As reported by our North Yorkshire sister title the Gazette & Herald, Ryedale Auctioneers, based in Kirkbymoorside, acquired the pieces from an elderly couple who discovered them in the attic of their home in Keighley – nearly 25 years after moving into the property.
They included scripts, call sheets and clippings from the original Star Wars trilogy.
Auctioneer Angus Ashworth, who appeared in the TV series The Yorkshire Auction House, later discovered the items had been owned by Mayhew, who died aged 74 in 2019, after his widow, Angie, shared her distress at the sale on social media.
Writing on the Peter Mayhew Foundation’s Twitter account, Angie said she had previously lived in the property with her husband, who was 7ft 3in, but when they moved out his “movement challenges” made it “impossible” for him to get into the attic to collect the items.
She added: “It really breaks my heart to see our belongings auctioned off like this by @angusashworth and @RyedaleAuction1.”
— Peter Mayhew Foundation (@TheWookieeRoars) February 8, 2023
In a statement to the PA news agency, Mr Ashworth confirmed he was returning the items to the Mayhew family, after speaking to them directly, and apologised to the Star Wars fans who had expressed an interest in buying them.
He said: “I was approached by a lovely older couple who were clearing their attic a quarter of a century after moving into their property.
“The contents of the attic included a bag of Star Wars memorabilia, which I thought might be of some interest to Star Wars fans.
“This wasn’t unusual, film memorabilia comes up for auction all the time and there was some subsequent press interest.
“The first I knew that the Peter Mayhew Foundation wanted to acquire it was following a tweet which garnered a lot of misinformed responses.
“Nobody had approached us to discuss it and had they done so I would of course have talked to the vendors.
“The monetary value of the lot is fairly modest, but knowing how much it means to the foundation, and given that it had been in the attic for over 24 years, the vendors are quite happy to donate it to the foundation to have permanently within their personal collection, not for profit, so that fans can access it in perpetuity.
“I can only apologise to all of the Star Wars fans who had already shown great interest in owning a bit of film history.”
Born in Barnes, London, Mayhew became a naturalised US citizen in 2005.
He played Wookiee warrior Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983).
Despite health issues arising from his height, that at one time required him to use a wheelchair, he returned for the sequels Revenge Of The Sith (2005) and The Force Awakens (2015) before handing the role to Finnish actor Joonas Suotamo.