Dean’s Designer with her Chimps

When Dean’s Rag Book Company operated out of the old Wright & Pankhurst Building in Tower Street during the fifties, sixties and seventies Sylvia Willgoss (King) was the Chief Designer for the company.

It was Sylvia who designed the famous true to life Chimpanzee which became a best seller.

Sylvia Willgoss (King) who came to Rye in 1956 with Deans and stayed
Sylvia Willgoss (King) who came to Rye in 1956 with Deans and stayed


Many of the Rye work force purchased soft toys from the company, so there are many examples of the chimps still around in Rye. The whole range of Dean’s soft toys from the period the firm was based in Rye are fast becoming collectors items. Sylvia has her own collection, the chimp with the chain is one of hers and it was reunited with another that turned up for sale in the town recently. This second chimp is now in the collection of a lady from Derbyshire who has been collecting Dean’s toys for 35 years.

Shenna Gilchrist of Derbyshire a Dean's toy collector for 35 years
Shenna Gilchrist of Derbyshire a Dean’s toy collector for 35 years

Dean’s left Rye and moved to Wales in the seventies where they have continued their operations and are still a leading manufacturer of toys. Recently the firm celebrated the centenary with an exhibition “100 Years of Deans” at Cardiff Town Hall. There two thousand people, members of the “Teddy Bears Collectors Club” attended.

Dean’s Managing Director Neil Miller has just published a book about Deans which contains a multitude of facts about the company and has quite a lot of Rye interest.

Another book, this one by Peter Cope, is expected to be published next year. This will a highly researched publication and features the many artists in Deans book illustrations. The quality of the book is reflected in its expected price of £75.

“Rye’s Own” September 2003

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