marlborough Wiltshire, Pelham Puppets, instituted and managed by Bob Pelham, developed a worldwide reputation for string puppets (marionettes) for children and adults. Pelham consulted Jan Bussell for the design of his puppets, the first of which were made in 1947. After initial difficulty in finding a market, Pelham discovered that once demonstrated, the puppets sold.
The company made animated displays, figures for professionals and a standard range of puppets including characters made under licence. A club with a magazine, Pelpup News, was formed in 1950. In 1955, Pelham introduced an anti-tangling system (coloured rubber buffers to match the coloured strings). 1961 saw the destruction of the Pelham factory by fire. It was rebuilt, and sales increased until 1980 when a drop in orders forced Bob Pelham to reduce the staff. Following his death the same year, the company changed hands several times and eventually ceased trading on March 23, 1993. Since 2008, David Leech has produced a new range of puppets under the Pelham name and has written a book on the history of the company.
Many puppeteers began their career with a Pelham puppet. Bob Pelham’s name is known in many parts of the world and his puppets are now collectable. An online site, www.pelhampuppets.uk.com, provides a forum for people interested in Pelham puppets.
(See Great Britain.)