Stephanie Cole, OBE is an English stage, television, and film actress.
Cole was born in Solihull, then Warwickshire, now West Midlands. She trained at the world
famous Bristol Old Vic Theatre School 1958–1960 and like most actors of that time went on to
consolidate her acting skills in repertory theatres around the United Kingdom.
She made her stage debut at the age of seventeen playing the 90-year-old Madame Arcati in
Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. At the age of 63 she returned to the same role when the play was
revived at the West End's Savoy Theatre in 2004.
View a list of accessioned
items in the Stephanie Cole Archive
One of her most recognised and popular roles was of Dr Beatrice Mason in the
hugely popular series Tenko, a drama which chronicled the lives of British women in Singapore
after the Japanese invasion and their consequent confinement in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp.
Known by many of the women as 'Big Bea', Cole played the role of the stern, officious
yet kindly doctor over three series and a one off special between 1981 and 1985.
During this same period, and by now in her very early forties, she also played the elderly
paranoid and morose customer Delphine Featherstone (nicknamed "The Black Widow") in the BBC
comedy Open All Hours. Mrs Featherstone was the only rival to Nurse Gladys Emmanuel for shopkeeper
Arkwright's affections; though she was only attracted to him because she liked his stingy ways.
Arkwright was scared of her advances and often hid when he saw her approaching the shop.
In 1988 Cole joined the likes of Thora Hird, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and Patricia Routledge
in the ground breaking, award winning first series of Talking Heads, a series
of dramatic monologues written for BBC television by the acclaimed British playwright Alan Bennett.
Cole performed the role of 'Muriel' to great acclaim during the 30-minute monologue "Soldiering On".
In later years Cole would repeat her performance of this now famous monologue on both the
London stage and for BBC radio.
Another of Cole's famous roles was of the crabby ex-photojournalist Diana Trent in the sitcom
Waiting for God which ran from 1990 to 1994.Cole received the 1992 Best TV Comedy Actress award
at the British Comedy Awards for the role.
In 2006 Cole starred along side Victoria Wood in the Bafta award winning drama Housewife 49 as
Mrs Waite, the local head of the WRVS (Women's Voluntary Service).
Cole currently stars as Joan Norton, alongside Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz in the popular
ITV comedy-drama, Doc Martin. She plays the aunt of Clunes's character Dr. Martin Ellingham.
Aside from television, Cole's best work can also be seen on stage where she has been active
for almost forty years. On the West End stage she has featured in Noises Off in 1986
(Savoy Theatre), Steel Magnolias in 1989 (Lyric Theatre) and Quartet in 1999 (Albery Theatre).
Her most prominent stage role was as Betty in the hit comedy 'A Passionate Woman' written by
Kay Mellor. Directed by Ned Sherrin the play opened at the Comedy Theatre in 1994 and had a
nine month extended run. On the West End's production's last curtain call Cole was surprised by
Michael Aspel carrying the 'big red book' and was made the subject of This Is Your Life.
Cole was awarded an honorary Masters of Arts degree from the University of Bristol in 2002 and
in 2005, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday
Honours for her services to Drama, Elderly People, and to Mental Health Charities.