News, Culture & Society

The Archers: Photos of the faces behind the voices as June Spencer retires at 103

After 72 years, the voice of The Archers’ Peggy Woolley has retired at the age of 103.

June Spencer, who made her first appearance on the Radio 4 soap in May 1950, was the only remaining member of the original cast – but has finally stepped down despite pleas from BBC bosses.

But she is far from the only long-serving cast member still bringing Ambridge to life. 

There are more than a dozen actors who have appeared on the show for more than three decades, with fellow Archers legend Patricia Greene (Jill Archer) only slightly behind June Spencer with 65 years under her belt. 

Angela Piper has played Jennifer Aldridge for almost 60 years, while Judy Bennett has brought Shula Hebden Lloyd to life since 1971. T

The extraordinarily long stints make several members of The Archers among the longest-serving soap actors anywhere in the world. 

Here, FEMAIL reveals the actors who’ve spent longest on the radio serial… 

Patricia Greene (Jill Archer)

First episode: 1957 

Tough and determined, Jill brought up four children at Brookfield and still rules the roost. She still misses Phil, her husband of 52 years, who died in 2010. Patricia Greene, known as Paddy, joined the cast in 1957. She is now in her 90s and is one of the longest-serving cast members

Tough and determined, Jill brought up four children at Brookfield and still rules the roost. She still misses Phil, her husband of 52 years, who died in 2010. Patricia Greene, known as Paddy, joined the cast in 1957. She is now in her 90s and is one of the longest-serving soap actress anywhere in the world

Angela Piper (Jennifer Aldridge)  

First episode: 1963 

As the wife of Brian Aldridge, Jennifer may seem the pinnacle of respectability but she has had to overcome a chequered past. The character first appeared in 1951 and was played by a string of actresses until Angela Piper, now 82, joined the cast in June 1963. Pictured, in 1966

Angela Piper in 2010

As the wife of Brian Aldridge, Jennifer may seem the pinnacle of respectability but she has had to overcome a chequered past. The character first appeared in 1951 and was played by a string of actresses until Angela Piper, now 82, joined the cast in June 1963. Piper (pictured in 1966, left, and in 2010, right) said of her character: ‘Capable, caring, family-oriented, well-groomed and more intelligent than many are prepared to admit. And I always say ‘under the cashmere beats a heart of gold”

Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd)

First episode: 1971 

A devout Christian with a heavy involvement in the Ambridge church and its Parish Council, Shula has been featured in some of the show's most controversial and high-profile storylines including the death of her first husband Mark, an affair with the village doctor, and struggles to having children which ultimately led to successful IVF treatment. The character was introduced as the eldest daughter of Phil Archer and Jill Archer in 1958. Shula has been portrayed by Liverpudlian actress Judy Bennett, now in her late 70s, since 1971. Pictured, in 1980

Judy Bennett as Shula Hebden Lloyd in 2011

A devout Christian with a heavy involvement in the Ambridge church and its Parish Council, Shula has been featured in some of the show’s most controversial and high-profile storylines including the death of her first husband Mark, an affair with the village doctor, and struggles to having children which ultimately led to successful IVF treatment. The character was introduced as the eldest daughter of Phil Archer and Jill Archer in 1958. Shula has been portrayed by Liverpudlian actress Judy Bennett, now in her late 70s, since 1971

Brian Hewlett (Neil Carter)

First episode: 1973

Brian Hewlett's first appearance in The Archers was whilst he was with the BBC Drama Repertory Company. This was as young Johnny Martin in 1970. When the part of Neil Carter was being thought about as a newcomer to the Ambridge scene, actor Bob Arnold, who had worked with Carter, suggested him for the role. After recording his first episode in February 1973 producer Tony Shryane hinted to Brian that 'we might write Neil in for a few more episodes'. Almost 50 years later and Brian, now in his early 80s, is still playing the pig manager. Pictured, Brian as a young actor in the 1960s

Brian Hewlett in 2010

Brian Hewlett’s first appearance in The Archers was whilst he was with the BBC Drama Repertory Company. This was as young Johnny Martin in 1970.  When the part of Neil Carter was being thought about as a newcomer to the Ambridge scene, actor Bob Arnold, who had worked with Carter, suggested him for the role. After recording his first episode in February 1973 producer Tony Shryane hinted to Brian that ‘we might write Neil in for a few more episodes’. Almost 50 years later and Brian, now in his early 80s, is still playing the pig manager. Pictured, Brian as a young actor in the 1960s

Patricia Gallimore (Pat Archer)

First episode: 1974 

Firebrand Welsh feminist Pat shook up Ambridge when she married Tony in 1974, finding time to play football and attend CND rallies as well as bringing up her children John, Helen and Tom. Pat has faced many crises, including an E coli outbreak in the dairy and Tony being crushed by a bull. But her biggest regret is not trusting her instincts about Helen¿s abusive partner Rob Titchener. Before joining The Archers cast, Gallimore, now 78, was starring in some of the BBC's most popular radio serials and dramas. Pictured, in 1999

Patricia Gallimore in 2010

Firebrand Welsh feminist Pat shook up Ambridge when she married Tony in 1974, finding time to play football and attend CND rallies as well as bringing up her children John, Helen and Tom. Pat has faced many crises, including an E coli outbreak in the dairy and Tony being crushed by a bull. But her biggest regret is not trusting her instincts about Helen’s abusive partner Rob Titchener. Before joining The Archers cast, Gallimore, now 78, was starring in some of the BBC’s most popular radio serials and dramas. Pictured, in 1999 (left) and in 2010

Charles Collingwood (Brian Aldridge)

First episode: 1975 

Breezing into Ambridge in 1975, wealthy young farmer Brian snapped up Home Farm and in 1976 married Jennifer Travers-Macy (neé Archer). After 40 years of life at Home Farm, Brian had to sell the farm house to cope with the financial fallout from the toxic contamination that leaked from his land. He has been played for almost 50 years by Canadian born actor Charles Collingwood, now 79, who is married to cast member Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd). Pictured, Charles Collingwood as Brian early into his Archers career

The actor in 2010

Breezing into Ambridge in 1975, wealthy young farmer Brian snapped up Home Farm and in 1976 married Jennifer Travers-Macy (neé Archer). After 40 years of life at Home Farm, Brian had to sell the farm house to cope with the financial fallout from the toxic contamination that leaked from his land. He has been played for almost 50 years by Canadian born actor Charles Collingwood, now 79, who is married to cast member Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd). Pictured, Charles Collingwood as Brian early into his Archers career (left) and in 2010

Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy)

First episode: 1979 

Trevor Harrison, now 64, joined The Archers as Eddie Grundy, the king of the money-making scheme who has tried everything from B&Bs to turkey farming over the years. Harrison (pictured in 1985) said of his character: I think Eddie is a loveable rogue. He is a bit naughty at times, but can also be sensitive when the situation arises and he very much a family man'. Pictured, in 1985

Harrison in 2010

Trevor Harrison, 64, joined The Archers as Eddie Grundy, the king of the money-making scheme who has tried everything from B&Bs to turkey farming. Harrison said of his character: I think Eddie is a loveable rogue. He is a bit naughty at times, but can also be sensitive when the situation arises and he very much a family man’. Pictured, in 1985 (left) and 2010

Timothy Bentinck (David Archer)

First episode: 1982 

Timothy in the 1980s

The actor in 2010

Actor Timothy Bentinck can describe himself as a great deal more than just David Archer in The Archers. He is an accomplished stage and television actor and also an inventor, writer, computer programmer and musician. He was even the voice of the Piccadilly London Underground line. Bentinck’s character David Archer has grown from a young farmer who locked horns with his father to a husband determined to prove himself worthy of wife Ruth

Charlotte Martin (Susan Carter)

First episode: 1983 

Charlotte Martin plays Susan Carter, the dairy worker and Ambridge Community Shop manager who constantly wants to better herself and loves her ties to the wealthy Aldridge family. Martin, who joined the radio drama in 1983, has spoken of her joy at being able to play Susan for so long. She even found time to study for a PhD during her time on the show. At one point, Martin juggled her recording commitments with her job as a senior research fellow with a local mental health trust, although it is not known if she still holds the position. Pictured, in 1998

Charlotte Martin in 2020

Charlotte Martin plays Susan Carter, the dairy worker and Ambridge Community Shop manager who constantly wants to better herself and loves her ties to the wealthy Aldridge family. Martin, who joined the radio drama in 1983, has spoken of her joy at being able to play Susan for so long. She even found time to study for a PhD during her time on the show. At one point, Martin juggled her recording commitments with her job as a senior research fellow with a local mental health trust, although it is not known if she still holds the position

Alison Dowling (Elizabeth Pargetter)

First episode: 1984 

Actress Alison Dowling, 62, was in her early 20s when she first joined The Archers as Elizabeth Pargetter, the baby of the Archer family who was a sickly child and a bright, spoilt teenager. She had an affair with fraudster Cameron Fraser before marrying Nigel Pargetter in 1994. The couple welcomed twins Freddie and Lily. Nigel¿s death in 2011 devastated Elizabeth but she has overcome heartache and - after a fling with Roy Tucker - has found love with Vince Casey. Alison (pictured in 1998) has spoken of how her life has mirrored her character. She even welcomed her youngest son at the same time the twins were born

Alison in 2010

Actress Alison Dowling, 62, was in her early 20s when she first joined The Archers as Elizabeth Pargetter, the baby of the Archer family who was a sickly child and a bright, spoilt teenager. She had an affair with fraudster Cameron Fraser before marrying Nigel Pargetter in 1994. The couple welcomed twins Freddie and Lily. Nigel’s death in 2011 devastated Elizabeth but she has overcome heartache and – after a fling with Roy Tucker – has found love with Vince Casey. Alison (left in 1998 and right in 2010) has spoken of how her life has mirrored her character. She even welcomed her youngest son at the same time the twins were born 

Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)

First episode: 1986 

'Lynda's deeply deluded, big on self-regard, low on self-awareness, has no sense of humour and a deep-down insecurity ("only Robert understands me") - but is also well meaning and basically good-hearted,' actress Carole Boyd has said of the character she has played for more than 30 years. Carole, 81, has enjoyed a varied career that has seen her record 300 audio books and voice every female character on Postman Pat. Pictured, in 1997

Carole in 2016

‘Lynda’s deeply deluded, big on self-regard, low on self-awareness, has no sense of humour and a deep-down insecurity (‘only Robert understands me’) – but is also well meaning and basically good-hearted,’ actress Carole Boyd has said of the character she has played for more than 30 years. Carole, 81, has enjoyed a varied career that has seen her record 300 audio books and voice every female character on Postman Pat. Pictured, in 1997 (left) and 2016

Graham Blockey (Robert Snell) 

First episode: 1986

Truly multi-talented,

Truly multi-talented, actor Graham Blockey, 66, has voiced the character of Robert Snell since 1986. But it was not his main source of income. For the radio star spent his days working as a GP at his local clinic in Surrey. He marked his retirement in 2017 by ‘outing’ himself as Robert Snell, the IT worker turned high class odd job man and B&B purveyor

Felicity Finch (Ruth Archer)

First episode: 1987 

Felicity as Ruth in 1997

The actress in 2010

Ruth Archer was created and introduced to The Archers as a love interest for established character David Archer (Timothy Bentinck) and has become one of the show’s most divisive characters. She has been described as a ‘much-loved character’ and a ‘cheery supermum-farmer’, but has also been called the ‘most irritating’ Ambridge resident. Finch, now 67, has enjoyed a successful radio career and has produced documentaries for the BBC

Philip Molloy (Will Grundy)

First episode: 1989 

Actor Philip Molloy joined the Archers in 1989 at the tender age of eight. He has gone from child star to a father of two children of his own and has chartered his character through storylines including first heartbreak, the death of his wife Nic and deep mental health issues. Pictured, Philip in 1996

Philip in 2010

Actor Philip Molloy joined the Archers in 1989 at the tender age of eight. He has gone from child star to a father of two children of his own and has chartered his character through storylines including first heartbreak, the death of his wife Nic and deep mental health issues. Pictured, Philip in 1996 (left) and in 2010 

The Archers’ June Spencer retires aged 103 after 72 years on air as Peggy Woolly

ByXindi Wei For The Daily Mail

After 72 years, the voice of The Archers’ Peggy Woolley has retired at the age of 103.

June Spencer, who made her first appearance on the Radio 4 soap in May 1950, was the only remaining member of the original cast – but has finally stepped down despite pleas from BBC bosses.

‘I’ve been trying to retire for at least a year,’ she told The Daily Telegraph. 

‘They didn’t want to lose her character. Every time I tried to stop, they gave me more episodes.

‘The idea was that the country characters having to explain things to Peggy educated the listeners.’

Original star: June Spencer (pictured), the voice of Peggy Woolley in The Archers, was the only member of the original cast

Original star: June Spencer (pictured), the voice of Peggy Woolley in The Archers, was the only member of the original cast 

Miss Spencer, whose husband Roger Brocksom died in 2001, has already taped her last episodes, which were broadcast on July 31. 

They were recorded from a custom studio at her Surrey home, to save her commuting to the show’s Birmingham base.

Mrs Woolley has not been officially removed from the show, and Miss Spencer admitted she didn’t know how she would be written out. 

Miss Spencer's last episodes were broadcast on July 31. Pictured on the left in 1950 recording a pilot for The Archers and on the right in her current handout picture from 2010

Miss Spencer’s last episodes were broadcast on July 31. Pictured on the left in 1950 recording a pilot for The Archers and on the right in her current handout picture from 2010

‘The simplest thing is if [Peggy has] a fall or something and goes into The Laurels [the fictional Ambridge care home],’ she said. 

‘She can languish for years there.’

The Duchess of Cornwall recently called Peggy Woolley a ‘national treasure’.

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk