Doctor Who’s Nicola Bryant leads tributes to ‘Queen of Hammer’ Barbara Shelley

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·3-min read

Doctor Who’s Nicola Bryant has remembered Hammer Horror star Barbara Shelley as “a darling person and a talented actress” after her death at the age of 88.

Shelley was the star of 1950s and 1960s Hammer films including The Gorgon, opposite Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee; Dracula: Prince Of Darkness, Rasputin The Mad Monk and Quatermass And The Pit.

She also appeared in the Doctor Who episode Planet Of Fire, starring alongside Peter Davison as the fifth Doctor.

Bryant, who played companion Peri Brown, wrote on Twitter: “So very sad to hear of the passing of #BarbaraShelley.

“A darling person and a talented actress. When we worked together on Planet of Fire she was so kind to me.

“She gave me a little owl, still in my possession and some good advice.

“#RIPBarbaraShelley Wise and wonderful lady.”

Shelley’s agent, Thomas Bowington, told the PA news agency: “She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the technicolour queen of Hammer.

“On screen she could be quietly evil. She goes from statuesque beauty to just animalistic wildness.

“She was a regular favourite of Hammer events and autograph shows but also performed on stage with the RSC.”

He added: “She adored Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and loved working with them, that was very dear to her.”

Mr Bowington said Shelley had recently been in hospital, where she had caught Covid-19.

He said: “She went into hospital for a muscle check up and in that process she contracted Covid.

“But after that she had an infection and was in hospital by herself for two weeks before Christmas.

“It’s most likely Covid is going to come up on the death certificate.”

Born Barbara Kowin in 1932, Shelley was also known for TV roles in series including The Saint, The Avengers, The Borgias, Blake’s 7 and later played Hester Samuels in EastEnders.

In 2010, writer and actor Mark Gatiss interviewed Shelley about her career at Hammer Films for his BBC documentary series A History Of Horror.

The London-based production company, founded in 1934, made a string of hit Gothic horror films from the mid-1950s until the 1970s.

Many of these involved classic horror characters such as Baron Victor Frankenstein, Count Dracula, and the Mummy.