Wendy Richard

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Wendy Richard

Wendy Richard AYBS.jpg
Richard as Miss Brahms in Are You Being Served?
Wendy Emerton

(1943-07-20)20 July 1943
Middlesbrough, England
Died26 February 2009(2009-02-26) (aged 65)
Resting placeEast Finchley Cemetery and Crematorium, East Finchley, London
Years active1960–2009
Known forRoles of Miss Shirley Brahms in Are You Being Served? (1972–1985) and Pauline Fowler in EastEnders (1985–2006)
  • Leonard Blach
    (m. 1972; div. 1974)
  • Will Thorpe
    (m. 1980; div. 1984)
  • Paul Glorney
    (m. 1990; div. 1994)
  • John Burns
    (m. 2008; her death 2009)

Wendy Richard MBE (née Emerton, 20 July 1943 – 26 February 2009)[1] was an English actress, known for her television roles as Miss Shirley Brahms on the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served?, which aired between 1972 and 1985, and Pauline Fowler on the BBC One soap opera EastEnders, from 1985 to 2006.

Family and early life[edit]

Richard, an only child, was born on 20 July 1943 in Middlesbrough. Her parents, Henry and Beatrice Reay (née Cutter) Emerton, were publicans and ran the Corporation Hotel in the town. Emerton and Cutter married in Paddington in 1939. While Richard was a baby, her family moved to Bournemouth. They later moved to the Isle of Wight and then to London, where they ran the Shepherds Tavern in Shepherd Market, where Elizabeth Taylor and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon are said to have been customers. Richard attended the local primary school, St George's, but her education was interrupted when her family moved again, this time to the Valentine Hotel at Gants Hill, then in Essex, now in Greater London. Another move, to the Streatham Park Hotel in south London, followed a few months later. It was there, in December 1954, that Richard's father committed suicide. Wendy, then 11, found his body. Her mother Beatrice never remarried, and died of liver cancer in May 1972.[1]

Richard was enrolled at the Royal Masonic School for Girls at Rickmansworth after her father's death, as Henry had been a Freemason, and help with fees was provided by the organisation. She found the school unduly strict, and her art mistress called her paintings and drawings "affected, rather like herself."[2] Richard dreamed of becoming a TV continuity girl or film star from a young age and, after leaving school at 15, helped to pay her way through the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London by working in the fashion department at Fortnum and Mason.[3] It was at that time that she decided to change her surname to Richard, because "it was short and neat."[4] While at the Italia Conti, Richard appeared on television with Sammy Davis, Jr. in the ATV programme Sammy Meets the Girls, and also in No Hiding Place.[2]


Richard first became familiar to TV audiences playing Joyce Harker, a regular in the BBC's 1960s soap opera The Newcomers. Richard's first appearance in a television series, however, was as a teenager in Stranger on the Shore, which debuted in 1961. The theme tune of the series was the Acker Bilk clarinet solo of the same name.

In 1962, Richard's distinctive cockney vocals helped get her to No. 1 on the UK singles chart with the single "Come Outside" by Mike Sarne.

Richard appears in a scene cut from the released version of The Beatles movie Help! (1965).[5]

In 1965, Richard appeared in an episode of the original Likely Lads series as a household cleaner saleswoman called Lynn. She also had a bit part the same year in Danger Man in the episode "Don't Nail Him Yet". Richard's first soap role was as teenage supermarket till girl Joyce Harker in The Newcomers, which ran on BBC1 from 1965 to 1969. She appeared in Dad's Army (first as Edith Parrish, and later as Private Walker's girlfriend Shirley), and Up Pompeii!.

She was a regular cast member of the 1970s/80s sitcom Are You Being Served? as Shirley Brahms, a shop assistant with a heavy Cockney accent. Richard also appeared in the Are You Being Served? sequel Grace & Favour in 1992 and 1993. Richard appeared in two Carry On films, playing a small role in Carry On Matron and a supporting part in Carry On Girls (both films also featured her future EastEnders colleague Barbara Windsor). Richard's other film roles included No Blade of Grass (1970), Gumshoe (1971) starring Albert Finney, and the film versions of On The Buses (1971), Bless This House (1972), and Are You Being Served? (1977).


Richard subsequently found continued success as heroine and matriarch Pauline Fowler on the BBC soap opera EastEnders, a role she played from the first episode in 1985. On 10 July 2006, the BBC announced that Richard had decided to leave the series after more than 20 years.[6] An interview with The Sun revealed that problems with the EastEnders storyline (primarily Pauline's marriage to Joe Macer) were the main cause of her departure.[7] Until the onscreen death of her character at Christmas 2006, she was one of only two original cast members of that programme to appear continuously from the first episode in 1985, along with Adam Woodyatt, who played her on-screen nephew Ian Beale.

In 2007, Richard was awarded a British Soap Award for 'Special Achievement' for her role in EastEnders.[8]

Later career[edit]

Richard appeared regularly on the BBC Radio programme Just a Minute from 1989 until 1994. She returned for further appearances in 2002 and 2003.

In 2000, Richard was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours.[9]

In late 2006, Richard was seen as a guest presenter on the BBC's City Hospital series and on 31 March 2007, she presented the documentary A Tribute to John Inman, for BBC2. She also gave interviews for the first time in many years, making appearances on The Paul O'Grady Show, Big Brother's Little Brother, Loose Women, Parkinson, and the Biography Channel special Gloria's Greats with Gloria Hunniford, amongst others.

In April 2007, Richard announced that she would be appearing in a new role for the first time since leaving EastEnders, in a new sitcom penned by David Croft called Here Comes The Queen. The project came about after she personally asked Croft to write something for her. Richard had commented: "The part is like an older version of Miss Brahms".[10] A pilot episode was made, which was considered to be poor, and it was never transmitted.

In late 2007, it was announced that Richard was to join the second series of ITV1's sitcom Benidorm playing a "loud-mouthed, rude" character who used a wheelchair; her episode aired in April 2008.

In January 2008, adverts for The Post Office featuring Richard (as a human cannonball) began to be shown.

In February 2008, she landed the role of Mrs. Crump in the episode "A Pocket Full of Rye" of the Agatha Christie's Marple TV series starring Julia McKenzie. This was her final role, airing after her death in 2009.

Personal life[edit]

Richard was married four times. Her first marriage was to a music publisher, Len Blach, in 1972, which lasted just five months. For six years, she lived with an advertising director, Will Thorpe; though her co-stars on Are You Being Served? were aware that he physically beat her,[11] she married Thorpe in 1980, finally leaving him after 18 months of marriage.[12] Her third marriage, to Paul Glorney, a carpet fitter, took place in Westminster, London, in 1990.[13] That marriage ended in divorce four years later. Richard later lived with John Burns, a painter and decorator 20 years her junior, in the Marylebone area of London. They lived together from 1996 until her death and married on 10 October 2008 at a hotel in London's Mayfair.[14] She had no children.

Richard was a supporter of the Conservative Party. She was particularly supportive of Margaret Thatcher and her policies and accomplishments. During her early years on EastEnders, scriptwriters gave Richard a script in which Pauline Fowler launched into a tirade against Thatcher, but Richard refused to perform it.[15]


Richard was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996; she had an operation and apparently recovered. She had a recurrence of the disease in 2002.[16][17] Her cancer went into remission after years of treatment and she was given a clean bill of health in 2005.[17] Articles about her departure from EastEnders suggest her health problems did not play any role in her decision to leave the series and that it was because her character in the soap remarried, to Richard's displeasure.[7]

Richard later said she left because of stress and that she had been stress-free since leaving the show. She kept in touch with co-stars Bill Treacher, Natalie Cassidy, Todd Carty, and James Alexandrou after leaving.[18] It was reported in the Sunday Express on 5 October 2008 that Richard had been diagnosed with breast cancer again. In January 2008, cancer cells were found in her left armpit. Further investigation showed that this had metastasised to her left kidney and bones, including her spine and left ribs.[19] She made a half-hour programme called Wendy Richard: To Tell You the Truth, documenting the last three months of her life; it was broadcast on BBC1 on 19 March 2009.


A Heritage Foundation commemorative plaque at The Shepherds Tavern in London in memory of Richard

Richard's agent, Kevin Francis, reported she had died on 26 February 2009 of breast cancer, aged 65, at a clinic in Harley Street, London. Her husband, John Burns, was at her bedside.[20][21] Francis said: "She was incredibly brave and retained her sense of humour right to the end."[22] On the day of her death, that evening's episode of EastEnders and a memorial programme, both dedicated to Richard, were broadcast on BBC One. Actor Bill Treacher, Richard's on-screen husband Arthur Fowler in EastEnders, said the actress was a "true professional." Richard's funeral, on 9 March 2009 at St Marylebone Parish Church, was attended by many in the media industry[23] and many fans. Her body was later cremated at a private service at Golders Green Crematorium. It was reported the actress had already planned her funeral and written her will.[19] In July 2009, David Croft, the creator of Are You Being Served?, unveiled a Heritage Foundation commemorative plaque at The Shepherds Tavern in London, which Richard's parents had run. A number of entertainers were there to pay their respects on the occasion.



Year Title Role Notes
1963 The Contact Joyce Uncredited role
1966 Doctor In Clover Nurse with False Eyelashes
1970 No Blade Of Grass Clara
1971 On the Buses Housewife
Gumshoe Anne Scott
1972 Bless This House Carol
Carry On Matron Miss Willing
1973 Carry On Girls Ida Downs
1975 Naughty Girls Girls' Voices Voice role, uncredited
1977 Are You Being Served? Miss Shirley Brahms


Year Title Role Notes
1961 Spectacular Girl 1 episode: "Sammy Meets the Girls"
1962 Dixon of Dock Green Jean Davis 1 episode: "The Outlaws"
1962 Coronation Street Performer Episode #194
Harpers West One Susan Sullivan 5 episodes
Bulldog Breed Mandy Bradshaw Episode #1.7
The Arthur Haynes Show Uncredited Episode #10.3
1963 ITV Television Playhouse Brunette factory girl 1 episode: "The Wedding Dress"
BBC Sunday-Night Play Ida Green 1 episode: "The Holly Road Rig"
First Night Carol 1 episode: "The One Night of the Year "
ITV Play of the Week Miss Bufton 1 episode: "London Wall"
1964 HMS Paradise Genevieve 1 episode: "Call Me Madam and I'll Punch You on the Nose"
Danger Man Sue 1 episode: "Don't Nail Him Yet"
Don't I Look Like a Lord's Son? The Girl Television film
No Hiding Place Smiler 1 episode: "An Eye for an Eye"
1964–1965 Six The Girl 2 episodes: "Don't I Look Like a Lord's Son?" & "The Day of Ragnarok"
1965 The Hollywood Palace Dancing Extra, Captain Spaulding Scene Uncredited role
The Sullavan Brothers Renee 1 episode: "Put Them Away for Keeps"
Londoners Patsy 1 episode: "Joe Nobody"
The Likely Lads Lynn 1 episode: "Last of the Big Spenders"
No Hiding Place Linda Hooper 1 episode: "The Hunted and the Hunters"
Janet 1 episode: "Hi-Jack"
1966 Hugh and I Unnamed 4 episodes
Pardon the Expression Girl with Dog 1 episode: "Rustle of Spring"
Weavers Green Jean Episode #1.31
ITV Play of the Week Girl in Night Club (uncredited) 1 episode: "Plays of Married Life #1: A Catching Complaint"
Betty 1 episode: "Plays of Married Life #4: The Bright Side"
BBC Play of the Month Sandra 1 episode: "The Making of Jericho"
1967 Turn Out the Lights Veronica Woods 1 episode: "A Big Hand for a Little Lady"
The Wednesday Play Delphine 1 episode: "The Voices in the Park"
1967–1969 The Newcomers Joyce Harker Main role; 227 episodes
1970 Up Pompeii! Soppia 1 episode: "The Ides of March"
Carry on Again Christmas Kate Television film
Dad's Army Edith Parish 2 episodes: "The Two and a Half Feathers" & "Mum's Army"
1971 Dixon of Dock Green Barbara Walker 1 episode: "Nightmare Hours"
Please Sir! Rita 1 episode: "The Pruning of the Hedges"
On the Buses Elsie 1 episode: "The Busmen's Ball"
1972 Both Ends Meet Maudie 7 episodes
Comedy Playhouse Miss Shirley Brahms 1 episode: "Are You Being Served?"
1972–1985 Are You Being Served? Main role; 69 episodes
1972–1973 Dad's Army Shirley 2 episodes: "The King Was in His Counting House" & "My British Buddy"
1973 The Fenn Street Gang Myrna 1 episode: "Is That a Proposal, Eric?"
Z-Cars Maureen Parker 1 episode: "Big Jake"
Bowler Greta 1 episode: "Members Only"
1975 Not On Your Nellie Doris 6 episodes
The Dick Emery Show Uncredited Episode #14.6
Hogg's Back Pearl 6 episodes
1979 The Little and Large Show Unnamed 1 episode
1982 Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful June Episode #1.1
1983 West Country Tales Jill-Mother 1 episode: "With Love, Belinda"
1985–2006 EastEnders Pauline Fowler Series regular; 2,058 episodes
1992–1993 Grace & Favour Miss Shirley Brahms Main role, 12 episodes
1993 Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time Pauline Fowler Charity special crossover between Doctor Who and EastEnders
2007 Arena Listeners' Comments Voice role
2008 Benidorm Sylvia Episode #2.5
Agatha Christie's Marple Mrs Crump 1 episode: "A Pocket Full of Rye"
Here Comes the Queen Lilian Episode #1.0


  1. ^ a b "Obituary: Wendy Richard". The Telegraph. London. 26 February 2009.
  2. ^ a b Dennis Barker (26 February 2009). "Obituary: Wendy Richard". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ Deans, Jason (26 February 2009). "EastEnders star Wendy Richard dies". The Guardian. London.
  4. ^ "Obituary: Wendy Richard". BBC News. 26 February 2009.
  5. ^ "Wendy Richards in Beatles video finally". Daily Express. London. 6 September 2007.
  6. ^ "Wendy Richard to leave EastEnders". BBC News. 10 July 2006. Retrieved 10 July 2006.
  7. ^ a b "Richard 'quit soap over wedding'". BBC News. 7 August 2006.
  8. ^ Green, Kris (26 May 2007). "The British Soap Awards 2007: The Winners". Digital Spy. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  9. ^ "No. 55879". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 June 2000. p. 21.
  10. ^ West, Dave (9 April 2007). "Richard returns to Miss Brahms style role". Digital Spy.
  11. ^ Video on YouTube see from 36:51
  12. ^ Richard My Life Story: p. 107
  13. ^ "England & Wales marriages 1837-2008 Transcription". Retrieved 12 October 2015 – via Find My Past.
  14. ^ "'Dying' Richard marries partner". BBC News. 10 October 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  15. ^ Lawson, Mark (26 February 2009). "A glorious double". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 February 2009.
  16. ^ "Wendy Richard's dramatic soap life". BBC News. 10 July 2006. Retrieved 8 March 2007.
  17. ^ a b BBC News – EastEnders star has cancer. Retrieved 5 October 2008
  18. ^ Reynolds, Simon (10 March 2008). "Richard explains 'EastEnders' exit". Digital Spy.
  19. ^ a b Tominey, Camilla (4 October 2008). "Wendy Richard: My dying wish". Sunday Express. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  20. ^ "Actress Wendy Richard dies". BBC News. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2009.
  21. ^ Patrick Foster (27 February 2009). "EastEnders actress Wendy Richard dies". The Times. London. Retrieved 26 February 2009.
  22. ^ "Wendy Richard". lastingtribute.co.uk. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009.
  23. ^ Burton, Paul (10 March 2009). "Stars attend Wendy Richard's funeral". Borehamwood Times.

External links[edit]