Thelma Barlow

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Thelma Barlow
Born Thelma Pigott
(1929-06-19) 19 June 1929 (age 86)
Middlesbrough, North Riding of Yorkshire, England
Occupation Actress, writer
Years active 1967–present
Spouse(s) Graham Barlow (1956–1983)
Children 2

Thelma Barlow (née Pigott;[1][2] born 19 June 1929) is an English television actress and writer, most famous for her roles as Mavis Wilton in the long-running ITV soap opera Coronation Street and as Dolly Bellfield in the sitcom Dinnerladies.

Early life[edit]

Thelma Barlow was born in Middlesbrough, North Riding of Yorkshire[2] in 1929,[2] the younger of two daughters.[3][4] Her father Tommy, a cabinet maker, died of pneumonia five weeks before her birth, so Barlow was brought up by her mother Margaret.[4] During her childhood, the family moved to Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, and Thelma Barlow left school at 15 and went to Huddersfield Technical College to study shorthand and typing.[4] Her first job, as a secretary, she held for eight years and at the same time belonged to an amateur dramatics group.[4] Barlow decided to take up acting professionally and joined the Joan Littlewood Theatre Group.[4] During the 1950s, she did rep in Liverpool, Nottingham and Birmingham.[4] In 1960, Barlow joined the West of England Theatre Company followed by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company.[4] In Bristol, she ran a boarding house for fellow actors.[4] In 1956 she married set designer Graham Barlow, and they had two children, Clive and James. They later divorced in 1983.[1]

Television work[edit]

Thelma Barlow's first television appearance was in 1970 in A Stranger on the Hill.[4] The following year while performing in Liverpool, she was asked to audition for the soap opera Coronation Street for the role of Mavis Riley.[4] She was successful and her first episode was transmitted on 14 August 1971,[4] though the character appeared regularly only from 1973, when she joined the staff of "The Kabin".[4] Barlow remained in the series for 26 years, and nearly 2,000 episodes, until she left after the departure of her on-screen husband Derek.[4] Her final episode went out on 10 October 1997 when Mavis moved to the Lake District.[4] During her time on Coronation Street Barlow shared a flat with co-star Helen Worth and later moved to Settle, where she later did a TV show from her garden.[4][5]

Barlow's next major role was that of Dolly Bellfield in Victoria Wood's sitcom dinnerladies.[4] This comedy lasted for two series in 1998 to 2000. Around the same time she appeared in Murder Most Horrid (1999) and David Copperfield[4] (also 1999). Since then Thelma Barlow has appeared as one-off characters in several television shows, including Fat Friends (2000), Doctors (2002), The Royal (2004), Where the Heart Is (also 2004), My Dad's the Prime Minister (also 2004), Agatha Christie's Marple (2006) and the Midsomer Murders episode "Last Year's Model" (also 2006). In 2005 she appeared in her first film Mrs Henderson Presents and in 2007 she played Lady Thaw in the Doctor Who episode "The Lazarus Experiment".[5][6] For her role in Mrs Henderson Presents she was nominated for "Most Promising Newcomer" in the British Independent Film Awards 2005.[7] Since her departure from Coronation Street Barlow has also made stage appearances, with roles such as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit, Mam in Alan Bennett's Enjoy and as Abby Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace in 2003 on the West End stage. She was also on one episode of Doc Martin, Barlow has also acted on radio.[5] In 2003, she moved to the Isle of Purbeck.[5]

Barlow has also written a book about her hobby, organic gardening, first published by Robson Books as Organic Gardening with Love (1992) and re-issued in paperback under the title Gardening Nature's Way (ISBN 978-1861053312). In June 2014, Barlow narrated 30-minute documentary, "Gail & Me: 40 Years on Coronation Street", celebrating Helen Worth's (Gail Platt) spectacular career on Coronation Street.


  1. ^ a b "The Devil in Thelma Barlow" The Daily Mail (21 April 2007). Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  3. ^ For many years her year of birth was thought to be 1937. However, in a 2005 interview with The Times, she admitted to being over 70 and 1929 is thought to be her year of birth.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Thelma Barlow – Biography". 
  5. ^ a b c d Hone, Kathryn (24 November 2005). "Lady of the manner". The Times. 
  6. ^ "Doctor Who baddie role for Barlow". BBC. 28 September 2006. 
  7. ^ "People – Thelma Barlow". British Independent Film Awards. 

External links[edit]