Maryann Turner: Star of stage and screen with roots in Norfolk

An actress involved in film, television and theatre around the world, Maryann Turner, who has died peacefully aged 77, lived in Norfolk for more than half a century.

She made one of her earliest appearances at the Theatre Royal, Norwich, after she had started her career on the stage during the mid 1950s.

She was still playing supporting roles, especially in character, until a few months ago and even took part in the last John Lewis Christmas commercial.

Her television credits included more than 60 productions with roles in The Bill, Casualty, Kingdom and Silent Witness. One of her first TV roles was in an early episode of Z Cars in 1963 playing a hotel maid.

She was in the BBC 2 series, Talking to a Stranger (1966), and film roles included Cider with Rosie (1971), The Man with Two Heads (1972) and The Decoy Bride, released last year. Most recently, she had parts in EastEnders and also Doc Martin with Martin Clunes.

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Maryann, who was born in India where her parents worked for British Petroleum, comes from an old-established west Norfolk family. Her grandfather, E W Margarson, was a well-known veterinary surgeon.

She went to school in New Zealand before moving to Mundford, where she had restored a thatched cottage over a number of years.

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Her ability to speak the Norfolk dialect helped to get her the role as leading lady in a BBC Radio 4 play, Three Threes are Seven as she told the EDP in October 1969. Written by Norfolk author Kenneth Jones, it required actors with the correct accent.

Her first love was always live theatre and more recently her stage work took her to Iceland and South Africa. But her ability to play character roles, especially television parts, kept her working into her mid seventies.

Well-known and popular in the village, she supported local good causes and even donated a new building for the local Scout troop. She was patron of Mundford Cricket Club and regularly attended parish council meetings.

She always opened her garden and hosted fund-raising strawberry teas, and even sold her cooking apples for church funds.

She was a member of St Leonard's parochial church council for many years. 'She had a very positive contribution to PCC meetings. She could analyse things in an instant and get straight to the heart of the matter. She was a lovely lady,' said the vicar, the Rev Ron Wiffen.

She divided her time between her flat in Kensington, London, where she was an active member of the congregation of St Mary Abbots parish church. Several months ago, she gave the Old Testament reading while another worshipper, prime minister David Cameron read from the New Testament. The vicar, the Rev Gareth Wardell, will also take part in the funeral service.

She was also an active supporter of the Conservative Party.

She kept a succession of budgerigars, which were always called George. Her latest, George 19, died just several days before she did.

She leaves a sister, Susie, who lives in New Zealand.

A funeral service will be held at St Leonard's Church, Mundford, today at noon.

Michael Pollitt

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