Credit: Shutterstock/Wendy Richard

I've always looked upon it that your work is the most important thing

First becoming a household name in a 1960s soap opera, actress Wendy Richard was a matriarch in another soap, EastEnders, for more than 20 years – but is also remembered for her enduring comedy turns.

Born Wendy Emerton in Middlesbrough to publicans, the family moved around the country before settling in London. She was still in her teens when she landed her first TV role, in 1961 drama Stranger on the Shore. She went on to become a regular in 1960s soap The Newcomers, but not before she’d had a chart hit with Come Outside – a novelty song she recorded with Mike Sarne.

Wendy appeared in the very first episode of EastEnders as Pauline, a character very different from the roles she’d previously played. The plots were often dramatic, bleak and hard-hitting – she later said she’d relished the storylines of the soap’s early days and the on-screen dynamic she had with ‘husband’ Arthur (Bill Treacher).

On screen as Pauline, Wendy may not have always had much to laugh about, but her wit and sense of fun made her a much-loved regular on long-running radio panel show Just a Minute. One of her last TV roles was in the comedy Benidorm, while a guest appearance in Marple was aired after her death.

Wendy was twice treated for breast cancer and had been given the all-clear. In 2008, new cancer cells were found. She spoke openly about facing death.

Admitting she had been terrified when she was first diagnosed, she filmed a documentary to support other people coping with the disease. It charted the final months of her life and with the blessing of her long-term love John Burns, who she wed three months before she died, it was broadcast after her death.