At the ‘Legend’ company we are very used to receiving many
enquiries about our famous products.
We receive letters
and phone calls every day asking for more information. In response to
this interest we have decided to write this short story of our company’s
1997 was the company’s 50th Anniversary.
Legend started its life very humbly. Mr. Alec Cochrane the company’s
founder had always been a bit of an entrepreneur. During his army days
during the second World War, he used to supplement his pay by making wooden
model aeroplanes and sold them to his comrades.
After the war ended obviously everything was in short supply. Alec managed
to get a job selling brassware but he wasn’t doing very well and
wasn’t selling very much. He then decided to ask at every outlet
he could, the question ‘what sort of product would you like see
in your shop that would sell very well’? The answer was very easy,
the shops needed souvenirs. As Alec was mainly working in the North Wales
area, which has always been popular with holidaymakers and tourists, Alec
& Joan his wife then decided to have a range of souvenirs modeled
and to stock the shops themselves. They decided to start the range with
traditional Welsh ladies models. The designs were all duel purpose, so
although they were decorative they were also useful for instance for egg
timers, thermometers, calendars and match holders.
the time the Cochrane family lived in a very large old Victorian old house,
which had a big cellar. The manufacturing of the infant company was being
done from the cellar. David (the now managing director) had a bedroom
at the top of the house in the attic rooms. He clearly remembers hearing
very strange noises and smells coming from the cellar. He decided to investigate
and was astonished to see hundreds of what he thought were tin soldiers
lined up in rows. Of course they were Welsh ladies their hats all lined
up in rows.
( he was only four at the time)
the company was running out of space and they couldn’t make these
items fast or efficiently enough in the cellar and things were getting
out of hand.
year was 1947 and it marked the birth of the company. Alec soon found
a place to work from and rented a floor in a mill in Stockport called
Reynold’s mill, located on Newbridge Lane in Stockport. Cheshire.
As soon as the company was installed in its new premises it started to
expand and to do very well.
Soon Alec had enough money to be able to enter into negotiations to buy
another company called Guildcraft, unfortunately for Guildcraft they had
a large fire and could not continue to operate, they had a lot of designs
of plaques or plates in 3 D mostly countryside scenes, but also many other
things too numerous to mention here but we are fairly certain that the
famous flight of ducks from Hilda Ogden’s Mural in Coronation St
was among them. Alec bought the whole lot including the copyright.
was shortly after this still in 1947 that Alec decided to advertise for
a sculptor/ modeler in the Stoke on Trent newspaper. Stoke on Trent is
the heart of the pottery industry in England and is where some of the
finest pottery in the world is made.
Stoke is rich in talented artists and eight applicants answered the advert.
Each was give a test piece and although all were good one outshone the
rest for quality of sculptural detail. This was Fred Wright and he was
commissioned straightaway. Fred had a style,that is borne out of true
artistic genius and natural ability. No amount of schooling or training
can produce such talent and Fred’s unmistakable style can be clearly
seen in over 85% of the Legend wall mask range.
Fred worked for Legend on a part time basis but Fred was a very quick
worker and no sooner had he been given a piece to do than it was finished
and he was looking to do the next. Alec just couldn’t keep Fred
busy enough and Fred needed more work. They worked together for a few
years then Alec suggested to Fred that he should advertise his sculpting
skills elsewhere and take commissions from other people as well as working
for Legend. Fred did so and ran an advert, looking back now it can be
seen that this was a disastrous move on behalf of Alec because Fred was
soon offered fulltime work at Bosson’s ( then a rival company) who
knew what a find he was and Mr Bosson tied Fred up with a contract so
that he could not work for anybody else for quite some time.
was very sorry that he had lost Fred to the rival company but as nothing
could be done about it he had to accept it. Many other sculptors where
employed by the company and many varied collections where designed and
produced. It was at this time when the company began to produce the first
wall masks that have become so popular with the collector’s of today.
first masks where oriental and we believe that Alec had the idea from
an Italian book that he had. Then in the mid fifties the company began
to produce the very large 8”to 9” heads.
The guidelines used in producing those first masks were laid down and
the process is a closely guarded secret that we still use today. The designs
of the masks are chosen to represent people from all over the world especially
those associated with Legend’s and Myths.
each wall mask is produced the sculpting technique is painstakingly done
to show incredible detail. Books on anatomy were included in the already
extensive Legend reference library and they were and still are studied
before each face is begun. This ensures that the correct muscle structure
under the skin is captured in clay before the final detail such as wrinkles
can be added to the piece.
Cochrane joined the company at the age of sixteen. He had to work in every
department and got no special treatment from his father he had to learn
the hard way. Alec thought it best that David learn this way how to run
the company he would perhaps one day inherit.
1964 The Company moved from Stockport to Macclesfield, firstly they were
located in The Regency mill on Wardle Street (now demolished). Then the
company moved to The Albion Mill in 1969. This was an old silk mill and
had five floors. It was built in 1843 and is an impressive grade II listed
building. It was built on the banks of the river Bollin. Macclesfield
has many silk mills, which are listed for architectural and historical
importance and the Albion mill is one of the most interesting.
The silk industry has been traditionally manufactured in Macclesfield
since the Industrial revolution In England during the nineteenth century.
Unfortunately due to cheap imports from the Far East it has now fell into
a sad decline.
The old stone steps that are located at the workers entrance are badly
worn away in the middle of each step by the workers clogs going up and
1970 at a trade show in Blackpool Alec was surprised to get a visit from
Fred Wright and his wife Kathleen. They had come especially to see Alec.
They told how Fred was totally disillusioned with his career at Bosson’s
. Fred had fallen out with Mr Bosson who had lowered his pay several times.
Fred wanted to know if there was a possibility of returning to work at
Legend, he had like working with Alec and was very fond of David having
no children of his own.
David was also very fond of Fred and did not want Alec to make the same
mistake again. It was agreed that Fred should start as soon as possible.
then set to with great enthusiasm and determination and he sculpted endless
models for the company all sorts of things were made some of which were
never released. Fred redesigned existing ranges and really went to town
sculpting many hundreds of beautiful things.
This went on for quite some years. David who by now was in his early 20s
assisted Fred with the designs and they became very close.
1975 Fred decided he wanted to model some huge pieces, he wanted to make
them his life’s achievement something very special that he would
always be remembered for. Alec agreed to give this a try and Fred then
modeled the huge and now famous panels:-
BATTLE OF WATERLOO ALL 20” BY 26”
THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR
SEVERAL CONSTABLE TYPE SCENES
A VIKING RAID
ROMAN GLADIATORS IN COMBAT
A TALL SHIP ON THE SEA
pieces are simply exquisite, they are the most wonderful sculptures and
definitely some of the best work ever produced by Fred.
Unfortunately the panels did not sell well for the company probably as
they were too top market and too expensive for the then Legend customer
Fred however still wanted to achieve his life’s ambition and make
his name remembered for
posterity. Alec couldn’t accommodate Fred in this venture so with
good feelings on bothsides Fred decided to go and work for Aynsley’s
China in Stoke on Trent where he worked until his retirement at the age
of 65. There he produced many wonderful and well remembered pieces.
Fred had retired he found that he still wanted to work part time and approached
David to come back to Legend. This was in 1980 and he came back and worked
right through until he was taken ill in 1993 with a stroke. Sadly Fred
Died in 1994. During the time after his retirement Fred really enjoyed
coming to work, he liked to keep busy. There was always a good atmosphere
in his studio and he made everyone laugh with his tales of the terrible
drivers he had encountered on the road on his way to work. Although he
had retired he just loved fast cars and loved to drive fast in them.
He had many hobbies, watercolour painting and building models from scratch.
He left David a wonderful boat that he had made it’s a Cornish Fishing
ketch named ’ Kathleen,’ it is a marvelous piece every single
item has been hand made right down to the tiny anchor and buckets and
miniature rowing boats on board. David was very honored to have been given
this gift, which he still has to this day.
All in all Fred Wright worked at the Legend Company for 21 years from
1950 to 1994.
He is very much missed by us all and very fondly remembered.
In 1989 Alec retired from the business. For quite some time before this
he had only been coming into work one or two days a week from his home
in North Wales. Sadly Alec died in 1996. The company is now run by David
and his wife Sheila.
In 1995 the legend Collector’s club was launched in response to
demand from collector’s all over the world who wanted more information
on the intriguing pieces they had bought.
It is hoped that all the pieces ever brought out by the company in the
last 56 years will be catalogued and photographed into a special book;
this clearly could take some time. In the meantime, we wish you happy
collecting, Keep in touch; we love to hear from you.
& Sheila Cochrane
The story of his career as told by Fred's wife Kathleen
Fred, my husband was born the second child of William and Harriet Wright,
he was an identical twin, but his brother died at childbirth.
In very early years Fred showed a remarkable talent for drawing and painting.
He painted at a very early age,
Portraits of remarkable likeness, they were as good as photographs, they
were so real. He studied anatomy, so he knew the structure of animals,
birds and people, it was therefore a great help to him in later years
when he came to model them in clay.
fourteen he attended the Burslem school of Art in Stoke on Trent this
was a two year course. At sixteen Fred went to work at the ‘ Doulton’
China pottery in Burslem Stoke on Trent, painting fine china and he was
there until 1937 when war was looming. He knew that he would be called
up for the forces so he decided to volunteer for the Royal Air Force.
met Fred at Doulton’s where I also was painting figures having attended
Burselm school of Art. It was a short courtship for us, but our letters
kept the courtship going.
Fred was in the desert as an engineer maintaining the planes for the pilots
to fight with. For four and a half years he lived in terrible conditions
there. Even in the desert he painted pictures of fighter planes in action,
and these he sold.
After four and a half years the war was over with Germany, so he came
home and the flags were flying and everyone was so happy to have their
loved ones back home again, We were married and went to live at Baldwin’s
Gate near Newcastle in Staffordshire. Fred was demobed and went to work
at the ‘Paragon’ china works at Longton stoke on Trent, painting
beautiful roses on to china plates. Some of these lovely lifelike pieces
were made for Royalty. Also Fred painted roses on a huge vase and it went
on show at Harrod’s store in London.
After working at the ‘Paragon’ pottery for seven years, it
was suggested to Fred that he might try his hand at modeling. Although
he had not done any since he was at the school of art. So he got a ball
of clay and he modeled an old Persian man, he got my father to sit and
he modeled his hands. If he had done modeling all his life he could not
have done any better, it was so real, Fred had it fired and painted it
himself. I have this figure in my room. It is a one off.
had this success Fred gave up his job and went to work freelance. The
first company he worked for was Halls China Works of Longton Stoke on
Trent. Where he was modeling birds and animals, they were very lifelike,
but he needed more work. He had been doing work for Mr Alec Cochrane of
Legend Products in Stockport near Manchester for quite some time but he
needed more work to fully utilize his working day.
It was decided by all concerned that an advert would be placed in the
Stoke Sentinal , Mr Bossons was one of the people who replied. Both Legend
and Bossons were making small plaster plaques so Fred worked on small
pieces for both firms for a while, soon thereafter Mr Bosson had Fred
work on some larger plaques with flowers on them, roses chrysanthemums,
spring flowers. Mr Bosson was so pleased with them that he offered Fred
a job full time as his modeler, Fred accepted and was soon underway modeling
heads with turbans, Indians with feathered headdresses, birds, heads of
Mr Bosson would look in to Books and then Fred would model the head from
the book he had chosen. I must emphasize that Fred was the modeler, he
breathed life into clay,and also he painted the pattern for the girls
in the factory to copy.
We were living at Alsager now, Mr Bosson’s firm started expanding,
orders for countries abroad, besides the home market, he made great wealth
but this did not come our way.
Bossons dropped Fred’s wage twice, so Fred gave his notice in. Because
Fred was leaving Mr Bossons would not let Fred have his pension transferred,
but his firm was never the same after Fred had left. He had no new models
to bring out, so slowly it went down. Now the firm is closed and Mr Bossons
is not a well man.
(Mr Bosson has since died in 1999)
then joined Alec Cochrane’s company in Macclesfield. Fred had modeled
for Alec before when he was freelance. Many people could not understand
why the Legend heads were so like Bosson’s the reason is they both
had employed Fred to do work for their firms.
Fred enjoyed working for Alec Cochrane and particularly his son David,
Fred modeled the same type of work heads, birds, plaques. Because it was
a more relaxed atmosphere he looked forward to going to work. After working
at Legend for a few years and putting the firm on its feet, Fred decided
to go back to a china firm, he got a position at Anysley China works,
Stoke on Trent. they wanted to open a works making animal kingdom, they
made a wide search for modelers of high standards, Fred got the position
and started modeling animals and birds. They sold very well most of them
were huge and limited edition of 750 pieces making them much more valuable
in years to come.
Fred modeled a bald eagle, it looked so real, it was nineteen inches high
standing on a rock. The Queen and prince Philip were going to America
to commemorate the Bi Centenary of the United States of America in 1976.
All the leading firms were asked to submit a piece of china for the queen
to take as a gift she choose Fred’s bald eagle. Her majesty Queen
Elizabeth and his Royal Highnesss Prince Philip presented it to the Bostonian
society and it is preserved today in the old courthouse, Boston Massachusetts.
The bald eagle is an impressive true to life sculpture in fine porcelain
of the national emblem of the United States of America. Mr Gillow was
very pleased with at this honor
He gave Fred an Eagle, it is so real, and when I dust it I feel it may
If you can buy any of Anysley’s animal kingdom, they will be very
valuable due to only so many being made.
was very happy working for Mr Gillow at Anysley’s, buut when he
was sixty- five he decided to retire from full time work and take up part
time work at Legend products. This being the third time he worked for
Alec and David Cochrane at Macclesfield. He worked for them intotal for
Fred was working there when he had a massive stroke paralyzing him down
him down his right side.
Fred was in hospital for twelve months, he came home, but he wasn’t
in a fit state to be home. I looked after Fred myself for two years without
help from the nurses. Our Minister Mr Challinor was a great help in my
trouble, he did things for my husband no one else would have done. We
got him on his feet with another mans help and he took him to chapel in
his car, we walked him up and down in the school room. For a time Fred
was then able to go once a week to a day center.
All through Fred’s life he had a great love of fast cars, so he
struggles to get better so he could drive again. Our Doctor called to
see him and Fred asked him if he could have his driving license so he
could drive his car, but the doctor told him you will never drive again.
When I was out of the room alone with the doctor I told him you should
not have told Fred he would never drive again, he will give up trying
to get better. At this time I was also in a poor state of health. I wondered
who would go the first, so the social service nurses came to help. |We
all struggled to keep Fred going but he died on June 6th 1994. I loved
my husband and life will never be the same.
Fred was an unusual man in many ways. He was a perfectionist, that showed
up in his work, he also painted some very good pictures and sold them.
I have some up in our home.
We had a caravan in Wales, and Fred like nothing better than packing to
go. We both had a great love of dogs and over the years we had three spaniels
and an English red setter. They were like our family we had no children.
made models of aero planes and went flying them, he also made model boats,
a special one he made all himself, it had sails and rigging he did not
have a kit to make it, he just cut it all out himself. It was a large
boat about 4 ft long.
They used to sail them on the Thames, they have dark red sails, Fred gave
it as a gift to David Cochrane.
Fred also built a sports car it was finished off in all details and was
registered as a new car.
The other love of his life was going on holiday to Cornwall, he would
have liked to have lived there, but I| enjoyed it as a holiday but not
to live there.
As I look back Fred would have been better off working free lance all
his life, he could have got high prices for his work, we would have had
more time in our caravan in Wales and we could have gone to Cornwall more.
Fred was an atheist, he did not believe in an after life. I do, I am a
Christian. Fred was buried from our home. Mr Challinor our minister spoke
of the life of Fred to the friends and relatives who had attended the
funeral. Fred’s grave is the churchyard of Christ Church, Alsager,
At the end of this book of Fred’s I should like to thank neighbors,
friends, relatives and nurses, also Sheila & David Cochrane who helped
me in caring for Fred during his illness, without them I could not have