“WHEN Mr Woods came into our saleroom and invited us to see his collection,” said Anderson & Garland’s collectables specialist John Anderson, “we just couldn’t believe that such a unique selection of memorabilia could have been sitting in a house only a dozen miles from our premises.”
The Newcastle auctioneers suddenly found themselves holding a
collection of 16 photographs and a spirit flask from Stan Laurel's
nephew. Their existence was unknown to all but a few of Mr Woods'
friends and a handful of Laurel and Hardy enthusiasts.
Huntly Jefferson Woods, who lives in Blyth, Northumberland, is the
comedy legend's only surviving male relative in the UK.
The photographs which he brought with him showed his famous Uncle
Stan in the different stages of his life, from his boyhood in the
1890s to his final years in 1960s.
"They comprise a unique archive of images of one of the world's
best loved comics," said John Anderson, "and a man who never forgot
his family in Britain."
Anderson & Garland have auctioned several autographed
photographs of Laurel and Hardy over the years, but this collection
far exceeded anything they had previously sold.
The sale generated the most interest they have had for more than a
decade and, despite bringing in extra staff and supplying
additional phone lines, they still had to refuse bidders.
On July 1, in a saleroom which Anderson described as "absolutely
heaving", the 17 lots yielded a hammer total of £20,460.
"All lots were bought by collectors and enthusiasts," said
Anderson. "We had interest from all over the world, but, in the
end, every lot fell to a UK buyer."
Representatives from the Laurel and Hardy Museum at Ulverston, the
Lancashire town where Stan Laurel was born in 1890, were in the
room and bought a collection of photographs and documents, offered
as one lot, for £1550. They included an informal photograph of Stan
at the Savoy in 1948.
The 'Deputy Sheik' of the Laurel and Hardy 'Sons of the Desert'
fan club was also bidding heavily, while Universal Studios, who
have recently released the DVD boxed set of Laurel and Hardy films,
were represented by the editor of the Laurel and Hardy Encyclopedia
- they bought four lots.
A rare early photograph of Stan as boy, dressed up for a pageant
organised by his father in North Shields, with a horse in the
foreground and an inscription by Stan on the reverse, sold for
£780. The highest price was for a spirit flask given to Stan's
father that was later passed on to Stan, which made £2100. It bore
the inscription To Uncle Jeff from a few pals of the Eden, April
29th 1925, Bishop Auckland. The Eden was a theatre in County Durham
where his father, Arthur Jefferson, was manager. The 'Uncle Jeff'
refers to his nickname. A second inscription appears under it: To
my dear son, Stan, from Dad, Aug: 1932.
Stan Laurel emigrated to America in 1910 after beginning his
career as a comedian in English music halls. He changed his surname
from Jefferson to Laurel in 1917 for professional reasons and met
Oliver Hardy in 1926 while working for Hal Roach's studio in
California. A photograph of Stan standing outside Roach's studio,
inscribed to his father, made £1600.
Two photographs dedicated to Stan's sister Beatrice (the mother of
Mr Woods, the vendor), one of Laurel and Hardy and one of Laurel on
his own, made £1350 and £950 respectively.
A framed photograph of Stan in later life, shaking hands with his
nephew, Mr Woods, made £580.
After the sale, Mr Woods, now 82, said he was astounded at the
interest in the collection. "The interest has been outstanding and
the prices we have achieved are beyond my wildest dreams," he
"It is sad the collection has been broken up, but it had to be
taken out into the wider world for everyone to see."
He said he would always remember Stan as a family man.
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