Surrey resident Brian Blessed celebrates 60 years since his first TV role

PUBLISHED: 11:28 27 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:28 27 May 2020

Brian performong in King Lear for Guildford Shakespeare Company

Brian performong in King Lear for Guildford Shakespeare Company


Bernard Bale meets the actor, raconteur, mountaineer and very happy resident of Surrey as he celebrates the golden anniversary of his career

This article was written prior to lockdown and events mentioned may not be taking place

It was 60 years ago that a young Brian Blessed made his TV debut in a Saturday Playhouse TV production titled Last Day In Dreamland. How wrong could a title be?

For Brian it was not the last day in dreamland but the first and he has been having an amazing time on Film, TV and stage ever since.

“I don’t mind speaking about the past just so long as people do not assume it to be me talking up my own obituary,” he says.

“I don’t like pigeon-holing and the years on your birth certificate are not some kind of rule which says you must do this at that age or feel that way when you are of another age. It just tells you that you have gone from being a young fool to being a middle-aged fool to being an older fool, that’s it.

“I feel not much different than I did when I was 20. I do two hours of weights and cycling each day. I train, not because of vanity, but because of the expeditions I still want to do, such as climbing the five great mountains of northern Russia.”

Brian Blessed OBE (c) Matt PereiraBrian Blessed OBE (c) Matt Pereira

On screen, Brian has starred in everything from 115 episodes as PC “Fancy” Smith in Z-Cars, Doctor Who and Flash Gordon to Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare films, Black Adder and so many more roles than we can’t even begin to mention here.

On stage, his credits range from Shakespeare to thrillers and Cats to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Behind the scenes he has provided his amazing voice for Peppa Pig character Grampy Rabbit among countless others, as well as being a voice download on TomTom’s sat-nav system.

“Yes, I enjoyed that, imagine drivers listening to me giving them directions – when you get to the end of the road go stage left,” he jokes.

And to think that Brian Blessed could have had a totally different life as a miner. “I come from Mexborough in South Yorkshire at a time when most young men left school and went down the mines,” he explains.

“I always liked fresh air and climbing upwards rather than digging down. I might have taken a job on the railways because that was a big love of mine, but then so was boxing.

“Strange that I should end up being an actor. I think that it was in part because I liked peace and quiet and I still do. As an actor you need times when you are away from people, on your own, learning lines, contemplating your character and so on.”

He continues: “That is one of the reasons why I got into mountaineering – it is very peaceful on top of a mountain, not many people about and you can hear yourself breathing – especially if it has been a tough climb!

GSC Founders and Patron Brian Blessed at launchGSC Founders and Patron Brian Blessed at launch

“I am a peaceful sort of person really. I enjoy my garden at home. Some people think it is a little strange because the garden is about four or five acres and I love being there, including doing the actual gardening work.

“I have a Buddhist garden and an African garden, with figures of a 20ft giraffe, elephants and gorillas. It’s full of birds and bees, as I have beehives too.

“I have long had a love of koi carp too and I will often sit quietly by the pool and just watch them. It is an ever-changing picture and so relaxing to watch.”

Of course, that garden is in Surrey, where Brian has been resident for about 40 years.

“I live near Windlesham and I love it. We used to run something of a rescue centre with all kinds of animals, but mostly now it is dogs and horses so you could say we have quite a family to feed. They are all worth it though,” he says.

“I first fell in love with Surrey when I used to visit Richmond. Not only is there a beautiful theatre but Richmond Green is a delight and so is the river. I have rowed on the Thames at Richmond a number of times, absolutely marvellous.

“I still go there. Surrey is just perfect because we are not very far from London, airports and major roads leading to all over the country which is very handy when I am on my theatre tours.

Brian with GSC's Saturday groupBrian with GSC's Saturday group

“Nice people, too. We are also near places like Chobham Common which is one of the wonders of the world. The views from there are fantastic and I like to go there for a walk or a jog.”

Brian is also honorary patron of Guildford Shakespeare Company, which has been hosting various events to celebrate the famous playright’s birthday.

“I was flattered to become honorary patron of GSC and I take a keen and hands-on interest as much as possible,” Brian adds.

“What could be a better combination than Shakespeare and Surrey?”.

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