Caerphilly is a small town in South Wales located just inland from the capital of Cardiff. First and foremost, Caerphilly is most notably associated with its castle, which was built in 1268 and is the biggest castle in Wales. Second, Caerphilly is associated with the eponymous hard cheese that originated in the area. Third, Caerphilly is known as the birthplace of Tommy Cooper.
Tommy Cooper was born in 1921 in Caerphilly, but because the air in the town was so polluted at the time, Cooper’s family moved away when he was just three years old. While growing up, he developed an interest in magic and began to practice magic tricks regularly. Cooper reached adulthood right at the beginning of World War II, and he served in the Royal Horse Guards in the Middle East during the war. However, he continued to put on performances while in the military. Before one of these performances in Egypt, Cooper needed a hat but had lost the one he was supposed to wear, so he took a fez from the head of a waiter and put it on, which got a lot of laughter from the audience. After this, Cooper would continue to wear a fez as a performer, making it his personal trademark.
After serving in the military during and after World War II, Cooper was able to break into the entertainment business, first appearing on television in 1947. His performances were a mixture of stand-up comedy, prop gags, and magic, with his magic tricks often appearing to fail badly. However, sometimes his magic tricks would end with a big reveal showing that the tricks had really worked as intended. Cooper would go on to perform regularly in West End theatres and on U.K. television, even hosting his own television series.
Unfortunately, Cooper was also a heavy drinker and smoker, and this impacted not only his health but the quality of his performances. Nonetheless, he continued to perform. Ultimately, Cooper died from a heart attack during a live television performance in 1984.
The comedian retained a following even after his death. In 2003, the Tommy Cooper Society was organized with the goal of erecting a statue to commemorate the comedian and magician in Caerphilly, the town in which he was born. After several years of fundraising, the statue was unveiled in 2008 by Sir Anthony Hopkins, a superfan of Cooper and patron of the society.
Today, Cooper and his statue have become symbols of the town of Caerphilly, although the castle is still the town’s most prominent landmark and tourist attraction.
Know Before You Go
The Tommy Cooper Statue stands on a plinth near the intersection between Castle Street and The Twyn. The location is accessible at all times of day and also has views of the castle. Parking is available nearby.
There is ramped access up to the circular area containing the statue, although the plinth and the information panel on it are up a single step.
Caerphilly is easily reached by car from Cardiff and other South Wales locations. Additionally, trains and buses regularly travel from Cardiff City Centre to the town.