John Alderton

John Alderton (born 27 November 1940) is an English actor who is best known for his roles in Upstairs, Downstairs, Thomas & Sarah, Wodehouse Playhouse, Little Miss (original television series), Please Sir! and Fireman Sam (the original series). Alderton has often starred alongside his wife, Pauline Collins.

John Alderton
John Alderton.jpg
Alderton in Sydney in November 2012
Born (1940-11-27) 27 November 1940 (age 80)
Years active1963–present
Jill Browne
(m. 1964; div. 1969)

(m. 1969)
Family1 stepdaughter

Early lifeEdit

Alderton was born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, the son of Ivy (née Handley) and Gordon John Alderton.[1] He grew up in Hull where he attended Kingston High School.[2]

Early careerEdit

Alderton first became familiar to television viewers in 1962, when he played Dr Moone in the ITV soap opera, Emergency – Ward 10. He married his co-star, Jill Browne, but they later divorced. After an uncredited role in Cleopatra (1963), and appearing in British films such as The System (1964), Assignment K (1968), Duffy (1968) and Hannibal Brooks (1969), he played the lead in the comedy series Please Sir!, as hapless teacher Mr Hedges, which later resulted in him also playing the character in the 1971 feature film of the same name. He was cast by Richard Lester in the title role of a film version of Flashman but the project was abandoned.[3]

In 1972, he appeared with Hannah Gordon in the BBC comedy series My Wife Next Door which ran for 13 episodes, and for which he won a Jacob's Award in 1975. He then transferred to another top-rated ITV series when he played Thomas Watkins, the chauffeur, in Upstairs, Downstairs, opposite his wife, Pauline Collins. They had a daughter (the actress Kate Alderton) and two sons and also acted together in spin-off series, Thomas & Sarah, and another sitcom, No, Honestly, as well as in Wodehouse Playhouse (1975–78), a series that featured adaptations of short stories by P. G. Wodehouse (primarily the Mr. Mulliner stories.) In the meantime, he appeared on the big screen against-type as 'Friend' in John Boorman's cult sci-fi film Zardoz (1974), before returning to more familiar territory, as 1930s Yorkshire vet James Herriot in the 1976 film, It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet. He was a subject of the television programme This Is Your Life in 1974 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews.

Stage rolesEdit

He graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1961 and appeared in their production of The Doctor and The Devils by Dylan Thomas. He made his first stage appearance with the repertory company of the Theatre Royal, York in August 1961, in Badger's Green by R.C. Sherriff. After a period in repertory, he made his first London appearance at the Mermaid, November 1965, as Harold Crompton in Spring and Port Wine, later transferring with the production to the Apollo. At the Aldwych. In March 1969, he played Eric Hoyden in the RSC's production of Dutch Uncle. At the Comedy Theatre, July 1969, he played Jimmy Cooper in The Night I Chased the Women with an Eel. At the Howff, October 1973, he played Stanley in Punch and Judy Stories, and played the same part in "Judies" at the Comedy, January 1974. At the Shaw, January 1975, he played Stanley in Pinter's The Birthday Party. At the Apollo, May 1976, he played four parts in Ayckbourn's Confusions.

Post-1980 careerEdit

During the 1980s and 1990s, Alderton had few roles. He narrated BBC1's children's original animated series Little Miss in 1983 (with his wife Pauline Collins) and, from 1987 to 1994, narrated and voiced all the characters in the original series of Fireman Sam. In 1988, he starred as Surgeon Robert Sandy in Tales of the Unexpected, in the episode The Surgeon, and from 1989 to 1992 he starred in the series Forever Green as the character Jack Boult. he also appeared in the film Clockwork Mice in 1995.

Alderton played opposite his wife Pauline in Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War in 2002 and made something of a comeback in the 2003 film, Calendar Girls. Then, in 2004 he played a role in the BBC series of Anthony Trollope's He Knew He Was Right. Also in 2004, Alderton starred in the first series of ITV 1's Doc Martin in an episode entitled "Of All The Harbours in All The Towns" as sailor John Slater, a friend and former lover of Aunt Joan. He played Christopher Casby in the 2008 BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit.

Personal lifeEdit

Alderton married actress Jill Browne in 1964, but they later divorced. In 1969, he married actress Pauline Collins and they had three children, a daughter and two sons. Alderton is also the stepfather of Collins' daughter Louise.



Year Title Role Notes
1963 Cleopatra 1st Officer Uncredited
1964 The System Nidge
1965 Operation Crossbow RAF 'Dakota' Navigator Uncredited
1966 In the West End Tonight Harold Crompton TV film
1968 Assignment K George
Duffy Antony
1969 Hannibal Brooks Bernard
All Star Comedy Carnival Bernard Hedges TV film
1971 Please Sir! Bernard Hedges
1974 Zardoz Friend
1976 It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet James Herriot
1995 Clockwork Mice Swaney
2002 Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War Hawksmoor
2003 Calendar Girls John Clarke
2010 Magic Hour 2 Robert


Year Title Role Notes
1962–1963 Emergency Ward 10 Richard Moone Series regular
1963 Drama 61-67 Peter Harris Episode: "Drama '63: Question of Guilt"
1965 The Sullavan Brothers Norman Vincent Episode: "Insufficient Evidence"
Londoners Telfer, Rait's Assistant Episode: "A Little Touch of Henry"
Six of the Best Alf Episode: "Annie Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
Love Story Albert Episode: "Twice Upon a Time"
1968 The Wednesday Play Charley Episode: "Mooney and His Caravans"
Thirty-Minute Theatre Geoffrey Bell Episode: "A Personal Affair"
Armchair Theatre Peter Episode: "One Night I Danced with Mr. Dalton"
Never a Cross Word Blackdown Episode: "Mr and Mrs Baldock and Friend"
Boy Meets Girl Gerald Episode: "Easy on the Clutch"
1968–1971 Please Sir! Bernard Hedges Series regular
1969 BBC Play of the Month Octavius Caesar Episode: "Julius Caesar"
Thirty-Minute Theatre Richard Fox Episode: "Roly Poly"
The Wednesday Play Mike Episode: "A Serpent in Putney"
1970 BBC Play of the Month Bob Acres Episode: "The Rivals"
Malcolm Episode: "Macbeth"
1971 The Fenn Street Gang Bernard Hedges 3 episodes
1972 BBC Play of the Month Tom Wrench Episode: "Trelawny of the Wells"
ITV Sunday Night Theatre Ben Spray Episode: "Ben Spray"
My Wife Next Door George Bassett Series regular
1972–1973 Upstairs, Downstairs Thomas Watkins Recurring role
1973 ITV Play of the Week Azarius Episode: "Tobias and the Angel"
1974–1975 No, Honestly Charles Danby Series regular
1975–1978 Wodehouse Playhouse Various roles Series regular
1977 The Upchat Line Mike Upchat Recurring role
1979 Thomas & Sarah Thomas Watkins Series regular
1980 Play for Today Paul Clements Episode: "A Walk in the Forest"
Tales of the Unexpected Rev. George Duckworth Episode: "Georgy Porgy"
1983–1984 Father's Day Lyall Jarvis Series regular
1987–1994 Fireman Sam Narrator Voice role
1988 Tales of the Unexpected Robert Sandy Episode: "The Surgeon"
1989–1992 Forever Green Jack Boult Series regular
1990 Screenplay Doug Episode: "Keeping Tom Nice"
1991 Tonight at 8.30 Various roles 3 episodes
1996 Testament: The Bible in Animation Jonah Episode: "Jonah", voice role
1998 Heartbeat Jim Ryan Episode: "The Enemy Within"
The Mrs Bradley Mysteries Alastair Bing Episode: "Speedy Death"
1999 Peak Practice Harry Capper Episode: "Before the Lights Go Out"
2001 Dalziel and Pascoe Sgt Ted Lock Episode: "Secrets of the Dead"
2004 Down to Earth David Brewer Episode: "Family Ties"
He Knew He Was Right Mr. Outhouse Miniseries
Doc Martin John Slater Episode: "Of All the Harbours in All the Towns"
2008 Little Dorrit Mr. Casby Series regular


  1. ^ John Alderton Biography (1940–)
  2. ^ "Alderton, John". Who's Who 2008. A&C Black. 2008. ISBN 978-0-7136-8555-8. Education: Kingston High Sch., Hull
  3. ^ Vagg, Stephen (18 May 2020). "Trying to Make a Case for Royal Flash". Diabolique.

External linksEdit