Frank Middlemass

Francis George Middlemass (28 May 1919  8 September 2006) was an English actor, who even in his early career played older roles. He is best remembered for his television roles as Rocky Hardcastle in As Time Goes By, Algy Herries in To Serve Them All My Days and Dr. Alex Ferrenby in Heartbeat. Middlemass was also active in the Royal Shakespeare Company and was the fourth and final actor to play Dan Archer in The Archers.

Frank Middlemass
Photo: Don McPhee, 1982
Francis George Middlemass

(1919-05-28)28 May 1919
Died8 September 2006(2006-09-08) (aged 87)
Northwood, London, England
Years active1957–2005
Parent(s)Thomas Middlemass
Mary Elizabeth Hoggett
FamilyDorothy Mary (born 1907)
Margery Elizabeth (born 1909)
Jean Theresa (born 1916)

Early life

Middlemass was born in Eaglescliffe, on the North Riding of Yorkshire-County Durham border, the son of a shipping company director.[1] He was brought up in Newcastle upon Tyne, and educated in Stockton-on-Tees.[2] He entered the army at the age of nineteen and was wounded in the Dunkirk retreat.[3] He left the army when he was thirty and was by then a lieutenant colonel.[3]

Middlemass started his acting career in rep in Penzance, Cornwall and then went on to join the Old Vic Company.[3] While with them he toured North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Lebanon, Russia, Poland and the Far East.,[1] and performed in Twelfth Night opposite Vivien Leigh.[4] During the 1960s, he toured with Ian McKellen's Actors' Company and performed at the Nottingham Playhouse. He performed opposite Peter O'Toole in Waiting for Godot.[1]

His first television role was in 1958, in Dixon of Dock Green. His other early television appearances included Z-Cars, Softly, Softly, The Avengers and Jackanory.[3] During the 1970s and 1980s he appeared in Doctor at Large, War and Peace (a memorable performance as Mikhail Kutuzov), Crown Court, Last of the Summer Wine, Ripping Yarns (Murder at Moorstone's Manor), Upstairs, Downstairs, Poldark (1975), Fall of Eagles (as Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin), The Sweeney and Emmerdale Farm.[5] He played Sir Charles Lyndon in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975).[6]


Middlemass played the philandering butcher Mr. Lyon in the final episode of the third season of the British series Upstairs, Downstairs in 1973, but it was not until 1980, when he appeared in the post-World War I drama To Serve Them All My Days, that he first took a leading role in a British series.[1] He followed this up with a notable performance as The Fool to Michael Hordern's King Lear, and also played Brezhnev in Tom Stoppard's Squaring the Circle.[7][8] He went on to play minor characters in Yes Minister, Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (as Lord Derby), Juliet Bravo, Only When I Laugh, All in Good Faith, Yes, Prime Minister, Oliver Twist (as Mr. Brownlow), Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady, and Miss Marple, in the 1989 episode "A Caribbean Mystery" (as Major Palgrave).[5] In 1989[9] he recorded a role as a choirmaster (similar to his role in the Children's Film Unit's A Swarm in May, listed below) for the Christmas ghost story Haunting Harmony; this was a co-production made chiefly for export and shown in Canada[10] and Ireland[11] at Christmas 1990, but not transmitted in Britain until 1993[12] in a late-night slot.[13] From 1992 to 1993, he appeared in twenty episodes of the police drama Heartbeat as Dr. Alex Ferrenby. Following that in 1993, Middlemass first appeared in the sitcom As Time Goes By as Rocky Hardcastle, a role that continued regularly until 2002, and then also in the 2005 two-part reunion specials, his final television appearance.[14] He appeared in both British TV adaptations of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, "The Blue Carbuncle" playing Peterson in the BBC adaptation and Henry Baker on the Granada TV series.[15][16]

Other work

Middlemass also appeared on radio, most notably playing patriarch Dan Archer, the fourth actor to play the role, in the long-running radio soap opera The Archers.[3] He played this role from 1982 until 1986, when the character was killed off.[1]

Other voice work includes the albums and radio plays: Carol and the Advent Calendar, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy[17] and Hordes of the Things.[18][19]

Frank also made the BBC Radio appeal for Headway, the National Head Injuries Association.[20] He raised a substantial amount of money; letters from admirers came along with some of the cheques.

He also appeared in films, including roles in Otley (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Say Hello to Yesterday (1970), Madame Sin (1972), Barry Lyndon (1975), The Island (1980), as the voice of the Caterpillar in Dreamchild (1985), and Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War (2002).[21]

He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984 and his Shakespearean roles included Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Holofernes in Love's Labour's Lost.[3] Middlemass also appeared widely in classic plays such as Rosmersholm, Heartbreak House and You Never Can Tell.[22]

Later years

Even in his eighties, Frank Middlemass was still performing on stage, notably in The Importance of Being Earnest[2] and toured with a one-man show called Frankly Speaking.[1] In his final years, he made appearances in Kavanagh QC, Casualty, The 10th Kingdom, Doctors and Midsomer Murders.[23] In 2005, As Time Goes By returned for two reunion specials, aired in Christmas that year, and this was his final television appearance.[24] Middlemass never married, and for forty years he had a room in the house of his close friend, actor Geoffrey Toone, who died in 2005.[1][25] They were often assumed to be lovers.[26] Middlemass died, aged 87, in Northwood, London.


Year Title Role Notes
1969Frankenstein Must Be DestroyedGuest - Plumber
1971Say Hello to YesterdayStation Master
1972Madame SinDr. Henriques
1975Barry LyndonSir Charles Lyndon
1980The IslandWindsor
1983A Swarm in MayDr. Sunderland
1991The Lost Language of CranesAlex
2002Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage WarBernard


  1. "Frank Middlemass". 11 September 2006 via
  2. Woddis, Carole (11 September 2006). "Obituary - Frank Middlemass". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  3. "Obituary - Frank Middlemass". The Times. London. 12 September 2006.
  4. "Production of Twelfth Night | Theatricalia".
  5. "Frank Middlemass".
  6. "Barry Lyndon (1975)".
  7. "BFI Screenonline: King Lear On Screen".
  8. "Squaring the Circle (1984)".
  9. "In Production", The Stage and Television Today, 30 November 1989
  10. "Treats under the TV tree", Toronto Star, 11 December 1990
  11. Irish Independent page 36, 24 December 1990
  12. BFI website
  13. The Times TV listings, page 39, 30 December 1993
  14. BBC. "As Time Goes By".
  15. "The Blue Carbuncle (1968)".
  16. "The Blue Carbuncle (1984)".
  17. "Douglas Adams - The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy Part Two: The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe (Vinyl, LP)". Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  18. Hordes of the Things : Andrew Marshall, John Lloyd, Full Cast, Consultant in Anaesthesia Royal United Hospital Bath and Honorary Senior Lecturer Patrick Magee, Paul Eddington, Simon Callow. ISBN 9781408426234. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  19. Radio Times listings - BBC Radio 4 16 June 1985
  20. "Frank Middlemass".
  21. "Production of You Never Can Tell - Theatricalia".
  22. "Frank Middlemass".
  23. "BBC One - as Time Goes By, Series 10, Christmas Special Part Two".
  24. 01:45 (15 June 2005). "Geoffrey Toone". The Scotsman. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  25. Carole Woddis. "Obituary: Frank Middlemass | Film". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
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