Tommy Cooper Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists of material relating to Tommy Cooper and his career on stage and in television. The material includes documents relating to Tommy Cooper's creative process in comedy and magic, including handwritten jokes and table plans, as well as alphabetically organised gag files. The collection also includes photographs, contracts, desk diaries scripts, press cuttings, musical notation, audio-visual material, magic catalogues and manuals, merchandise and notes.

Administrative / Biographical History

Tommy Cooper (1921-1984), once described by theatre critic Kenneth Tynan as Britain's 'best new clown…the hulking, preposterous conjuror, who is always in a jelly of hysterics at the collapse of his own tricks' was a fanatical magician and consummate showman who discovered the comedy in failed magic tricks as a teenager in the works' canteen of the firm where he was apprenticed. After wartime service with the Horse Guards and valuable experience performing with the NAAFI and the Combined Services Entertainment, he met the jazz musician Miff Ferrie whose job as Entertainments Director at London's Windermere Club secured him his first engagement there in November 1947, the year he had failed initial auditions at both the Windmill Theatre and the BBC. Managed by his agent Ferrie throughout his career, Tommy Cooper went on to star in his own television shows, to perform for the Queen, Royal Family and the Royal Household at Windsor castle, to appear in three Royal Variety shows, and to become one of Britain's most original, highest-paid, most impersonated and best-loved entertainers of the 20th century.


This collection has been arranged into the following series;

  • THM/469/1 – Correspondence
  • THM/469/2 – Contracts
  • THM/469/3 – Newspaper Cuttings
  • THM/469/4 – Photographs
  • THM/469/5 – Gag Files
  • THM/469/6 – Handwritten Performance Material
  • THM/469/7 – Speeches and Interviews
  • THM/469/8 – Commissioned Performance Material
  • THM/469/9 – Television Scripts
  • THM/469/10 – Joke Bulletins
  • THM/469/11 – Fun Master Publications
  • THM/469/12 – Printed Programmes, Brochures and Catalogues
  • THM/469/13 – Sheet Music
  • THM/469/14 – Miff Ferrie's Desk Diaries
  • THM/469/15 – Sound and AV Material
  • THM/469/16 – John Fisher Research Material

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 2016.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with collection management policy.

Custodial History

The Tommy Cooper Collection was acquired from John Fisher, Cooper's biographer and author of numerous Tommy Cooper books, including Tommy Cooper 'Jus' Like That! : A Life in Jokes and Pictures (2012), Tommy Cooper's Secret Joke Files (2011), Tommy Cooper's Mirth, Magic and Mischief (2010) The Tommy Cooper Joke Book (2009), and Tommy Cooper: Always Leave Them Laughing (2006). The Tommy Cooper Collection comprises material from four different sources; namely an auction purchase, directly from the Cooper Estate, directly from the Ferrie Estate and additional items purchased at auction and from specialist dealers.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Relevant material may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Please ask for details.