Shirley Stelfox

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Shirley Stelfox
Stelfox as Edna Birch in Emmerdale
Born (1941-04-11)11 April 1941
Dukinfield, Cheshire, England, UK
Died 7 December 2015(2015-12-07) (aged 74)
Buckden, North Yorkshire, England, UK
Nationality British
Occupation Actress
Years active 1954, 1964–2015
Spouse(s) Keith Edmundson (1962–65)
Don Henderson (1979–1997; his death)
Children 3

Shirley Rosemary Stelfox (11 April 1941 – 7 December 2015) was an English television actress, best known for her portrayal of the character Edna Birch, moralising busybody in a Yorkshire village in the popular British soap opera Emmerdale, and as Rose Walton, sister of the snobby and overbearing Hyacinth Bucket in the first season of the comedy series Keeping Up Appearances. The success of the soap had made her a household name in Britain. Furthermore, Stelfox had appeared in many British television soap operas over a fifty-year period.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born at Dukinfield, Cheshire, on 11 April 1941, Stelfox caught the acting bug early, despite suffering from bilateral amblyopia, leaving her short-sighted. She managed to overcome this handicap to secure a place at RADA where her classmates included Edward Fox, John Thaw and Sarah Miles.[2]

TV actress[edit]

After the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art Stelfox started straight at the BBC in a play called The Case Before You in which she played a 15 year old arsonist - where the prompter did not respond to her long pauses. In December 1960, she appeared in her first episode of Coronation Street. She would later play many different characters in the world-famous soap opera, including, in 1983, running a dating agency in which one of her customers was the entrance cue for Jack Duckworth. She was the first actress to play Hyacinth Bucket's randy sister Rose in the first series of Keeping Up Appearances, but was later replaced by Mary Millar.[3] She appeared in several other well-known television series, including the successful Wicked Women, Making Out with Margi Clarke, Mrs Parkin in Heartbeat, - and Jean in Common as Muck, Juliet Bravo, Coronation Street, The Bill and Crossroads, and Inspector Morse, She played Jane Healy, Melanie Owen's mother, in an episode of EastEnders. She appeared in the short-lived series Albion Market.

Film roles[edit]

Stelfox played the mother of Julie Walters and Victoria Wood in the TV film Pat and Margaret (1994). But her best-known film role came as the "$2.00 Prostitute" in Nineteen Eighty-Four, a film adaptation of the George Orwell novel, starring John Hurt and Richard Burton. Somewhat typecast as a prostitute she played another in Terry Jones's comedy Personal Services (1987) based on the life of Madame Cyn, the brothel owner who entertained celebrities and politicians.

On the stage[edit]

Stelfox portrayed a stand-up comedian in Stand Up Sweetie Pie, directed by June Brown, the stalwart of EastEnders, who must have come across each other on set; it premièred in 1993 at the Nottingham Playhouse, rather than in the West End.

Personal life[edit]

Stelfox was married to Keith Edmundson for 3 years. She had a daughter, Helena from this marriage. She later married actor Don Henderson in 1979 and they were together until his death due to throat cancer in 1997.[4] They lived in Stratford-upon-Avon, where she helped raise two stepchildren. She moved to rural Nottinghamshire after Henderson's death.

Stelfox died of cancer on 7 December 2015, aged 74.[5]

TV and filmography[edit]

Year Title Role
1968 Corruption Girl at Party
1971 Nearest and Dearest Clara Wilson
1971 Carry On at Your Convenience Bunny Girl Waitress
1972 Budgie The Barmaid
1972 Nearest and Dearest Det. Constable Gloria Simpkins
1973 Pathfinders Grete
1973 Crown Court Mrs. Catherine Barnes
1980 Juliet Bravo Mavis Newby
1981 Play for Today Mrs. Smith
1981 The Chinese Detective Arlene
1983 Coronation Street Margot Sutcliffe
1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four Prostitute
1984 Bergerac Pam Lewis
1984 Bootle Saddles Rita Henderson
1986–1987 Brookside Madge Richmond
1987 Knights of God Beth Edwards
1987 Personal Services Shirley
1988 Inspector Morse Mrs. Kane
1989–1991 Making Out Carol May
1990 Keeping Up Appearances Rose
1992 Heartbeat Mrs. Parkin
1993–1994 Three Seven Eleven Julie Clegg
1994 Pat and Margaret Vera
1994–1997 Common As Muck Jean
1995 Harry's Mad Mrs. Turtle
1999 The Bill Mrs Fowler
1999–2000 Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married Mrs. Nolan
2000–2015 Emmerdale Edna Birch


  1. ^ The Daily Telegraph, Thursday 10 December 2013, Obituaries [paper only], p.37
  2. ^ The Daily Telegraph, Thursday 10 December 2015, Obituaries [paper only], p.37
  3. ^ "Obituary: Mary Millar". The Independent. Retrieved 8 December 2015. 
  4. ^ "OBITUARY: Don Henderson". The Independent. Retrieved 8 December 2015. 
  5. ^ "Emmerdale actress Shirley Stelfox dies aged 74". BBC News. 8 December 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015. 

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