Upstairs, Downstairs actress Nicola Pagett dies aged 75

Mar 05, 2021
Nicola Pagett has died aged 75. Source: Talking Pictures TV Twitter

Screen and stage actress Nicola Pagett who played the rebellious Elizabeth Bellamy in TV series Upstairs, Downstairs, died on Wednesday, March 3, aged 75.

The Guardian reported the actress died of a brain tumour.

Born in Cairo on June 15, 1945 Pagett was just 17 when she was accepted into London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and soon sparked interest in the industry for her role in a stage production of La Contessa opposite Vivien Leigh.

With a career spanning 30 years, the actress will not soon be forgotten, being described by The Guardian as “a glacial, beautiful presence in plays from Shaw to Pinter”, who “illuminated” Upstairs, Downstairs in the early 1970s.

The popular 70’s TV series won four Emmy Awards for outstanding drama/limited series, with Pagett playing the spoilt and self-obsessed daughter of Lady Marjorie and Richard Bellamy during the first two seasons.

“There weren’t any stars really — that was the beauty of it. Everyone had an equal importance in the thing. The product was more important than the people in it in those days. So, if it was a success, it was a success because everyone in it was good rather than because the actor in it was well known,” Pagett said in a 2002 interview.

Pagett’s TV career continued well after Upstairs, Downstairs and included roles in the 1973 telefilm Frankenstein: The True Story, the 1977 mini-series Anna Karenina, 1984 mini-series A Woman of Substance, A Bit of a Do and Ain’t Misbehavin.

Her film career was just as impressive, appearing on the silver screen in Anne of a Thousand Days (1969), There’s a Girl in My Soup (1970) with Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn, Privates on Parade (1983) with John Cleese and Denis Quilley, and An Awfully Big Adventure (1995), alongside Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman.

On stage, Pagett starred alongside Michael Gambon and Liv Ullmann in a 1985 revival of Harold Pinter’s Old Times, A Voyage Round My Father (1971), A Family and a Fortune (1975).

It was during A Family and a Fortune that Pagett met actor and writer Graham Swannell, whom she married in 1975.

In 1997, Pagett wrote the book, Diamond Behind My Ears, telling of her battle with manic depression and in the same year she divorced from husband Swannell after 22 years of marriage.

Pagett lived in south-west London with her two Persian cats for company, dealing with her illness while cooking, gardening and power-walking.

She is survived by her daughter, Eve, and by her sister, Angela.

Become a Starts at 60 Member now.

Starts at 60 Members get a whole lot more value here. It’s free to join and you’ll get:

  • Exclusive emailers with the latest news and leading insights from retirement experts
  • Free online Retirement Masterclasses and other events
  • Amazing deals on tours, cruises, and community holidays from Travel at 60
  • And *new* an ecommerce marketplace just for over 60s with exclusive member offers

What are you waiting for?

Join for freearrow_forward

What role do you best remember Nicola Pagett in?

Please sign in to post a comment.
Retrieving conversation…
Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up