Character actor Frank Middlemass (pictured) - who worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in the West End, but was best known as Dan Archer in long-running radio drama The Archers - has died at the age of 87.

In 1949, after nine years in the army, Yorkshire-born Middlemass joined a theatre company in Penzance, where his acting career took off. He then performed with the Old Vic in London and Bristol, including playing Toby Belch alongside Vivien Leigh as Viola in Twelfth Night.

His work with the RSC, which he joined in 1984, included A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labours Lost and Hamlet. Middlemass’ West End stage credits included Little Boxes at the Duchess in 1968, Rosmerholm, Heartbreak House and You Never Can Tell in the late 1970s and 80s at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, and The Entertainer at the Shaftesbury in 1986. He also starred in Artist Descending a Staircase and You Can't Take It With You at the King’s Head.

On television, Middlemass played headmaster Algy Herries in the 1980 series, To Serve Them All My Days, Dr Alex Ferrenby in the original series of ITV drama Hearbeat, and more recently Rocky Hardcastle in As Time Goes By. He also appeared in Midsomer Murders, Casualty, Peak Practice and Doctors.

At 84, Middlemass was still touring the country, appearing as Canon Chasuble in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. He was born in Eaglecliffe, Yorkshire on 28 May 1919 and died on 8 September 2006.

- by Caroline Ansdell