Bernard Miles

Bernard James Miles, Baron Miles, CBE (27 September 1907  14 June 1991) was an English character actor, writer and director.[1] He opened the Mermaid Theatre in London in 1959, the first new theatre that opened in the City of London since the 17th century.[2] He was known for playing character roles that usually had bucolic backgrounds or links to countrymen. His strong accent was typical of rustic dialects associated with the counties of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. His pleasant rolling bass-baritone voice made him popular in theatre and film for more than fifty years. Aside from his acting, Miles was a voice-over artist and published author.

Bernard Miles in 1946
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
7 February 1979  14 June 1991
Life Peerage
Personal details
Bernard James Miles

(1907-09-27)27 September 1907
Uxbridge, Middlesex, England
Died14 June 1991(1991-06-14) (aged 83)
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, England
Spouse(s)Josephine Wilson
(m. 19??; died 1990)
Children3, including John Miles

Early life

Miles was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, and attended Bishopshalt School in Hillingdon. His father was a farm labourer and his mother a cook. After completing his education at Pembroke College, Oxford, he entered the theatre in the 1930s.


Aside from his theatre work, Miles began appearing in British feature films in the mid thirties. He featured prominently in several patriotic movies made during the Second World War, such as In Which We Serve and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing. He also had an uncredited role in The First of the Few (released in the US as Spitfire).

By the 1950s, he had started to work in television. In 1951 he played Long John Silver in a British TV version of Treasure Island. A decade later he would reprise the role for a performance of Treasure Island at the Mermaid Theatre in the winter of 1961–62, the cast also included Spike Milligan as Ben Gunn.[3]

Miles was always keen to promote up-and-coming talent. After being impressed with the writing of English playwright John Antrobus, he introduced him to Spike Milligan which led to the production of a one-act play called The Bed Sitting Room. It would later be adapted into a longer play, and staged by Miles at Mermaid Theatre on 31 January 1963, with both critical and commercial success.[4][5][6]

Miles was also well known for his comic monologues, that would often be delivered with a rural dialect. These were sold as record albums, which were quite popular. [7]

Personal life

Miles was married to the British stage and film actress, Josephine Wilson, until her death in 1990. They had two daughters and a son. His daughters are the actress Sally Miles and the artist Bridget Miles. His son John Miles was a Grand Prix driver with Lotus in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Miles was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1953,[8] was knighted in 1969,[9] and was created a life peer as Baron Miles, of Blackfriars in the City of London on 7 February 1979.[10] He was only the second British actor to be given a peerage (the first was Laurence Olivier).[11]


Miles's wrote several books. These include The British Theatre (1947), God's Brainwave (1972) and Favourite Tales from Shakespeare (1972).

Robin Hood - His Life and Legend was published in 1979; it was illustrated by future Time Team artist Victor Ambrus. In 1981, he co-authored the book Curtain Calls with J. C. Trewin.


Miles died in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire on 14 June 1991 aged 83.

By coincidence, he was born in the same year, and died on the same day, as the actress Peggy Ashcroft.[12]


Television :-

As ' Nathaniel Titlark ', Woodsman .10 Episodes. BBCTV. Lost. Maureen Prior as Jessie Titlark.


  2. "Bernard Miles | British actor". Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  3. Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. p.198
  4. Scudamore(1985) pp.200, 203–204
  5. McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7. p.157
  6. Antrobus, John (2002). Surviving Spike Milligan: A Voyage Through the Mind & Mirth of the Master Goon. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. pp.69–70
  7. "Bernard Miles | Britmovie | Home of British Films". Archived from the original on 30 May 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  8. "No. 39732". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1953. p. 11.
  9. "No. 44968". The London Gazette. 20 November 1969. p. 11119.
  10. "No. 47766". The London Gazette. 9 February 1979. p. 1852.
  11. Obituary. The New York Times 15 June 1991
  12. "British theatre loses two titans". The Times. 15 June 1991.
  13. "Release date for The Magic Box". Retrieved 27 April 2016.
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