Wanda Ventham

Wanda Ventham (born 5 August 1935) is an English actress, known primarily for her role as Colonel Virginia Lake in the 1970s science-fiction television series UFO, and for her recurring role as Cassandra Trotter's mother Pamela Parry in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses between 1989 and 1992. She also appeared in two episodes of The Saint and two Carry On films.

Wanda Ventham
Born (1935-08-05) 5 August 1935
Brighton, Sussex, England
Alma materCentral School of Speech and Drama
Years active1956–present
James Tabernacle
(m. 1957; div. 1974)

Timothy Carlton
(m. 1976)
Children2, including Benedict Cumberbatch

In April 2014, People magazine featured her in its "Most Beautiful People in the World" edition.[1]

Early life

Ventham was born in Brighton, the daughter of Gladys Frances (née Holtham) and Frederick Howard Ventham.[2][3] Originally aspiring to become an artist, she attended art school for a year whilst working as a scenic painter for the Connaught Theatre in Worthing, West Sussex, during her school holidays. The exposure to professional theatre prompted her to leave art school and pursue a career in acting.[4] She trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, as a contemporary of Judi Dench,[5] graduating in 1956.[6]


Ventham's first film role was in My Teenage Daughter (1956), with Anna Neagle and Sylvia Syms. She also appeared in Carry On Cleo (1964) and Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968). She starred alongside Mark Burns in the mystery film Death is a Woman (1966). Her best-known role was on television as Col. Virginia Lake, second-in-command to Cmdr. Ed Straker (Ed Bishop), in the cult series UFO.

Ventham's numerous other TV credits include regular roles in Heartbeat as Fiona Weston, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates as Margaret Balshaw, and The Rag Trade as Shirley. She also played a love interest for Arthur Daley in Minder, Susan's mother in Coupling, and Deborah's mother in Men Behaving Badly. She starred opposite Ian Hendry in the 15-part BBC series The Lotus Eaters (1972–73), and made a guest appearance in Rutland Weekend Television. She was in an episode of Danger Man, and the series Patrick McGoohan completed immediately afterwards – the allegorical spy series The Prisoner – as well as the sitcoms Executive Stress and Next of Kin, and the sketch show The Two Ronnies.

She has appeared in Doctor Who on three occasions over three decades: as Jean Rock in The Faceless Ones (1967), as Thea Ransome in Image of the Fendahl (1977) and as Faroon in Time and the Rani (1987). Her appearance in Image of the Fendahl was opposite Denis Lill. Ventham and Lill would later play Pamela and Alan Parry in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

In 2014, she and her husband Timothy Carlton appeared in the BBC adaptation of Sherlock as the parents of Sherlock Holmes, who is played by their son Benedict Cumberbatch.[7] Ventham appeared in Holby City as Sheilagh Chiltern, the grandmother of Lofty Chiltern.[8]

Personal life

Ventham married her first husband James Tabernacle in 1957[9][10] and they had one daughter, Tracy. They were divorced on 12 November 1974.[11] She met actor Timothy Carlton in 1970 while filming sequences for the drama series A Family at War[4][12] and they have been married since April 1976.[9] The couple appeared together in the second series of BBC drama The Lotus Eaters in 1973, and in the third and fourth series of BBC's Sherlock in 2014 and 2017, where they played the title character's parents. Their son, actor Benedict Cumberbatch, played Sherlock.[13]



Year Title Role Notes
1956 My Teenage Daughter Gina
1959 The Navy Lark Mabel
1961 We Joined the Navy The "Initiative test" girl
1962 Solo for Sparrow Waitress
1963 The Cracksman Sandra
1964 Carry On Cleo Pretty Bidder Uncredited
1965 The Big Job Dot Franklin
1965 The Knack ...and How to Get It Gym Mistress Uncredited
1966 Death Is a Woman Priscilla Blunstone-Smythe
1966 The Spy with a Cold Nose Mrs. Winters
1967 Mister Ten Per Cent Kathy
1968 The Blood Beast Terror Clare Mallinger Ventham also provided stunt work for the film and appeared in costume as the giant moth monster.
1968 Carry On Up the Khyber Khasi's First Wife
1974 Invasion: UFO Col. Virginia Lake
1974 Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter Lady Durward
2002 Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War Victoria
2005 Asylum Bridie Straffen
2012 Run for Your Wife Lady on Bus Cameo
2016 Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Violet Cameo


Year Title Role Notes
1962–1963 The Rag Trade Shirley Series regular; 18 episodes
1964–1965 Danger Man Stella Dorset
2 episodes
1964–1966 The Saint Laura Stride
Penny Pearson
2 episodes
1965 The Likely Lads Angela 1 episode
1965 The Avengers Nurse Spray 1 episode
1967 The Prisoner Computer Attendant 1 episode
1967 The Caesars Ennia 1 episode
1967–1971 The Troubleshooters Moira Hart Recurring; 4 episodes
Doctor Who Jean Rock
Thea Ransome/Fendahl Core
Serial: "The Faceless Ones" (6 episodes)
Serial: "Image of the Fendahl" (4 episodes)
Serial: "Time and the Rani" (3 episodes)
1969 The Gold Robbers Dee Lattery 1 episode
1969 Department S Leila Rankin 1 episode
1970 Z-Cars Mrs. Owen 1 episode
1970–1971 A Family At War Jenny Graham Recurring; 3 episodes
1970 Doctor At Large Maggie Weston 1 episode
1970–1973 UFO Col. Virginia Lake Series regular; 9 episodes
1971 Thirty-Minute Theatre Jasmine "Walt, King of the Dumper"[14]
1972–1973 The Lotus Eaters Ann Shepherd Lead role; 15 episodes
1975 The Sweeney Brenda 1 episode
1975 Rutland Weekend Television Various characters 2 episodes
1976 Emmerdale Farm Heather Bannerman Recurring; 6 episodes
1977 Crown Court Sybil Halstead 2 episodes
1978–1979 Fallen Hero Dorothy Hopkins Lead role; 11 episodes
1980 The Two Ronnies Jack 2 episodes
1982 Minder Beryl Murdoch 1 episode
1986–1987 Executive Stress Sylvia Recurring; 4 episodes
1988 All Creatures Great and Small Mrs. Ridge Series 5, Episode 11
1989 Capstick's Law Madge Capstick Recurring; 6 episodes
1989–1992 Only Fools and Horses Pamela Parry Recurring; 4 episodes
1995–1996 Next of Kin Rosie Recurring; 6 episodes
1996–1997 Heartbeat Fiona Weston Recurring; 4 episodes
2001 Coupling Edna 1 episode
2005 Midsomer Murders Romany Rose 1 episode
2007 Lewis Eleanor Mallory 1 episode
2014–2017 Sherlock Mrs. Holmes (Sherlock Holmes' mother) 3 episodes
2018 Holby City Sheilagh Chiltern Recurring; 10 episodes
2018 Father Brown Ellen Jennings Series 6, Episode 4: "The Angel of Mercy"
2019 Departure Wendy 2 episodes


Year Title Role Venue
1960 Watch It, Sailor! Daphne Pink Apollo Theatre, London
1979 Julius Caesar Portia Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester
1990 Out of Order Pamela Shaftesbury Theatre, London
1992 It Runs in the Family Rosemary Mortimore Playhouse Theatre, London
2002 One for the Pot Amy Hardcastle Theatre Royal, Windsor
2012 Quartet Cissy Theatre-on-the-Bay, Cape Town
2014 Entertaining Angels Ruth" Theatre-on-the-Bay, Cape Town


  1. "Stars & Their Hot Moms". People: 139. 5 May 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  2. Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916–2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.
  3. FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837–1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.
  4. Ventham, Wanda. Audio commentary for "Timelash". In: The Complete UFO Megaset (DVD). A&E Home Entertainment. 2003.
  5. Martin, Annie (19 September 2014) "Benedict Cumberbatch is 'a true gentleman,' says Judi Dench". UPI Entertainment.
  6. Central School of Speech and Drama Alumni Newsletter, July 2012, issue 19, p.19
  7. "Benedict Cumberbatch 'so proud' of parents". The Daily Telegraph. 2 January 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  8. Lazarus, Susanna (14 October 2014). "Benedict Mumberbatch! Wanda Ventham to appear on Holby City". Radio Times. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  9. Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916–2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.
  10. Knowles, Stewart (28 July 1979). "Timothy, Wanda... and the rose that changed her mind about marriage". TV Times: 14–15.
  11. "TV star Wanda's friendly divorce". Daily Mirror. 13 November 1974. p. 9.
  12. Passingham, Kenneth (22 March 1975). "It's good news to know I'm still fanciable". TV Times: 21–22.
  13. "Sherlock: Benedict Cumberbatch 'so proud' of parents". The Daily Telegraph. 2 January 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  14. IMDB
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