Original Harry Corbett Sooty puppet sells at Derbyshire auction for world-record price

Charles Hanson with Sooty on the rostrum at Hansons.
Charles Hanson with Sooty on the rostrum at Hansons.

An original Harry Corbett Sooty puppet used in the popular children's TV show has sold for a world-record price at auction in Derbyshire.

The puppet – which celebrates its 70th birthday this year - had an estimate of £2,000 to £3,000 when it went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on Monday – but it sold for £14,500 including the buyer’s premium.

There was interest from around the world in the much-loved children’s favourite who sold to a private bidder in the room.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers who took to the rostrum to sell Sooty, said: “It’s an astonishing figure and I’m delighted for the sellers. This is a world-record price for the sale of a Sooty puppet.”

Hansons held the previous record when it sold a similar original Sooty puppet to Richard Cadell, magician and presenter of the Sooty Show, for £3,100 in 2008.

Mr Hanson said: “Sooty was invented in Blackpool. Harry Corbett bought the puppet on Blackpool’s North Pier in 1948 for seven shillings and six pence (37½p) to entertain his children on holiday. Later he used soot to blacken its ears and nose, hence the name Sooty.”

Sooty in the Hanson's Auctioneers showroom

Sooty in the Hanson's Auctioneers showroom

The buyer, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I’m delighted. Sooty will be going to the north of England to take his place in my large, private collection of TV puppets and memorabilia.”

The Sooty puppet belonged to Dr Steven Abbott, 58, from Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, after Harry Corbett gave it to his father, Blackpool-based musician Arthur Abbott, who had the stage name Art Johnson.

Corbett sent a letter to Mr Abbott, on Sooty headed notepaper, dated September 16, 1957, which read: “Just a line to say thank you very much for the list of tunes which came in very, very handy on the cruise …

“I have great pleasure in sending you one of the Sootys which I have used on television. Actually, he was in a programme where he got rather messed up, and he has since been washed.

Lorraine, Arthur and Steven Abott

Lorraine, Arthur and Steven Abott

"However, when he has a brush up I am sure he will look very nice. Again, many thanks and best wishes – Harry Corbett.”

Corbett and Arthur Abbott got to know each other in Blackpool’s holiday heyday in the 1950s and 60s when stars like Jimmy Tarbuck and Morecambe and Wise entertained in the town’s theatres.

Arthur worked as a pianist in an award-winning big band and smaller ensembles at venues around Blackpool while his wife, Mona, was an usherette on the Central Pier.

Mr Abbott, now retired, said: “Naturally, I’m delighted this price was achieved. I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Charles Hanson selling Sooty. Of all the well-known TV experts, Charles is the one with the persona of someone who’s 50% fun, 50% crazy and yet 100% salesman.

“When my mother was alive and she noticed an expensive price in a shop or restaurant she’d always say, ‘how much?’ She would certainly have said ‘how much?’ about this.

“I loved watching The Sooty Show with my sister, Lorraine, when I was a child. The puppet was in our toy box. He was given to my father two years before I was born and when my sister was 16 months old. We knew he was a genuine Sooty from the TV show but were allowed to play with him.”

Photos and video courtesy of Hansons.