11 April 1941|
Dukinfield, Cheshire, England, UK
|Died||7 December 2015
Buckden, North Yorkshire, England, UK
|Years active||1954, 1964–2015|
|Spouse(s)||Keith Edmundson (1962–65)
Don Henderson (1979–1997; his death)
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.
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.
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. 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.
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
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.
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. 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.
TV and filmography
|1968||Corruption||Girl at Party|
|1971||Nearest and Dearest||Clara Wilson|
|1971||Carry On at Your Convenience||Bunny Girl Waitress|
|1972||Nearest and Dearest||Det. Constable Gloria Simpkins|
|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||Bootle Saddles||Rita Henderson|
|1987||Knights of God||Beth Edwards|
|1988||Inspector Morse||Mrs. Kane|
|1989–1991||Making Out||Carol May|
|1990||Keeping Up Appearances||Rose|
|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|
- The Daily Telegraph, Thursday 10 December 2013, Obituaries [paper only], p.37
- The Daily Telegraph, Thursday 10 December 2015, Obituaries [paper only], p.37
- "Obituary: Mary Millar". The Independent. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
- "OBITUARY: Don Henderson". The Independent. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
- "Emmerdale actress Shirley Stelfox dies aged 74". BBC News. 8 December 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015.