Wendy Richard, (born Wendy Emerton July 20, 1943February 26, 2009[2]) was an English actress best known for playing Miss Brahms in Are You Being Served? and Pauline Fowler in EastEnders. She was first educated at St George's Primary School in Mount Street, Mayfair, west London,[2] before attending the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, and then the Italia Conti Academy stage school in London.


She died on 26 February 2009 at the Harley Street clinic where she was being treated for a third bout of breast cancer.

Family and early lifeEdit

Richard, an only child, was born in Middlesbrough in 1943. Her parents, Henry William (died in 1954) and Beatrice Reay (1910–1972) (née Cutter) Emerton, were publicans and ran the Corporation Hotel in the town. Emerton and Cutter married in Paddington in 1939. Richard left Middlesbrough as a baby, when the family moved first to Bournemouth, then the Isle of Wight and finally to London. Here they ran the Shepherds Tavern in Shepherd Market, where Elizabeth Taylor and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon were said to be 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 here, in December 1954, that Richard's father committed suicide. The actress, then 11, found his body. Her mother Beatrice never remarried, and died of liver cancer in May 1972.[2]

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. But she found the school rather "strict," and her art mistress called her paintings and drawings "affected, rather like herself."[3] 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 though the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London by working in the fashion department of Fortnum and Mason.[4] It was at this time she decided to change her surname to Richard, because "it was short and neat."[5] 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.[3]


Richard first became familiar to TV audiences playing Joyce Harker, a regular in the BBC's 1960s soap opera, The Newcomers. She has also appeared in Dad's Army (first as Edith Parrish, and later as Private Walker's girlfriend Shirley), Up Pompeii! and The Likely Lads. Richard also appeared in two Carry On films, playing a small role in Carry On Matron and a supporting part in Carry On Girls (both these films featured future EastEnders co-star, Barbara Windsor). In 1962, her distinct cockney vocals also helped get her to #1 on the UK singles chart on the single, Come Outside by Mike Sarne. She also appears in a scene cut from the released version of The Beatles movie Help! (1965).

Richard's first appearance in a television series 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 1965 she appeared in an early black and white episode of "The Likely Lads", as a household cleaner saleswoman called Lynn. She also had a bit part the same year, episode ("Don't Nail Him Yet") of Danger Man (aka Secret Agent) with Patrick McGoohan. 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 is probably best known for her role in the 1970s sitcom Are You Being Served? as Miss Shirley Brahms, a sales representative with a heavy Cockney accent. (Richard also appeared in the Are You Being Served? sequel Grace & Favour in 1992 and 1993.)

Pauline Fowler

Wendy Richard as Pauline Fowler in EastEnders, 2006.

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 until the character's death at Christmas of 2006. She appeared regularly on the BBC Radio programme Just a Minute from 1989 until 1994. On 10 July 2006, the BBC announced that Richard had decided to leave EastEnders, after nearly 22 years in the show.[6] An interview with The Sun revealed that problems with the EastEnders storyline (primarily Pauline's marriage to Joe Macer) was the main cause for her departure.[7] She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2000 Queen's Birthday Honours.[8]

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 a number of 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, playing a part in a new sitcom penned by David Croft called Here Comes The Queen. The project came about after she personally asked her good friend Croft to write something for her. Richard had commented that "the part is like an older version of Miss Brahms".[9]

In September 2007, it was announced that Richard was to join the second series of ITV1's sitcom Benidorm playing a “loud-mouthed, rude” wheelchair-bound character; the episodes aired in 2008.

In 2007, Richard was awarded a British Soap Award for 'Lifetime Achievement' for her role in EastEnders.

In January 2008, adverts for The Post Office featuring Richard (as a human cannonball) began to be shown. In February, she landed the role of Mrs. Crump in the episode "A Pocket Full of Rye" of the Marple TV series starring Julia McKenzie. This was to be her final role, airing in 2009.

Personal life Edit

She was a supporter of the Conservative Party. During the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, Richard was a frequent and conspicuous supporter of Thatcher's policies and accomplishments. At one point the EastEnders script writers gave Richard a script in which Pauline Fowler launched into a vicious tirade against Thatcher; Richard refused to perform this sequence.[10]

Richard was married four times. Her first marriage was to a music publisher, her second to an advertising director. Her third marriage, to a carpet fitter, took place in Westminster, London;[11] Her first three marriages ended in divorce. 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, and married on 10 October 2008 at a hotel in London's Mayfair.[1] She had no children.[12]


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.[13][14] Her cancer went into remission after years of treatment. She was given a clean bill of health in 2005.[14] Articles about her departure from EastEnders suggest her health challenges did not play any role in her decision to leave the series and that it was because her character in the soap remarried, something she disagreed with.[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 Natalie Cassidy, Todd Carty, and James Alexandrou after leaving.[15]

It was reported in the Sunday Express on 5 October 2008 that Wendy Richard had been diagnosed with breast cancer again. After seeing her oncologist 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.[16]

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.


Wendy Richard's agent Kevin Francis reported she had died on 26 February 2009 of breast cancer, age 65, at a clinic on Harley Street, London. Her husband John Burns was at her bedside.[17][18] Mr Francis said: "She was incredibly brave and retained her sense of humour right to the end."[19] 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. Richard's funeral, on 9 March 2009 at St Marylebone Parish Church, was attended by many in the media industry, and many fans. She was later cremated at a private service.[20]

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 this occasion.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "'Dying' Richard marries partner". BBC News. 10 October 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Obituary: Wendy Richard". The Telegraph (London). 26 February 2009. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dennis Barker (26 February 2009). "Obituary: Wendy Richard". The Guardian (London). 
  4. Deans, Jason (26 February 2009). "EastEnders star Wendy Richard dies". The Guardian (London). 
  5. "Obituary: Wendy Richard". BBC News. 2009-02-26. 
  6. "Wendy Richard to leave EastEnders". BBC News. 10 July 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-10. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Richard 'quit soap over wedding'". BBC News. 7 August 2006. 
  8. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 55879. p. 21. 19 June 2000. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  9. "Richard returns to Miss Brahms style role". Digital Spy. 
  10. Lawson, Mark (2009-02-26). "A glorious double". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-02-28. 
  11. Marriages England and Wales 1837-2005
  12. Moore, Victoria (27 February 2009). "Wendy Richard, the Grace Brothers glamourpuss who had steel behind her smile". Daily Mail (London). 
  13. "Wendy Richard's dramatic soap life". BBC News. 10 July 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-08. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 BBC News - EastEnders star has cancer, retrieved 5 October 2008
  15. "Richard explains 'EastEnders' exit". Digital Spy. 
  16. "Wendy Richard: My dying wish". Sunday Express. Retrieved 4 October 2008. 
  17. "Actress Wendy Richard dies". BBC News. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 26 Feb 2009. 
  18. Patrick Foster (27 February 2009). "EastEnders actress Wendy Richard dies". The Times (London). Retrieved 26 Feb 2009. 
  19. "Wendy Richard". 
  20. "Farewell to Wendy". The Sun (London). 6 March 2009. Retrieved 7 Mar 2009. 

External linksEdit

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Wendy Richard.
The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Are You Being Served? Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.