The Legend Story
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 history.
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
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
( he was only four at the time)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 down.
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.
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 base.
Fred however still wanted to achieve his life’s ambition and make his name
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
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
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.
David & 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.
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
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
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 all
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
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)
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
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 peck
If you can buy any of Anysley’s animal kingdom, they will be very valuable
due to only so many being made.
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 21 years.
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.
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
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
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, Cheshire.
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 carried on.