HARRY Corbett gave Sooty and Sweep glove puppets to a little girl in the 1950s – even though she hit him over the head with a hammer.

Celia Hollings was only a toddler when she met Corbett, the inventor of Sooty, and can’t even remember walloping him - but her late father filled her in.

“My sister Patricia, who’s five years older than me, remembers it too,” laughed Celia, a mother of two and grandmother of six.

“Apparently, we were in a car with Harry Corbett driving to a show on the east coast. I was sitting in the back with my dad and apparently hit Harry on the head with a prop from the show – a little toy wooden hammer. This was before the days of child car seats and seat belt laws. I was born in 1952 so this would have been in the mid-1950s.”

Celia’s father Derek Jowett was a lifelong friend of Harry Corbett and his financial advisor – hence the puppet gifts which are now set to go to auction.

Celia’s Sooty and Sweep, complete with an autographed photo saying ‘Love to Celia from Sooty, Sweep, Harry Corbett’, were due to go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers this week with a guide price of £1,500 to £2,000.

Mrs Hollings, 67, who lives near Harrogate and runs family business Hollings Pet Treats with husband Jeff, said she thought it was time to part with the puppets.

“They’ve been stuck in a toy cupboard and drawer for around 40 years and, thanks to the connection to Harry Corbett, I thought someone might like them. No one in my family wants them and it seems a shame to have them tucked away doing nothing.

“My dad, who was born in 1913, went to a Catholic senior school in Bradford with Harry Corbett in the 1920s. Later dad worked for the Prudential and then launched his own business as a financial advisor. Harry was one of his clients.

“I can remember going with my father to Harry’s house in Guiseley, near Leeds. It was a fairly modest house. This was before the big Sooty Show success came along. I can remember Harry doing a little puppet show for us behind a counter.

“I also recall hearing Harry’s wife practising what must have been the voice of Soo. But this was before Soo was seen on the TV Sooty Show.

“I played with the puppets Harry gave me when I was small but then they were put away in a cupboard and forgotten about. My own children never played with them. When they were little, they were more interested in Barbie or The A-Team.

“My only other memory relating to Harry Corbett goes back to 1974. My father asked my then boyfriend, now husband Jeff, to collect something from Harry’s workshop in Menston. It turned out to be a full-size Sooty which would not fit in a car.”

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers which achieved a world record price of £14,500 for the sale of an original Harry Corbett Sooty puppet in 2018, said: “I’m delighted to be selling Celia’s puppets. They were not used in Harry Corbett’s TV or stage shows and are, in fact, humble vintage Chad Valley toys. Back in the 1950s and 60s, most children wanted a Sooty and Sweep glove puppet – or both.

“However, the provenance, signed photo and story with this find makes these glove puppets extra special. I hope we can find them a new home.”

Sooty was created by Harry Corbett in 1948, after he bought the puppet from a stall in Blackpool for his son Matthew. The Sooty Show has appeared on children’s television since the 1950s.

The Sooty and Sweep puppets, Lot 3006A, will be sold on Tuesday, January 21 at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS. To find out more, email dwilsonturner@hansonsauctioneers.co.uk.

Photographs are courtesy of Hansons.

Harry Corbett lived in Guiseley for more than 35 years and was the nephew of equally famous fish and chip restaurant owner Harry Ramsden.