Lynda Baron: Much-loved actor who starred in Open All Hours

Baron was nominated for a Bafta in 2011 for her role in ‘The Road to Coronation Street’  (PA)
Baron was nominated for a Bafta in 2011 for her role in ‘The Road to Coronation Street’ (PA)

Lynda Baron was the much-loved and multi-faceted actor best known for her two main career roles, as Nurse Gladys in the popular sitcom Open All Hours and as Auntie Mabel in the children’s series Come Outside.

Baron, who has died aged 82, once said in interview, “Whenever I’m asked what is my favourite part is, I always give the same answer – the next one.”

Lynda Baron was born in Urmston, Lancashire in 1939. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dance and went on to play minor roles in repertory theatre and the West End.

Over her long and varied career she had appeared on television in Last of the Summer Wine (1983), The Two Ronnies (1987), The Bill, EastEnders and three series of Doctor Who, from 1966 through to 2011.

But it is for she starring as Nurse Gladys in the hit BBC sitcom Open All Hours, created by Roy Clarke, that she’ll be best remembered. It was an enduring, funny and immensely popular format, regularly attracting some 17 million viewers each week over four seasons from the mid-Seventies to mid-Eighties.

Starring alongside Ronnie Barker (Arkwright, the grocer) and David Jason (his nephew, Granville), she took the role of Gladys Emmanuel, the local visiting nurse. A permanent theme, and the subject of many scenes, was the ongoing on-off love interest between Arkwright and Emmanuel.

Alongside Ronnie Barker and David Jason in 1985 (PA)
Alongside Ronnie Barker and David Jason in 1985 (PA)

Asked about the future of their bond in an interview with Terry Wogan in 1985, Baron responded with a broad smile: “I’ve got a plot afoot, it’s called Arkwright goes to the Bahamas … We decided we’d write an episode where Granville goes to the Bahamas and Arkwright has to go and get Gladys … three months filming in the Bahamas”. Forgoing any trip to the West Indies, the show’s cast continued as usual from its real-world location in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster.

“Working with Ronnie Barker and David Jason was unbelievable – two great actors in a brilliantly scripted sitcom,” she recalled. “There was never a day when we did not have a great laugh ourselves and that carried on when Still Open All Hours became a series.”

When the programme made a special reappearance on our screens in 2013 as Still Open All Hours, Baron was delighted to reprise the role in which she had shone three decades earlier. The programme again brought in more than 10 million viewers to the Boxing Day special edition.

As Auntie Mabel in ‘Come Outside’ (BBC)
As Auntie Mabel in ‘Come Outside’ (BBC)

Come Outside was an educational television series that ran initially from 1993 to 1997 and later went on to be repeated on the CBeebies channel. Accompanied by her dog, Pippin, Baron – as Auntie Mabel Featherstone – would explore the world around her, teaching about what she might find in the home, garden and further afield.

Baron recalled of the time: “Playing Auntie Mabel in Come Outside was a delight. I used to get wonderful letters from children asking for a signed photo – mostly of Pippin, who was Auntie Mabel’s dog and a lovely co-star… It was such a nice series – funny, educational, safe and cosy all at the same time.”

She was nominated for a Bafta in 2011 for her role in The Road to Coronation Street, a one-off drama for BBC Four about the early history of the soap opera. She played the role of Violet Carson, who had portrayed Ena Sharples in the long-running series. And although she was latterly best known for her television performances, she had always said it was appearing on stage that gave her the most pleasure.

Her agent, Donna French, said in tribute: “She was a wonderful actress and a great friend. Her iconic roles of Nurse Gladys in Open All Hours and Aunt Mabel in Come Outside were loved by all generations. Renowned for her leading roles in West End musicals and dramatic productions alike, we have lost a leading light of our world.”

She married John Lee, a musician, in 1966. She is survived by her daughter Sarah and son Morgan.

Lynda Baron, actor and broadcaster, born 24 March 1939, died 5 March 2022