Bear essentials to survive blitz in Sheffield

Barbara Spencer with teddy bear bought from Atkinsons hours before it was destroyed by Sheffield Blitz
Barbara Spencer with teddy bear bought from Atkinsons hours before it was destroyed by Sheffield Blitz
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You’ll bear-ly believe this cuddly toy’s incredible story of survival.

With his frayed fur and fading coat, from the outset Brenda Spencer’s beloved Teddy seems unremarkable.

But research has revealed this little bear has a fascinating history - it was the last purchase to ring out of the tills at department store Atkinsons before it was destroyed in the Sheffield Blitz.

The department store was the first venue to receive a ‘Sheffield Blitz Heritage Trail’ plaque, marking the most significant sites affected by the bombings.

The project is set for completion in December 2015, the 75th anniversary of the Sheffield Blitz.

And today marks 73 years since Brenda’s father Cyril Dodgson bought the last-minute Christmas gift for his daughter on the way home from work.

He was the last customer to leave before lunch-time closing at the shop.

The bear had a lucky escape as, hours later, Atkinsons was bombed out of existence on the first night of the German Luftwaffe bombing which devastated parts of Sheffield in December, 1940.

Brenda, aged 75, who grew up in Nether Green but now lives in Somerset, said: “I still treasure him to the present day.

“Teddy has been a much loved, faithful friend ever since I got him.”

Teddy’s story was uncovered after local author Neil Anderson appealed for the public’s help in researching the history of the store for new book The Story of Atkinsons.

He said: “My research came across some amazing finds but this, because of the books I’ve previously written on the Sheffield Blitz, was especially interesting.

“The original Atkinsons store was totally decimated in the attacks, along with all of its stock.

“Everything points to this teddy being the last sale to be rung through the tills.

“The fact Brenda has treasured it all her life shows its sentimental value. It’s fantastic that she got in touch.”

Graham Frith, manager of Atkinsons, said: “Few dates are as significant in our story than December 12.

“That was the night everything changed. But it also demonstrated the amazing resilience of the store, as it reopened in multiple premises across the city centre and continued to trade within days.”