Belper bears off to royal wedding

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former Belper residents William Wardle and Catherine Watson, who lived in the town in the 1800s, are set to join in the royal wedding celebrations later this month.

But fear not, this is not some ghostly tale for the pair are in fact cuddly soft bear toys!

The two bears, dressed in their best clothes, are a gift to Prince William and Kate Middleton from the Volunteers’ Association at the mill to help the couple celebrate their marriage on Friday, April 29.

The bears commemorate William Wardle and Catherine Watson who, according to the 1851 census, lived and worked in Belper. They both lived on Short Row and worked at the mill.

William was 28 and Catherine was 26.

Christine Smith, a volunteer at the mill, came up with the idea. She is behind a project at the mill which sees bears embroidered to commemorate a different mill worker from the 19th Century.

They are for sale in the mill museum shop and are designed and made by a group of six volunteers at the mill.

Christine said: “I thought it would be nice to have something that was very personal that you could not get from anywhere else.

“And because we already have bears to commemorate real people I thought it would be a nice idea.

“Everyone upped their game on making the costumes.”

Finding a William and Catherine from the 1851 census was easier than expected.

Christine said: “William was a very common name and there were quite a few Catherines, so it was just about getting two people as close to similar ages as William and Kate.”

The bears have been sent to royal residence Clarence House and now the volunteers will be waiting to see if they get a role at the Westminster Abbey ceremony!

Christine said: “I will be watching the ceremony. These two seem very down to earth and I think a lot of people enjoy seeing them together.”

Natascha Wintersinger, manager at the mill, said: “We were right behind this idea.

“It is a nice overall thing as a personal present from Belper and the mill.

“It is a nice project for all the volunteers to get involved in.”