The nation’s only museum dedicated to ribaldry has announced that it would be closing at the end of the month.
“Attendance figures have become flaccid in the last few years, I guess British humour has just changed,” commented Herbert Billingsworth, the museum’s founder. “We tried to follow society, but in the end we just couldn’t keep it up.”
The Museum of the Double Entendre was opened in Bristol in the late 60s and has dedicated itself to documenting and preserving Britain’s rich history of ‘seaside humour’.
“We have a wonderful collection of postcards, and of course we have the Benny Hill wing which is popular with American tourists,” explained Billingsworth.
“We first had the idea for the museum in the mid sixties. Originally we had hoped for two museums with one for stage and screen and the other for printed materials. We got into position in ’69 and opened up pretty quickly. The initial few years gave us great hope to construct a purpose built facility forming the pair of Bristol’s leading entertainment venue.”
The museum prospered for its first ten years or so. However the second building was never built, as British humour moved away from the saucy ‘Carry On’ movies and into the ‘Alternative’ movement of the 80s. The last major acquisition was original artwork from Viz, before the money dried up.
“We had to shelve our plans for the second building. It was going to be a magnificent erection. We always had problems with queuing and we designed the new building with two entrances, you could enter from either the front or the back but we made sure you would get the same satisfaction whichever way you came.”
The exhibits from the greats of British humour such as Tommy Cooper, Morecombe and Wise, the Two Ronnies and Jimmy Carr’s agent - to name but a few - are now up for sale.
“We do hope buyers come forward, we have some great assets that I know collectors would love to get their hands on,” implored Herbet. ”We have Barbara Windsor’s heart bikini from ‘Carry on Doctor’, for example. It is a national treasure, and it would be a shame to have to take it up the back passage - to the charity shop.”
Mr Billingsworth said that one of the saddest things is that future generations of comedy writers would not have such a comprehensive collection to study from.
“I myself had always hoped to move into comedy, and I wanted to learn from the masters, hence the museum,” smirked Billingsworth. “Still I will always be thankful for the mammaries.”
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