Ysanne Churchman

Last updated 09 January 2020

Ysanne Churchman
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Isabel A. Churchman

Born: Thursday 14th May 1925 (age: 98)


Ysanne Churchman worked as an actress and narrator on British radio, TV and film for over 50 years (1938–1993). She achieved national fame as 'Grace Archer' in the long-running BBC drama series, when Grace died in a fire on the night when ITV launched in 1955.

Ysanne Churchman was born on 14 May 1925 in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, to Andrew Churchman and Gladys Dale, well-known stage and radio performers in London.

In 1938 Churchman appeared on both BBC Radio Children's Hour and in a BBC TV play Gallows Glorious. She trained as a dancer at Cone-Ripman College. After learning repertory and theatre she specialised in radio and voice work for film and television. This led to national fame as Grace in the long-running radio series The Archers when Grace suffered grievous injuries in a fire on the night of the ITV launch in 1955; the character died in the following day's episode. (She strongly suspected the producer was glad to be rid of her at the time as she had discovered that some of her cast members in this regional, Birmingham, production, were not being paid Equity minimum rates and raised the matter). She went on to voice five other Archers characters over the years, most recently Mary Pound in 1983.

Along with many story-telling and reading roles on the BBC she also performed as: Sara in the series Sara and Hoppity, Marla and Cassie in Space Patrol, the voice of Alpha Centauri in the series Doctor Who, and Soo the computer in Dominick Hyde. She was the first actress employed by Capital Radio, reading a serial book.

She married Tony Pilgrim MBE a senior BBC engineer, in 1951 and they celebrated their Diamond Wedding anniversary in 2011. He died in January 2015 after 63 years of marriage. She retired in 1993, but still does occasional voice-over and television appearances.

Following the death of Dorothy-Rose Gribble on 1st October 2014, Churchman is currently the oldest-living Doctor Who actress, followed by Honor Blackman and June Whitfield.

Biography from the wikipedia article, licensed under CC-BY-SA