BILLINGSHURST, West Sussex, U.K. – The bridge on which A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin invented the game Pooh Sticks, which in turn inspired Milne to write the Winnie the Pooh books, sold on October 6 for £131,625 (about $179,000) against an estimate of £40,000-£60,000.
The iconic bridge, forever associated with A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books and E.H. Shepard’s illustrations, sold in a sealed bid auction at Summers Place Auctions to a bidder from Sussex, England.The bridge attracted bids from all over the world and most of them were above the top estimate.
The new owner has been identified as Lord De La Warr, who owns Buckhurst Park estate in Withyham, East Sussex. Part of the estate is the 500 Acre Wood, which A. A. Milne renamed and made famous as the “Hundred Aker Wood”. Milne lived with his family nearby at Cotchford Farm, Hartfield.
Lord De La Warr said: “I am thrilled to have been able to purchase the original bridge. It will take pride of place on the estate and will be rebuilt either in the “Hundred Aker Wood” or near my pub, The Dorset Arms, and I hope that many children (and adults) will be able to admire the original bridge which inspired one of the most famous games still played by children in the UK and abroad – Poohsticks. The bridge is particularly significant to me as my father used to play with Christopher Robin in the woods and he often mentioned that he could remember the original Winnie-the-Pooh bear and that Eeyore was a real donkey.”
James Rylands, specialist in charge of the auction says: ”We were absolutely delighted that we could sell a piece of literary history which has given pleasure over the generations to millions of children around the world. We were thrilled by the interest the bridge received globally, but are pleased that the bridge will stay in this country.”
One of the vendors commented: “We are pleased to hear that the bridge will be looked after for generations to come and that it will continue to provide enjoyment for children. The timing of the sale is perfect, I used some of the local wood to restore some parts of the bridge and I will now use part of the proceeds to plant trees locally.”
It was built around 1907 in Ashdown Forest and its replacement was built in 1999, but the original bridge is now fully restored. Constructed as a sturdy river crossing for horses and carts as well as pedestrians in the forest and originally known as Posingford Bridge, it rose to fame when Milne got his inspiration when his son Christopher Robin played on it as a child in the 1920’s and they invented the game of Poohsticks. This then led to several books about Pooh, mentioning the bridge.
The first mention is in The House at Pooh Corner when Pooh accidentally drops a pine cone into a river from a bridge and, after watching how it appeared on the other side of the bridge, devises the rules for Poohsticks. It subsequently appeared in later books being played by the other main characters, Christopher Robin, Eeyore and Tigger and was immortalised in E.H. Shepard’s illustrations.
This original bridge, made of carved oak, has been restored and reconstructed, replicating Shepard’s original illustrations, and was reopened by Christopher Robin Milne and officially renamed by him as Poohsticks Bridge in 1979.
By 1999 the bridge had become worn and degraded by the countless thousands of visitors and so was replaced with a new bridge built with considerable financial assistance from local groups and the Disney Corporation, whilst the original was dismantled and stored for many years in the Ashdown Forest Centre until recently when local Parish council gave permission for it to be rescued.
It has been reconstructed using local oak for any missing elements with each piece numbered, together with drawings and an analysis, prepared by the council on original and replaced elements.
It provides a unique opportunity to buy a piece of literary history in the year Pooh Bear is celebrating his 100th Birthday – he was given to Christopher Robin Milne on his first birthday in 1921.