Heartbeat actor William Simons has died aged 78, his agent confirmed.
Swansea born William played PC Alf Ventress in all 18 series of the ITV Sunday night favourite show from 1992 to 2010.
After Heartbeat, he spent much of his time at the house he had bought in France.Widowed in 2002, he moved back to London and is survived by his second wife, Jackie.
Simons started his 60-year career at the age of ten, securing his first film role in a dramatisation of Phyllis Hambleton’s book, No Place for Jennifer according to the Yorkshire Post.
From then on after being bitten by the acting bug, the veteran star went on to appear in comedy and dramas, before heading to the stage.
The actor said in a rare interview back in 2013 that he was already playing a policeman called Inspector Fox in the BBC’s Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, when he began filming Heartbeat.
He said of his beloved character Alf Ventress: “Alf Ventress had no particular ambition in life. He spent his time behind the desk; he was a heavy smoker – unlike me. I don’t smoke, so we used herbal cigaaretes.
“Heartbeat gave me enormous pleasure because everyone got along so well. People still stop me to say how much they love watching the repeats.”
He revealed to the Express that his late wife Janie, had bought a cottage right by the Heartbeat set but he had to sell it 14 years later because people recognised him too often.
“It was impossible to step outside without being recognised as visitor numbers escalated with Heartbeat’s popularity,” he explained.
The actor said at the time that the Heartbeat cast – including stars like Mark Jordon and Nick Berry – had remained in touch: “I always look forward to our reunions.”
Simons joined the Stables Theatre Company which was set up by Granada Television in Manchester, and appeared in several plays.
As with many northern actors Simons also landed a part in ITV’s long-running soap Coronation Street playing two different roles.
The first being in May 1972 as Rita Fairclough’s boyfriend Harry Bates, before returning to the programme in October 1987 as Jim Cawley.
Simons also had a brief role in another northern-based soap Emmerdale as a police officer in 1976.
He was rarely out of work, bagging a recurring role as barrister Martin O’Conner in Crown Court, where he said made him a lot more recognisable.
Simons also enjoyed stints on TV classics like Last of the Summer Wine, Lovejoy, Bergerac and The Darling Buds of May.