Arthur Stanley Jefferson, one of four children of Arthur Sr and Magaret Jefferson, was born at his grandparent’s house in Argyle Street, Ulveston, Cumbria on 16th June 1890. We know him, as Stan Laurel.
His parents, both actors, moved to Bishop Auckland in County Durham and managed the Theatre Royal on Newgate Street. Stan’s father was active in the theatre refurbishment and it subsequently reopened as The Eden Theatre, at the junction of Newgate Street and South Church Road, not far from the family home at 66 Princes Street.
The young Stan was christened in St Peter’s Church and later attended King James I Grammar School as a bording pupil. The school building is now a grade 2 listed building, however tragedy struck in 2007 when the school building was almost totally destroyed by fire.
The building remains under scaffold today.
After world war two, the theatre was bought by Solly Sheckman and the 1500 seat theatre was absorbed into the many venues already owned by the
Essoldo company. Theatre went into a decline, with people preferring to see films rather than pay actors to put on live performances and Eden Theatre closed in 1969, with the building being demolished five years later.
Today, the site is known as Theatre Corner, at the junction of Newgate and South Church Road, both main routes through the town. It is on the north western corner of the junction, just near to the road itself, where you will find the statue of Stan Laurel, in a classic scratching his head pose, in front of several cans of film.
Stan left British soil in 1910, aged 20, to head for the USA where he hoped to get involved in the acting and movie business. Known at the time as Stan Jefferson, he became Stan Laurel in 1917 and the rest, as they is history. The enduring partnership of Laurel & Hardy still entertains decades later. Such is the fondness in the town for the comedy partnership that an appreciation, The Hog Wild Tent of the Sons of the Desert was formed.
Stan died, at the age of 74 on 23rd February 1965 in Santa Monica, California USA. His self-penned epitaph simply read “If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I’ll never speak to them again.”