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Rare Laurel letters detailing Hardy's decline to be sold

Stan Laurel's letters are to be sold at auction Credit: Press Association

Letters penned by Stan Laurel which poignantly describe how his 'dear pal' Oliver Hardy lost ten stone in the years before his death are to be sold. The unique papers, written by Laurel to relatives, illustrate the struggle both he and his comedy partner suffered in later life.

One of the letters describe the continued poor health of Hardy, losing ten stone and being confined to his bed. Chubby Hardy is know to have lost a lot of weight at the time - he lost more than 150 pounds in a few months, which completely changed his appearance.

The rare letters were written by Stan Laurel in his later years

He claimed it was due to a lifestyle change but others later speculated he may have had cancer. New letters to Stan's uncle reveal his concerns about the rapid weight loss - and later missives in August 1957 after Hardy's death refer to him as "my dear pal'. The rare letters, when they go to auction later this month, are estimated to fetch £12,000.

Super-fans Rodney and Margaret Hardcastle, from York, North Yorkshire, bought the letters in 1998 but have decided to auction them off. Mr Hardcastle, 72, became enthralled with the humour of the 1920s film stars as a child, and his affinity with the stars of early American cinema has carried on for decades.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in a Chump at Oxford Credit: Press Association

When I was ten my mother took me and my eldest brother to to see Laurel and Hardy films and I was captivated."It has continued over the years and we have collected a lot of memorabilia, but the creme de la creme are the letters.

We have looked at them regularly and read them from cover to cover and had a lot of friends who have been enthralled by them.

– Rodney Hardcastle

The first collection of letters consist of 41 notes to Nellie Bushby, a relative of Laurel's from Ulverston, Cumbria, written between 1947 and 1965. In the letters, which he sent while on tour in the UK, during filming in France, and his eventual retirement in California, Laurel writes about his experiences and the struggle both he and his partner Hardy suffered in later life with illness.

Laurel mentions his being in France for filming of Utopia (aka Robinson Crusoeland) in May 1950, which was a disaster due to his being in hospital for six weeks with an abscess on his prostrate - along with the ill health of Hardy also, and their wishing to restart filming.

The duo in their later years during a visit to the Savoy, London in 1947 Credit: Press Association

He later writes about being in poor health with flu on November 30 1953, stating "went stone deaf for about 5 days" and was unable to open at Finsbury Park. A 1954 tour was also cut short due to the poor health of Hardy.

The letters also mention his poor health after suffering a stroke in April 1955, being paralysed to left arm and leg, getting better and working on four feature films - stating "never thought I'd work again".

Some of the letters were written to Peter Preece, one of Stan Laurel's friends

The second collection of letters was sent between Laurel and his friend Peter Preece, who became friends with the stars during their UK tours.

Mr Hardcastle, of York, bought the letters from Mr Preece but, after years of enjoying the memorabilia, they were placed in the couple's attic when they moved to York in 2007.

Someone else ought to enjoy Stan's wonderful way with words, his grammar and the way he describes things.

– Rodney Hardcastle

The letters go under the hammer at Newcastle auctioneers Anderson and Garland on September 15. The collection also includes theatre programmes, play bills, and a copy of Mr Laurel's birth certificate. Anderson & Garland auctioneer, Fred Wyrley-Birch said: "The letters give a fantastic insight into the personal life of a very public man.