Couple look for a buyer for Last of the Summer Wine Exhibition and Gift Shop after more than 13 years

Chris and Sue Gardner who are selling the Last of the Summer Wine exhibition in Holmfirth.
 PIC: Tony Johnson

Chris and Sue Gardner who are selling the Last of the Summer Wine exhibition in Holmfirth. PIC: Tony Johnson

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IT WAS a romantic balcony scene with a twist on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Compo and Nora Batty took the lead roles with comedic effect - Batty beating carpets on the steps to her front door, while her potential paramour wooed her from below.

Six years after the final episode of Last of the Summer Wine was broadcast, a permanent exhibition set up at much-loved character Compo’s on-screen home still draws “fanatical” visitors from across the globe.

But now Chris and Sue Gardner, the couple who have spent 13 years running the Holmfirth tourist attraction, are looking for “new blood” to take the reins – despite this August being one of the business’s busiest since they took it over.

And they fear that if a buyer is not found it may well be last orders for the memories of a television classic.

The pair were not fans of the show – which was the longest-running situation comedy in the world – but spotted an opportunity when its former owners decided to move on.

Mrs Gardner, 55, used to own the Wrinkled Stocking Tea Room above the exhibition. They sold the tea room but said: “There are thousands of people who are absolutely fanatical about the show.

“And it’s in all age groups. We have little children who come in and they like a character because they’ve sat and watched it with grandad or whatever.”

Mrs Gardner said that the attraction, which is on a road called Scarfold, pulls in visitors from as far as Australia and New Zealand. Around 8,000 people come through Compo’s doors to visit the exhibition a year– and on a good day in August it can pull in about 80 fans. Mrs Gardner said: “It’s very popular in Finland for some reason. They come straight here from Manchester Airport.”

As well as the exhibition and gift shop, the business ships memorabilia all over the world through online sales. Fridge magnets are its biggest seller.

“We shipped some teddy bears of Compo to Columbia the other day,” said Mrs Gardner.

Visitors walk up Nora Batty’s steps and go into the exhibition through Compo Simmonite’s doors and go into his front room.

The display includes storyboards documenting the journey of the series from beginning to end, props and facts about the 295 episodes.

It was officially opened by Bill Owen, who played Compo, in 1996.

But the couple said it is now time to move on because of family commitments and a desire to free up more time for themselves.

Mrs Gardner lost her mother earlier in the year and her 92-year-old father is becoming more dependent on her.

She said: “We are staying in the area. We love where we live.

“It’s more to do something different and free our time up. Our busy time is when it’s holiday time for other people. We used to be open 364 days a year. Now we don’t, we shut for three months in the year. Somebody’s who has got new ideas could extend the business and expand it even further.

“We’ll be sad to give it up, but the time has come for us to retire and it would be such a shame if the exhibition closed. Holmfirth relies, to an extent, on tourism as we know how many people still love to come and visit us. It’s a true golden classic.”

The show is still regularly aired on digital TV channels.

Anyone who wants to ask about buying the exhibition can email chrisgardner4@icloud.com

FACTFILE

Last of the Summer Wine was created by Yorkshire writer Roy Clarke.

It began in 1973 as an episode of the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse. In 2010 the BBC said the 31st series would be its last. It was set in and around Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, and centred on a trio of old men and their youthful antics. The original trio was Bill Owen as the scruffy Compo Simmonite, Peter Sallis as deep-thinking and meek Norman Clegg, and Michael Bates as authoritarian and snobbish Cyril Blamire. When Bates dropped out in 1976 quirky war veteran Walter “Foggy” Dewhurst (Brian Wilde) joined.

It was the longest-running comedy programme in Britain, and the longest running situation comedy in the world.