Bernard Hepton

Francis Bernard Heptonstall (19 October 1925 – 27 July 2018)[2] better known by the stage name Bernard Hepton, was an English theatre director and actor. Best known for his stage work and television roles in teleplays and series, he also appeared briefly on radio and in film.[3]

Bernard Hepton
Francis Bernard Heptonstall[1]

(1925-10-19)19 October 1925
Died27 July 2018(2018-07-27) (aged 92)
Spouse(s)Nancie Jackson (1957–77, her death)
Hillary Liddell (1979–2013, her death)[2]

Early life and education

Hepton was born in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire and said he was born in the same street as J.B. Priestley thirty years earlier. His father, Bernard senior, was an electrician, while his mother Hilda (née Berrington) was from a mill-working family. Brought up as a Catholic (which he remained as an adult), he attended St Bede's Grammar School in the city.[1] His short-sight meant he was unable to serve in the army during the Second World War, but he trained as an aircraft engineer and draughtsman while undertaking firewatching duties.[2]


Hepton trained at the Bradford Civic Playhouse under director Esme Church.[4] He had extensive stage experience as an actor in repertory, especially in Scarborough and York. In 1952, he joined Birmingham Rep under Barry Jackson, later himself becoming the theatre's artistic director in 1957.[1][4] Later, for a brief period from 1963, he was director of the Liverpool Playhouse, but resigned during his first season. Productions of the Max Frisch play The Fire Raisers and John Osborne's Luther were not well-received locally because of their content.[1] He was responsible for orchestrating the fight sequences in Laurence Olivier's film version of Richard III (1955) and an Old Vic production of Hamlet with lead Richard Burton in 1953.[1][2]


On television, he played Caiaphas in the 1969 Dennis Potter play Son of Man. He was cast as the Kommandant in Colditz (1972–74) and later appeared for the same production team as Albert Foiret in three seasons of Secret Army (1977–79).[5] Before that he made a guest appearance in an episode of the first series of Catweazle (1970) where he played a naturalist. Other notable performances included Thomas Cranmer in both The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) and Elizabeth R (1971). He reprised the role in the film adaptation of the former, Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972). Hepton acted in adaptations of John le Carré's novels, as Toby Esterhase in the BBC Television versions of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People, and George Smiley in the radio adaptations. He appeared in I, Claudius (1976) as Pallas and in the comedy series The Squirrels (1974–77).

Having played Inspector Goole in An Inspector Calls (1982) and Sir Thomas Bertram in Mansfield Park (1983), he appeared as Sam Toovey in the 1989 television adaptation of Susan Hill's ghost story The Woman in Black (1989).

Radio and film

On radio, Hepton played the role of Albert, in Stranger in the Home by Alan Dapre, also the role of The Old Man in the Corner, the amateur, and mostly sedentary, sleuth in the BBC dramatisations of The Teahouse Detective (1998–2000) by Baroness Orczy. Inspector Gilbraith, BBC radio 1977.

Hepton's appearances in feature films were less frequent, he made his debut in 1949. He made a brief appearance as Thorpey, a gangster, in the classic British film Get Carter (1971), and another small role, as Milton Goldsmith, in Voyage of the Damned (1976).

Personal life and death

Hepton was married to actress Nancie Jackson from 1957 until she died in 1977. Jackson played his wife Alice in A Man for All Seasons, and they settled in Barnes, south-west London. He married Hilary Liddell in 1979; she died in 2013. He died on 27 July 2018, aged 92. He was survived by a niece and nephew.[2]


Television credits


  1. "Bernard Hepton obituary". The Times. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018. (subscription required)
  2. Coveney, Michael (30 July 2018). "Bernard Hepton obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  3. "HEPTON, Bernard". Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  4. Harrie, Kate (6 April 2006). "Interview with Bernard Hepton". Theatre Archive Project. British Library. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  5. Daily Telegraph Obituaries p27 "Actor who played Kommandant in Colditz and Toby Esterhase in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" Issue no 50,760 dated Wednesday 1 August 2018
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