The Two Ronnies’ original Fork Handles script was penned by Barker and is hand-written in red ink under one of his popular pseudonyms, G Wiley (Gerald Wiley).
Televised in 1976, the famed sketch shows Barker entering a hardware shop and appearing to ask the shop manager Ronnie Corbett for ‘four candles’ but in fact is requesting fork handles.
The sketch, originally titled The Hardware Shop or Annie Finkhouse (a play on words of Anything Else), demonstrates Barker’s comedic use of word play, homophones and double meanings and is known as one of TV’s funniest ever comedy sketches.
After the script appeared on the Antiques Roadshow in 2006 it was verified by Corbett and sold a year later to a private collector for £48,500.
Last year it was offered again, in December at Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbyshire, with a £30,000-40,000 estimate but it did not sell.
This time it carries an estimate of £25,000-40,000 at East Bristol Auctions’ June 1 TV, Film & Entertainment Memorabilia sale.
Auctioneer Andrew Stowe said it is “one of the most thrilling items we’ve ever had”. He added: “Fork Handles is a huge part of the British psyche – and this script was its birth. It’s a ‘holy grail’ for collectors.”
Stowe said the auction house presumes this handwritten copy is Barker’s own final draft of the sketch which was sent to his agent for typing and printing, and later returned to Barker.
He added: “Barker, who was famously very shy, would often donate items to local charity auctions and raffles during the seventies and eighties. It is presumed that this is how it came to be in public hands.”