Patricia Routledge

Patricia Routledge
Born Katherine Patricia Routledge
(1929-02-17) 17 February 1929
Tranmere, Birkenhead, Cheshire, England
Residence Chichester, West Sussex, England
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1952–present
Denomination Church of England

Katherine Patricia Routledge, CBE (born 17 February 1929) is an English actress and singer. She is best known for her role as Hyacinth Bucket in the British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances (1990–95), for which she was nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Light Entertainment Performance in 1992 and 1993. Her film appearances include To Sir, with Love (1967) and Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968).

Routledge made her professional stage debut at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1952 and her Broadway debut in How's the World Treating You in 1966. She won the 1968 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in Darling of the Day, and the 1988 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Candide.

On television, she came to prominence during the 1980s in monologues written by Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood; appearing in Bennett's A Woman of No Importance (1982), as Kitty in Victoria Wood as Seen on TV (1985–86), and being nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for Bennett's Talking Heads: A Lady of Letters (1988). She also starred as Hetty Wainthropp in the British television series Hetty Wainthropp Investigates (1996–98).

Early life and education

Routledge was born in Tranmere, Birkenhead, Cheshire, to parents Catherine (née Perry) and Isaac Routledge.[1] Her father was a haberdasher[2] and during the Second World War, the family lived in the basement of his shop for weeks at a time.

She was educated at Mersey Park Primary School, Birkenhead High School,[3] now a state-funded Academy school, and the University of Liverpool.[4] At Liverpool she graduated with Honours in English Language and Literature[5][6] and was not on a path to pursue an acting career. She was, however, involved in the university's dramatic society, where she worked closely with the academic Edmund Colledge, who both directed and acted in several of the society's productions. It was Colledge who persuaded her to pursue an acting career.[7] After graduating from Liverpool, she trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and launched her acting career at the Liverpool Playhouse.[8]



Routledge has had a prolific career in theatre, particularly musical theatre, in the United Kingdom and the United States. She has been a long-standing member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), appearing in such acclaimed productions as the 1983 Richard III, which starred Antony Sher in the title role.[9][10] Her West End credits include Little Mary Sunshine,[11] Cowardy Custard,[12] Virtue in Danger,[13] Noises Off,[14] The Importance of Being Earnest,[15] and The Solid Gold Cadillac,[16] as well as a number of less successful vehicles. She was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in And a Nightingale Sang in 1979. A classically trained singer,[17] she has occasionally made forays into operetta including taking the title role in an acclaimed production of Jacques Offenbach's La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein at the 1978 Camden Festival; "As the Grand Duchess she invested every phrase, spoken or sung [...] with wit and meaning, and coloured her tone to express a wide variety of emotions. Never did she resort to the hoydenish behaviour that this role — in British productions at least — seems to invite."[18]

Routledge made her Broadway debut in Roger Milner's outrageous comedy, How's the World Treating You? in 1966, returning in the short-lived 1968 musical Darling of the Day,[19] for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, sharing the honour with Leslie Uggams of Hallelujah, Baby![20] Following this, Routledge had roles in several more unsuccessful Broadway productions including a musical called Love Match, in which she played Queen Victoria; the legendary 1976 Leonard Bernstein flop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in which she portrayed every U.S. First Lady from Abigail Adams to Eleanor Roosevelt;[21] and a 1981 musical, Say Hello to Harvey  based on the Mary Coyle Chase play Harvey (1944)   which closed in Toronto before reaching New York.[22]

In 1980, Routledge played Ruth in the Joseph Papp production of The Pirates of Penzance, co-starring American actor Kevin Kline and pop vocalist Linda Ronstadt, at the Delacorte Theatre in New York City's Central Park, one of a series of Shakespeare in the Park summer events.[23][24] The show was a hit and transferred to Broadway the following January, with Estelle Parsons replacing Routledge. A DVD of the Central Park production, with Routledge, was released in October 2002. She also performed in Façade at New York's Carnegie Recital Hall.[25]

Routledge won a Laurence Olivier Award in 1988 for her portrayal of the Old Lady in Leonard Bernstein's Candide in the London cast of the critically acclaimed Scottish Opera production.[6] She also played the role of Nettie Fowler to great acclaim in the 1993 London production of Carousel.[26] In a 2006 Hampstead Theatre production of The Best of Friends, she portrayed Dame Laurentia McLachlan.[27] In 2008, she played Queen Mary in Royce Ryton's play Crown Matrimonial.[28] More recent work include the narrator in The Carnival of the Animals with the Nash Ensemble in 2010[29] the role of Myra Hess in the play Admission: One Shilling in 2011 and Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2014.[30]

Film and television

Routledge's screen credits include To Sir, with Love (1967),[31] Pretty Polly (1967),[32] 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia (1968), The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom (1968),[33] Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968),[34] If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) and Girl Stroke Boy (1971).

Routledge's early television appearances included a role in Steptoe and Son, in the episode "Seance in a Wet Rag and Bone Yard" (1974), as a clairvoyant called Madame Fontana. She also appeared in Coronation Street,[35] and as a white witch in Doctor at Large (1971). Also in 1971, Routledge played Mrs. Jennings in the BBC mini-series production of Sense and Sensibility. However, she did not come to prominence on television until she featured in monologues written for her by Alan Bennett from 1978 (A Visit from Miss Protheroe), and later Victoria Wood in the 1980s. She first appeared in Alan Bennett's A Woman of No Importance in 1982, and then as the opinionated Kitty in Victoria Wood as Seen on TV in 1985. She performed two further monologues in Bennett's Talking Heads in 1987 and 1998. Routledge was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Actress for the monologue "A Lady of Letters".

In 1990, Routledge was cast as Hyacinth Bucket in the comedy series Keeping Up Appearances.[36] She portrayed a formerly working-class woman with social pretensions (insisting her surname be pronounced "bouquet") and delusions of grandeur (her oft-mentioned "candlelight suppers").[37] Routledge delighted in portraying Hyacinth, as she claimed she couldn't stand people like her in real life. In 1991, she won a British Comedy Award for her portrayal,[38] and she was later nominated for two BAFTA TV Awards in 1992 and 1993. The series ended at Routledge's request in 1995.

In 1995, Routledge accepted the lead in another long-running series, playing Hetty Wainthropp in the mystery drama Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, co-starring rising star Dominic Monaghan as her assistant and Derek Benfield as her husband. It first aired in January 1996, and ran until the autumn of 1998, with one special episode in 1999.

She has also played several real-life characters for television, including Barbara Pym, and, in a dramatised BBC Omnibus biographical documentary of 1994, Hildegard of Bingen.[39]

In 2001, Routledge starred in Anybody's Nightmare, a fact-based television drama in which she played a piano teacher who served four years in prison for murdering her elderly aunt, but was acquitted following a retrial.[40]

Radio and audio books

Routledge's extensive radio credits include several Alan Bennett plays and the BBC dramatisation of Carole Hayman's Ladies of Letters, in which she and Prunella Scales play retired women exchanging humorous correspondence over the course of several years.[41] A tenth series of Ladies of Letters premiered on BBC Radio 4 in 2009.[42]

Radio work prior to 1985 included Private Lives, Present Laughter, The Cherry Orchard, Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland and The Fountain Overflows.[25]

Having a distinctive voice, Routledge has also recorded and released a variety of audiobooks including unabridged readings of Wuthering Heights and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and abridged novelisations of the Hetty Wainthropp series.[43]

In 1966, she sang the role of Mad Margaret in Ruddigore, the title role in Iolanthe, and Melissa in Princess Ida, in a series of BBC radio Gilbert and Sullivan recordings. She took part in a studio broadcast of Tchaikovsky's opera Vakula the Smith (narrating excerpts from the work by Gogol) in 1989.[44] In 2006, she was featured in a programme of the "Stage and Screen" series on Radio 3.[45]

Charity work

Routledge is an ambassador for age-positive charity Royal Voluntary Service, previously known as WRVS.

Personal life

Routledge has never married, has no children, and as of June 2008 resides in Chichester, West Sussex[46] and regularly worships at Chichester Cathedral.[6]

She was appointed OBE in 1993 and CBE in 2004.[5] As of July 2012, she was a patron of the Beatrix Potter Society.[47]

In 2008, Routledge received a Doctor of Letters degree from Lancaster University for her contribution to drama and theatre.[48]


Film and television work

Year Title Role Notes
1959 ITV Play of the Week Dido Morgan/Kate Barclay/Louisa Lindley TV series (6 episodes)
1960 The Terrible Choice TV series
1961 Hilda Lessways Hilda Lessways TV series (6 episodes)
1961 Coronation Street Sylvia Snape TV series (5 episodes)
1962 Z-Cars Madge Kenton TV series (1 episode: "Search")
1964 Victoria Regina Queen Victoria TV mini-series (4 episodes)
1965 Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life Irish Mother TV series (2 episodes)
1965 No Hiding Place Pat TV series (1 episode: "A Place in the Sun")
1965 Gaslight Theatre 'Our Mary' TV series (1 episode: "Britons to the Rescue or, English Virtue Preserved in South America")
1956–66 ITV Play of the Week Alice Clay/Maggie Hobson TV series (3 episodes)
1966 Eamonn Andrews Show herself TV series (1 episode)
1967 Thirty-Minute Theatre Beryl Turner TV series (1 episode: "An Absolute Treasure")
1967 Seven Deadly Sins Mrs. Vealfoy TV series (1 episode: "The Good & Faithful Servant")
1967 To Sir, with Love Clinty Clintridge
1967 A Matter of Innocence Miss Gudgeon Originally titled "Pretty Polly", starring Hayley Mills as the title role, Polly Barlow
1967 Androcles and the Lion Megaera, Androcles' Wife TV film
1967 Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River Lucille Beatty Film directed by Walter Shenson[49]
1968 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia Mrs. Woolley Film directed by Joseph McGrath[49]
1968 The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom Miss Reece Film directed by Joseph McGrath[49]
1968 The Ed Sullivan Show herself (Audience Bow/Singer) TV series (2 episodes)
1968 The Ed Sullivan Show Performer, "Not on Your Nellie" Soundtrack
1969 Lock Up Your Daughters Nurse Film directed by Peter Coe[49]
1969 ITV Saturday Night Theatre Hazel Day TV series (1 episode: "Hazel and Her New Gas Cooker")
1969 If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium Mrs. Featherstone
1970 Egghead's Robot Mrs Janice Wentworth Children's Film Foundation[49]
1961–70 Armchair Theatre[50] Miss Furling/New mother TV series (2 episodes)
1970 ITV Playhouse Fern/Rose TV series (1 episode: "Rose and Fern")
1971 Girl Stroke Boy Pamela Hovendon Film directed by Bob Kellett[49]
1971 Sense and Sensibility Mrs. Jennings TV series (4 episodes)
1971 Doctor at Large Audrey Watt TV series (1 episode: "It's All in the Mind")
1971 Play of the Month: Tartuffe[51] Dorine Videotaped drama
1971 Vincent Price Is in the Country herself TV film
1972 His and Hers Myrtle Waller TV series (1 episode: "Driving")
1973 Ooh La La! Lucienne Homenides de Histangau TV series (1 episode: "Caught in the Act")
1973 That's Life On-screen Participant BBC pilot programme[49]
1974 Affairs of the Heart Mrs. Meldrum TV series (1 episode: "Flora")
1974 Steptoe and Son Madame Fontana TV series (1 episode: "Seance in a Wet Rag and Bone Yard")
1974 ...And Mother Makes Five Mrs. Fletcher TV series (2 episodes)
1974 David Copperfield Mrs. Micawber TV mini-series (3 episodes)
1975 More Awkward Customers Cast member Video Arts training film[49]
1971–75 Play of the Month: When We Are Married Annie Parker Videotaped drama
1977 Nicholas Nickleby Madame Mantalini BBC TV mini-series (5 episodes)
1977 Jubilee TV series (1 episode: "Plain Jane")
1977 The Cost of Loving Sarah Taplow TV series (1 episode: "The Years Between")
1978 BBC2 Play of the Week Miss Protheroe TV series (1 episode: "A Visit from Miss Protheroe")
1978 Doris and Doreen Doreen Bidmead TV film
1979 Crown Court Rita Finch TV series (1 episode: "Forever: Part 1")
1980 The Pirates of Penzance Ruth TV film
1980 Play for Today ATS Officer TV series (1 episode: "The Imitation Game")
1980 The Curse of King Tut's Tomb 'Posh' Lady TV film
1982 Objects of Affection Peggy Schofield TV series (1 episode: "A Woman of No Importance")
1983 The Beggar's Opera Mrs. Peachum TV film
1983 Keep Off the Grass Bag Lady Short
1983 The Two Ronnies Madame Multitude TV series (1 episode)
1984 Home Video TV film
1985 Marjorie and Men Marjorie Belton TV series (6 episodes)
1985–86 Victoria Wood as Seen on TV Kitty TV series (5 episodes)
1987 When We Are Married Maria Helliwell TV film
1988 Tales of the Unexpected Milly Dobson TV series (1 episode: "The Verger")
1988 Talking Heads Miss Ruddock TV mini-series (1 episode: "A Lady of Letters")
1988 Sophia and Constance Mrs. Baines TV series (3 episodes)
1989 First and Last Ivy TV film
1989 Let's Face the Music On-screen participant Yorkshire TV (programmes on Noël Coward, Jerome Kern and Frederick Loewe)[49]
1990 Missing Persons Hetty Wainthropp TV film
1990 Alas Smith and Jones TV series (1 episode)
1991 Miss Pym's Day Out Barbara Pym TV series
1993 The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends Cousin Ribby TV series (2 episodes)
1994 Hildegard of Bingen Hildegard von Bingen BBC TV Dramatisation/documentary[49]
1990–95 Keeping Up Appearances Hyacinth Bucket TV series (44 episodes)
1997 Heroes of Comedy herself TV series documentary (1 episode: "Alastair Sim", as Patricia Routledge OBE)
1996–98 Hetty Wainthropp Investigates Hetty Wainthropp TV series (27 episodes)
1998 Talking Heads 2 Miss Fozzard TV mini-series (1 episode: "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet")
1998 Funny Women herself TV series documentary (1 episode: "Patricia Routledge")
2001 Anybody's Nightmare Sheila Bowler TV film
2003 In Search of the Brontës narrator TV film
2004 The Funny Ladies of British Comedy herself TV documentary
2004 Ronnie Barker: A BAFTA Tribute herself TV film
2004 Comedy Connections herself TV series documentary (1 episode: "Keeping Up Appearances")
2005 The Funny Blokes of British Comedy herself TV documentary
2006 A Taste of My Life herself TV series documentary (1 episode: "Alan Bennett")
2008 Keeping Up Appearances: Life Lessons from Onslow Hyacinth Bucket Video
2008 The Greatest Christmas Comedy Moments herself TV documentary
2016 Beatrix Potter with Patricia Routledge herself TV documentary

Stage work

Year Production Role Venue
1952 A Midsummer Night's Dream Hippolyta Liverpool Playhouse, Liverpool
1954 The Duenna Carlotta Westminster Theatre, London
1956 The Comedy of Errors Adriana Arts Theatre, London
1957 Zuleika Aunt Mabel Saville Theatre, London
1959 The Love Doctor Henrietta Argan Piccadilly Theatre, London
1960 Follow That Girl Mrs. Gilchrist Vaudeville Theatre, London
1961 Come As You Are Guildford
1961 Out of My Mind Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
1962 Little Mary Sunshine Mary Potts ("Little Mary Sunshine") Comedy Theatre, London
1963 The Relapse, Virtue in Danger Berinthia Mermaid and Strand Theatres, London
1964 Home and Beauty Victoria Croydon
1965 How's the World Treating You? Violet/Nell/Rover London (1965) and Music Box Theatre, Broadway (1966)
1968 Darling of the Day Alice Challice George Abbott Theatre, New York City
1968 Love Match Queen Victoria Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles
1969 The Caucasian Chalk Circle Mother-in-law Chichester Festival
1969 The Country Wife Lady Fidget Chichester Festival
1969 The Magistrate Agatha Posket Chichester Festival and Cambridge Theatre, London
1971 First Impressions Mrs Bennet Birmingham Rep
1972 Cowardy Custard Mermaid Theatre, London
1973 Dandy Dick Georgina Tidman Chichester Festival and Garrick Theatre, London
1975 The Cherry Orchard Madame Ranevsky Bristol Old Vic
1975 Othello Emilia Chichester Festival
1975 Made in Heaven Martha Avon Chichester Festival
1976 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue All of the First Ladies Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York City
1976 The Rivals Mrs Malaprop Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
1976 Zack Mrs Munnings Royal Exchange Theatre
1977 On Approval Maria Wislack Vaudeville Theatre, London
1978 Gracious Living[52] Daisy Tuttle Eisenhower Theatre, Washington, D.C.
1978 Semmelweiss Julia Eisenhower Theatre, Washington, D.C.
1979 The Schoolmistress Miss Dyott Royal Exchange Theatre
1979 And a Nightingale Sang... Peggy Stott Queen's Theatre, London
1980 The Pirates of Penzance Ruth Delacorte Theater, New York City
1981 Say Hello to Harvey Toronto
1982 Noises Off Dotty Otley Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith and Savoy Theatre, London
1983 When the Wind Blows Whitehall Theatre, London
1984 Richard III Queen Margaret Royal Shakespeare Company
1985 When We Are Married Maria Heliwell Whitehall Theatre, London
1988 Candide Old Lady The Old Vic, London
1989 Come for the Ride (one-woman show) UK tour
1992 Talking Heads Comedy Theatre, London
1992 Carousel Nettie Fowler National Theatre, London
1994 Mr and Mrs Nobody Carrie Pooter Greenwich Theatre, London
1994 The Rivals Mrs Malaprop Chichester Festival and Albery Theatre
1994 The Schoolmistress Miss Dyott Chichester Festival
1997 Beatrix Beatrix Potter Minerva Theatre, Chichester and UK tour
1999–2001 The Importance of Being Earnest Lady Bracknell Chichester Festival and Haymarket Theatre, London (1999),
Australian tour (2000) and Savoy Theatre, London (2001)
2002 Wild Orchids[53] Duchess Chichester Festival
2004 The Solid Gold Cadillac Mrs Laura Partridge Garrick Theatre, London
2006 The Best of Friends Dame Laurentia MacLachlan Hampstead Theatre and UK tour
2007 Office Suite Doreen/Miss Protheroe Minerva Theatre, Chichester and UK tour
2008 Crown Matrimonial Queen Mary UK tour
2009–present Admission: One Shilling Myra Hess UK and Australian tours
2009–present Facing the Music UK tours
2014 An Ideal Husband Lady Markby Chichester Festival


Cast Recordings

Year Album Notes
1960 Follow That Girl Original London Cast
1962 Little Mary Sunshine Original London Cast
1963 Virtue In Danger Original London Cast
1965 Hello, Dolly! 1965 London Studio Cast
1966 The Sound of Music 1966 London Studio Cast
1967 Androcles and the Lion 1967 Television Cast
1967 Kiss Me, Kate 1967 London Studio Cast
1968 Darling of the Day 1968 Original Broadway Cast
1969 A Talent to Amuse: Noel Coward's 70th Birthday Concert 1969 Concert Cast
1972 Cowardly Custard 1972 Original London Cast
1976 Cole 1976 Studio Cast
1985 I Remember Mama 1985 Original Cast Members
1987 An Evening With Alan Jay Lerner 1987 Concert Cast

Studio Albums

Year Album Notes
1973 Presenting Patricia Routledge Rereleased on CD in 1996

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1968 Tony Award Best Actress in a Musical Darling of the Day Won
1979 Olivier Award Best Supporting Actress And a Nightingale Sang... Nominated
1985 Olivier Award Best Supporting Performance Richard III Nominated
1988 Olivier Award Best Actress in a Musical Candide Won
1989 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Talking Heads: A Lady of Letters Nominated
1992 BAFTA TV Award Best Light Entertainment Performance Keeping Up Appearances Nominated
1992 Olivier Award Best Actress Talking Heads Nominated
1993 BAFTA TV Award Best Light Entertainment Performance Keeping up Appearances Nominated


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  30. An Ideal Husband review – Patricia Routledge can't rescue Wilde revival | Stage | The Guardian
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