Howards' Way star Nigel Davenport dies, aged 85

(Image credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima)

The versatile, highly respected TV, film and theatre actor Nigel Davenport has died, aged 85.

The star, father to Jack Davenport who is currently appearing in ITV series Breathless, was also well known for his role in Oscar-winning movie Chariots Of Fire in which he portrayed Lord Birkenhead.

For many TV viewers in the late 1980s he will be best remembered for his performance as tycoon Sir Edward Frere in BBC One's Howards' Way, the popular Sunday night drama set in the wealthy yachting set.

Oxford-educated Davenport began his career as a stage actor, but in the late Fifties and Sixties he was increasingly clocking up film roles, including the dark cult movie Peeping Tom, and made a breakthrough with his performance in A Man For All Seasons in 1966.

Other films included The Virgin Soldiers and its sequel, as well as Mary, Queen Of Scots and adaptations of The Picture Of Dorian Gray and Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Davenport, who died on Friday, also had guest roles in programmes such as Minder, Keeping Up Appearances and Midsomer Murders, and continued his stage work alongside his film and TV success.

He was married and divorced twice, his second to Maria Aitken, the actress and director who is mother to Jack. He had two children from his first marriage to Helena White - Hugo, a writer, and Laura, an actress.

His agent Nicholas Young said: "It was a privilege, a pleasure and an honour to have represented Nigel. Not only was he an excellent actor but he was also a charming, warm and witty man.

"His performances over the years were powerful and moving. His voice, the envy of many an aspiring actor, was a joy to listen to. He served the interests of his fellow actors by his unstinting support for the actors' union Equity, of which he was president for many years. Never afraid to give his opinion, he lived life to the full and enjoyed his retirement.

"Immensely popular on both a personal and professional level, he will be sadly missed."

The Telegraph remarked that Davenport was renowned for 'playing dark, strong, rakish toffs, aggressive heroes, scowling villains'.

As well as his screen roles, Davenport was a founder member of the English Stage Company and served as president of the Actors' Union, Equity, for six years.


Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.