No self-respecting Laurel & Hardy fan can surely go on holiday to The Lake District and not call into Ulverston, the market town where Stan Laurel was born in 1890, and now the home of the ‘world-famous’ Laurel & Hardy Museum. What better place and what better way to pay homage to your heroes?
At least, that was my thinking as here I was on holiday in the Lakes, heading to Ulverston. This was to be my fourth visit to the museum; I’d made two visits to the original museum, founded by the late Bill Cubin in 1983, and this was my second visit to the ‘new’ museum, which is now run by Bill’s Daughter and grandson Mark.
So, was this going to be ‘The Perfect Day’ or would we end up looking like ‘Block-Heads’?
Before heading to the museum itself, our first stop in the town was to see the Laurel & Hardy statue which is located outside the Ulverston Coronation Hall. Here, in 1947, the boys appeared on the balcony in front of huge crowds of adoring fans. This really is a wonderful feature in its own right and a great tribute to the boys. The statue was funded by the ‘Sons of the Desert’, the international Laurel & Hardy Appreciation Society and has Stan and Ollie leaning against a lamppost. As an added surprise you can find a little dog (presumably Laughing Gravy, from the 1931 short of the same name) biting the back of Ollie’s trouser leg. After a few photos, we made the short walk to the Museum.
As the museum had over time outgrown its original location, a new home was sought and subsequently found at ‘The Roxy’, a 1930s Art Deco cinema – I don’t suppose you could really ask for a more appropriate setting.
Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Mark and after a brief chat, he left us to explore at our leisure.
I was finally able to start browsing the displays – but there was so much! I started frantically trying to take everything in, read every display panel, look at every figurine, examine every letter. One corner was set up to represent the old museum and had managed to keep some of the spirit of the old place. I moved hurriedly from one exhibit to the next – I must have looked like someone possessed.
The museum is a really enjoyable place to visit. It’s been created and developed with a lot of love and the spirit of the original museum certainly lives on in its new home. Even though I’ve visited before, I always notice something new. My favourite items this time around were some costumes that were worn by Stan and Ollie in two of their films. There was a pair of Stan’s Lederhosen from the 1938 feature film ‘Swiss Miss’ and Ollie’s navy blue blazer-style jacket from the 1941 feature ‘Great Guns’. It was a real thrill for a L&H geek like me to be so close to something that had actually been worn by the boys and that I’d seen them wearing again and again.
The museum is packed with fun and interesting items for the curious visiting tourist and the more demanding aficionado alike. There are lots of nicely designed and illustrated information panels charting the boy’s lives, original letters signed by Stan, household items from Stan’s birthplace (which itself is only a short walk away), countless pieces of L&H memorabilia spanning decades. So much to see and so little time (for me anyway!!).
There are now two other Laurel & Hardy themed museums in the world, one in Ollie’s birthplace in Georgia, USA and another in Germany, but Ulverston can always say it was the first.
Special thanks to Mark for making us so welcome and especially for the museum being dog-friendly, which was a huge surprise and bonus for us. But, most especially we’d like to thank Mark and his family, past and present, for their hard work, love and dedication to protect and continue Stan and Ollie’s wonderful legacy here in the UK.