Sally Thomsett

Sally Thomsett (born 3 April 1950)[1] is an English actress who starred as Phyllis in the film The Railway Children (1970) and played Jo in the TV sitcom Man About the House (1973–1976). She also appeared as Janice in the film Straw Dogs (1971).

Sally Thomsett
BornSally A Thomsett
(1950-04-03) 3 April 1950 (age 70)
Years active1964–1978
Nigel Newman
(m. 1971; div. 1971)

Claus Hede Nielsen
(m. 1980; sep 1984)
Partner(s)Paul Agnew (1993–present) (1 child)

Early lifeEdit

Thomsett was born in Plumpton in 1950[2] to Maurice and Dorothy Thomsett (née Joy) and had three older brothers. She grew up in nearby Brighton and attended the Elm Grove Infants and Juniors School.[3] One of her brothers offered her five shillings to successfully audition for The Max Bygraves Summer Show. After that, she appeared in several pantomimes until she left secondary school to attend Phildene Stage School in London.


Out of drama school, Thomsett made several films for the Children’s Film Foundation and appeared in many popular television series, including Theatre 625, Dixon of Dock Green, Nearest and Dearest and Z-Cars. She also starred as Jennifer Villiers in the comedy series The Very Merry Widow from 1967 to 1968 and also its spin-off The Very Merry Widow and How in 1969.

The Railway ChildrenEdit

In 1970, Thomsett was cast as the 11-year-old Phyllis despite being 20 years old at the time, two years older than Jenny Agutter, who played her elder sister, Bobbie. Her contract forbade her from revealing her true age during the making of the film, and she was not allowed to be seen smoking, drinking, driving her car or in the company of her boyfriend during the shoot.[4][5] However, she did have experience playing girls, and the Edwardian smocks disguised her bust. Even the film crew were unaware of her age, and they gave her sweets while treating Agutter as nearly an adult.[6] During an appearance on a BBC children's television programme shortly after, Thomsett was told, "I wouldn't dream of asking a lady her age, but you're obviously quite a bit older than the part you played in the film." She received a nomination for the BAFTA Film Award for Newcomer to Leading Film Roles.

Later careerEdit

Thomsett went on to appear in The Fenn Street Gang and Softly, Softly: Task Force before starring in the psychological thriller film Straw Dogs opposite Dustin Hoffman and Susan George, as well as Baxter! with Britt Ekland. After appearing in a television commercial advertising Bovril in 1972, Thomsett was spotted by directors Brian Cooke and Johnnie Mortimer, who cast her in the hit ITV sitcom Man About the House as Jo, a role that she played for the show's entire run from 1973 to 1976, including a 1974 spin-off film of the same name.

After Man About the House ended in 1976, Thomsett continued to act, appearing in Wodehouse Playhouse in 1978. After appearing in a Crunchie chocolate bars advert in 1979, Thomsett gave up acting for a while in order to travel the world. She returned in the mid-1980s and appeared on stage in a 1987 production of The Cat and the Canary[7] before making regular pantomime appearances. She also appeared in the music video for Doctor in Distress, a charity single made to save Doctor Who from cancellation in 1985.[8] Thomsett's career slowed down after the birth of her daughter, although she did appear on stage in 1998 and 1999 in a touring production of The Holly and the Ivy.

Although she now rarely acts, Thomsett appeared in Peter Pan as Mrs. Darling at Doncaster Racecourse during the 2014-2015 Christmas season.[9] She also occasionally appears at fan conventions.

It was announced in February 2021 that Thomsett would be returning to the screen after several decades, playing one of the lead roles in Together, a television comedy created and written by CJ De Mooi. This will mark her first acting appearance since 1978.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1971, Thomsett married her boyfriend of five years, Nigel Newman, although the marriage lasted just six months. While travelling the world, she met Danish entrepreneur Claus Hede Nielsen in Los Angeles. They wed in 1980 and separated in 1984. Thomsett had a daughter at the age of 46 with her partner Paul Agnew.



Year Title Role Notes
1964 Seventy Deadly Pills Gerty
1967 Danny the Dragon Jean
1970 The Railway Children Phyllis Waterbury
1971 Straw Dogs Janice Hedden
1973 Baxter! Nemo Newman
1974 Man About the House Jo


Year Title Role Notes
1965 Dead End Creek Jane TV series
1965 Theatre 625 Parsons' girl "The World of George Orwell: 1984"
1966 David Copperfield Agnes Wickfield "Distant Relations"
1966 Thirty-Minute Theatre Christine "Don't Go Down to the Bingo Mother, Father's Coming to Tea"
1967 River Rivals Penny Holmes TV series
1967 Sanctuary Maria Gomes "The Promised Land"
1967–68 The Very Merry Widow Jennifer Villiers TV series
1968 What Maisie Knew Maisie "Shuttlecock", "Flight", "Pursuit and Capture"
1968 For Amusement Only Letty "A Little Milk of Human Kindness"
1969 The Very Merry Widow and How Jennifer Villiers "How Far Can You Go?", "How About the Patter of Tiny Feet?"
1969 The Gold Robbers Sally Hartford TV miniseries
1969 Nearest and Dearest Brenda "The Birds and the Bees"
1969 Dixon of Dock Green Karen "Notify If Found"
1969–70 Take Three Girls Wendy Pond "Devon Violets", "Roses Round the Door"
1970 Wicked Woman Natalie "Madeleine Jury"
1970 Z-Cars Rita "Bottoms Up for the Walking Dead: Parts 1 & 2"
1970 Softly Softly: Task Force Susan "Lessons"
1970 Play of the Month Pamela Harrington "Five Finger Exercise"
1971 Doomwatch Judy Franklin "By the Pricking of My Thumbs..."
1971 The Fenn Street Gang Kathleen "Horses for the Courses"
1971 Shirley's World Catronia MacDonald "The Islanders"
1972 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Linda Nichols "When the Wheel Turns"
1973 Comedy Playhouse Miranda Elms "Marry the Girls"
1973 Oh, Father! Mary "Just Impediment"
1973 All Star Comedy Carnival Jo TV film
1973–1976 Man About the House Jo Main role
1978 Wodehouse Playhouse Celia Todd "Tangled Hearts"


  1. ^ "Sally Thomsett". BFI. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  2. ^ Sally Thomsett at IMDb
  3. ^ "Official school website ¦ Elm Grove School ¦ My Brighton and Hove". 22 March 2006. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  4. ^ The 100 Greatest Family Films, Granada Television (2005)
  5. ^ The Railway Children: Forever Young, The Guardian, 22 March 2010
  6. ^ How we made The Railway Children, The Guardian, G2 p. 19, 7 May 2013
  7. ^ "Production of The Cat and the Canary ¦ Theatricalia". Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  8. ^ "Who Cares: Doctor in Distress". Radio Times. 30 August 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Peter Pan from 2014 starring Sally Thomsett and Pee Wee Price". Retrieved 4 August 2020.

External linksEdit