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Timothy West

Background Information

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Timothy West, CBE

Timothy West in 2010
Born Timothy Lancaster West
(1934-10-20) 20 October 1934
Bradford, Yorkshire, England
Occupation Actor
Years active 1956–present
Spouse(s) Prunella Scales CBE (1963–present)
Jacqueline Boyer (divorced)

Timothy Lancaster West, CBE (born 20 October 1934) is an English film, stage and television actor.


West's craggy looks ensured a career as a character actor rather than a leading man. He began his career as an Assistant Stage Manager at the Wimbledon Theatre in 1956, and followed this with several seasons of repertory theatre. He acted at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1959 and was with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1965 at Stratford where he appeared in The Comedy of Errors, Timon of Athens, The Jew of Malta, Love's Labour's Lost, and Peter Hall's outstanding production of The Government Inspector at the Aldwych Theatre with Paul Scofield, Eric Porter, Donald Burton, Stanley Lebor, Bruce Condell, John Corvin and Tim Wylton, among others. He was Artistic Director of the Forum Theatre, Billingham from 1980-81 and was appointed Director-in-Residence at the University of Western Australia in 1982.

Having spent years as a familiar face who never quite became a household name, his big chance came with the major television series, Edward the Seventh (1975), in which he played the title role and his real-life sons, Samuel and Joseph, played the sons of King Edward VII as children. Other major roles have included parts in the films, Nicholas and Alexandra (1972), The Day of the Jackal (1973), The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978), Masada (1981) and Cry Freedom (1987).

In lighter vein, West starred as patriarch Bradley Hardacre in Granada TV's satirical Northern super-soap Brass over three seasons (1982-1990), and made a memorable appearance as Professor Fury in A Very Peculiar Practice in 1986.

West also made a brief appearance in the Miss Marple series in 1985, starring Joan Hickson as the redoubtable Miss Jane Marple, in A Pocket Full of Rye as the notorious Rex Fortescue.

In 1997, he played Gloucester in the BBC television production of King Lear. In 2001, West played the older Maurice in Iris, while his actor son, Samuel West, played young Maurice. In 2002 he made a guest appearance in the BBC Radio 4 series The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In 2004, he toured Australia with the Carl Rosa Opera Company as Director of the production of HMS Pinafore, also singing the role of Sir Joseph Porter. He was replaced in the singing role by Dennis Olsen for the Perth and Brisbane performances.

At Christmas 2007, he joined the cast of sitcom Not Going Out as recurring character Geoffrey Adams, the father of two central characters. He has reprised this role in two episodes since.

He is president of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and a supporter of the charity Cancer Research UK.

West has also appeared as the presenter for Midlands ( Central TV) Waterworld.

In 2008, he starred in Harold Pinter's "The Lover" & "The Collection" at the Comedy Theatre in London.

Personal life

West was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, the son of Olive (née Carleton-Crowe) and actor Harry Lockwood West, known as Lockwood West. He was educated at the John Lyon School, a boys' independent school in Harrow on the Hill in London and also at Bristol Grammar School in Bristol, where he was a classmate of Julian Glover. West is married to the actress Prunella Scales and with her, prominently supports the Labour Party. The couple are both patrons of the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham. Their son, Samuel West, is also an actor.

Timothy is an Ambassador of SOS Children's Villages, an international orphan charity providing homes and mothers for orphaned and abandoned children. He currently supports the charity's annual World Orphan Week campaign which takes place each February.


In 1984, he was appointed CBE for his services to drama.

Stage roles

  • Opening of St Pancras railway station as William Henry Barlow, Tuesday 6 November 2007
  • Coriolanus as Menenius, 2007, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • King Lear (2003) with English Touring Theatre Company, as Lear
  • The External
  • King Lear as Lear, 1971 Edinburgh Festival
  • The Merchant of Venice as Shylock, 1981 Royal Flemish Theatre Brussels in association with The British Council
  • Gentle Jack (1963/64) as Hubert
  • The Old Country as Hilary, Trafalgar Studios, London, 2006
  • The Lover/ The Collection, Comedy Theatre, London, 2008
  • Romany Wood as Narrator, Shropshire, 2009

TV roles

  • Big Breadwinner Hog (1969) as Lennox
  • Edward the Seventh (1975) as the Prince of Wales / King Edward VII
  • Churchill and the Generals (1979) as Winston Churchill
  • Brass (1982) as Bradley Hardacre
  • The Good Doctor Bodkin Adams (1986): this was a TV docudrama based on the 1957 trial of John Bodkin Adams, played by West; Adams was controversially acquitted of murdering an elderly female patient, but is thought to have been Britain's second worst serial killer.
  • Campion: Police at the Funeral (1989) as "Uncle" William Faraday.
  • Framed (1992) as DCI Jimmy McKinnes
  • King Lear (1997) as Gloucester
  • Goodnight Sweetheart (1998), comedy series as MI6 agent "MacDuff"
  • Bedtime (series, 2001)
  • Bleak House (series, 2005) as Sir Leicester Dedlock
  • Since 2000 he has been presenting ITV's series Water World, a programme dedicated to 'the people who live and work on the canals of the Midlands'.


  • Twisted Nerve (1968)
  • Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
  • The Day of the Jackal (1973)
  • Hedda (1975)
  • Agatha (1979)
  • The Thirty Nine Steps (1978)
  • Rough Cut (1980)
  • Cry Freedom (1987)
  • The Tragedy of Flight 103 (1990)
  • Ever After (1998)
  • The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)
  • Iris (2001) (as the older Maurice)
  • Endgame (2009) as P.W. Botha


  • A Moment Towards the End of the Play, 2001, ISBN 1-85459-619-5
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