PELHAM Puppets are well-known and familiar figures in and around Marlborough.

But while many recognise the work of puppet maker Bob Pelham, fewer will know that he was originally set to become an architect. Upon returning home from serving in World War II he informed his father that he had his heart set on making puppets and had given up the idea of designing buildings to make marionettes.

Puppet enthusiast Peter Beaven has spent 30 years collecting information and is on the cusp of publishing a book on Pelham Puppets.

However mystery still remains about where Bob Pelham first operated from in the town.

Several buildings were used by Pelham Puppets, but some question remain over the original birthplace of the lifelike toys.

Mr Beaven aid: “Bob Pelham started making push puppets in the back of a solicitor’s office in Silverless Street, Marlborough in 1946.

“He called them ‘wonky donkeys’. The following year Bob set up Wonky Toys Ltd at Victoria House in Kingsbury Street.

“The following year, in October 1948, the company was renamed Pelham Puppets Ltd and the rest is history.”

The original ‘wonky donkeys’ were made from bed springs and webbing from the bottom of chairs.

The use of a squeeze box mechanism resulted in the threat of a lawsuit which led Mr Pelham to tweak the design of his puppets and add strings.

From then on he harnessed the skills of the town to help him realise a vision to make puppets accessible for people.

Mr Beaven continued: “At its peak there were 200 employees in Marlborough, many people who worked from their home sorting, assembling and painting, so the impact this business on the town cannot be underestimated.

“But there is still a lot to learn about the very early days of Pelham Puppets.

“People may have old notebooks from the factory taken by their relatives when the factory closed down.

“These items belong in the Wiltshire Archive, and I would urge anyone who may have items to get in touch to make sure they are archived and saved.”