Page updated 22 January 2008
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This well loved comedian who was brought up in Exeter was born in Caerphilly in March, 1922 to, Tom a retired army recruiting sergeant, and his Stoke Canon born mother Gertrude. The family moved away from the heavily polluted air of Caerphilly to Exeter, when young Tommy was three years old, where he then spent the rest of his childhood. His first school was Comrie House Prep School in Willeys Avenue, St Thomas, before he attended the Mount Radford School for boys at 56 St Leonards Road, under Theodore Ernest Vine MA, the headmaster. The school advertised that it was 'assisted by efficient staff and masters' - no room for joking, there then! Tommy's mother was the parent who could handle money, enabling a poor family to send their son to a private school. She would take in sewing which she never failed to charge for, having come from a family that some said to have been 'moneyed'.
The Cooper's home was 3 Fords Road, off Willey's Avenue, at the back of Haven Banks. Tommy's parents ran several businesses, including an ice cream van, which was used to sell around fairgrounds - Tommy was sometimes looked after by fairground folk, and once, allegedly, by a chimp. He often helped his parents sell ice-cream from the front window of their house. When he was eight, an aunt gave him a magic set and unknowingly set Tommy in a new direction.
Cooper's father was fond of gambling, and despite his mother's skill with money, in a time when the country was entering a deep depression, the house was lost and the family had to pack up their suitcases and leave Ford Road for Langley, a village near Southampton, in 1930
Cooper went to work in Hythe as a shipwright but was sent home for a week because he kept interrupting work with his magic tricks. His first public performance was at the age of 16. His career as an entertainer was interrupted when he joined the army in 1940. The rest is history as we all remember fondly his fez, silly laugh and incompetent magic.
Tommy Cooper suffered a heart attack and died on the stage, in the London Weekend Television show 'Live from Her Majesty's', that was televised, on 15 April 1984. He was cremated at Mortlake Crematorium and his ashes spread in the garden of his house in Chiswick by his son, Tommy.
A plaque was placed on his house in Ford Road to remember him at a cost of £75, paid for by Jimmy Tarbuck. Since then, the plaque was broken when it was removed for redecoration; plans are being made by the Civic Society to replace it.
A second plaque remembering Tommy Cooper attending the Mount Radford School in St Leonards Road can be found in the chapel of Bramdean School.
3 Fords Road. Plaque to Tommy Cooper in the chapel of Bramdean School.
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