Dame Barbara Windsor: Carry On and EastEnders actress dies aged 83

Actress Dame Barbara Windsor, best known for her roles in EastEnders and the Carry On films, has died aged 83.

Her husband Scott Mitchell said she had died peacefully from Alzheimer’s at a London care home on Thursday evening.

He said she would be remembered for the “love, fun, friendship and brightness she brought to all our lives”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the tributes, tweeting: “So sad about Barbara Windsor, so much more than a great pub landlady and Carry On star.”

He added that she “campaigned for the lonely and the vulnerable – and cheered the world up with her own British brand of harmless sauciness and innocent scandal”. Barbara Windsor visited Downing Street to highlight the concerns over dementia care

Dame Barbara was diagnosed with the disease in 2014 and had moved to a care home earlier this year.

She appeared in nine films in the Carry On comedy series, plus Sparrows Can’t Sing, for which she was nominated for a Bafta, as well as parts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and On the Fiddle with Sir Sean Connery.

She was well known to millions of TV viewers for her portrayal of landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, starring alongside her on-screen children Ross Kemp and Steve McFadden.

Her last appearance in the soap came in 2016, the same year she was made a dame for her services to charity and entertainment.

She also worked in theatre – making her stage debut at 13 – and appeared in productions including Oh! What A Lovely War and Fings Ain’t Wot They Used To Be.

After her dementia diagnosis, Dame Barbara became an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society and met Mr Johnson to raise awareness about the disease. Some of Dame Barbara Windsor’s highlights as Peggy Mitchell

The star delivered a letter signed by 100,000 people pleading for better care for people affected by dementia and saying the system was “completely inadequate, unfair, unsustainable and in dire need of more money”.

Mr Mitchell, who campaigned alongside his wife, said of her death: “It was not the ending that Barbara or anyone else living with this very cruel disease deserve.

“I will always be immensely proud of Barbara’s courage, dignity and generosity dealing with her own illness and still trying to help others by raising awareness for as long as she could.”

The couple went public with her diagnosis in 2018 and Mr Mitchell had said they had been “really nervous” about revealing she was affected by the condition.

Tributes pouring in

In his statement he thanked the public, family and friends for support which he said “Barbara deeply appreciated”.

He added: “I’ve lost my wife, my best friend and soul mate and my heart or life will never feel the same without you.”

Tributes have been paid from across the entertainment world, with Danniella Westbrook, who played her on-screen daughter Sam Mitchell in EastEnders, tweeting: “My heart is broken. Bar, you will always [be] in my heart forever.”

Fellow EastEnder Patsy Palmer, who played Bianca Jackson, said: “I’m extremely sad to hear that my friend Dame Barbara Windsor has passed away. I’m sitting here thinking of the 100s of memories we shared.

Dame Barbara Windsor and her husband Scott Mitchell
Dame Barbara Windsor married Scott Mitchell in 2000

“Too many to comprehend. We were like family for a long time, ups, downs, ins and outs but you will never meet a more professional actress than Babs.”

Tamzin Outhwaite, who played Mel Owen in EastEnders, tweeted that she was “meant to be sleeping but can’t”, and described the actress as an icon and national treasure. “All I can hear is ‘ello darlin’,” she added in reference to Peggy Mitchell’s cockney catchphrase.

Little Britain star Matt Lucas said “it’s not an overstatement to say I think the whole country is in mourning today” and praised Dame Barbara for working “tirelessly” for charity “even when her own health was failing her”.

Singer Aled Jones described her as a “true national treasure”, and veteran broadcaster Tony Blackburn said she was a “lovely lady who was always such fun”.

The Alzheimer’s Society said it was “incredibly grateful” to Dame Barbara and her husband for their work bringing awareness to the disease.

In a statement, the charity said: “Dame Barbara Windsor was an amazingly true, much-loved national treasure, and in speaking out about her experiences shone like a beacon for others affected by dementia.”

Barbara Windsor and June Brown
Dame Barbara starred in EastEnders with June Brown, as Dot Cotton

Like her EastEnders character, Dame Barbara was born in east London, in Shoreditch in 1937.

She married three times, including to small-time criminal Ronnie Knight, and she also dated gangster Charlie Kray and his brother Reggie.

The actress married Mr Mitchell in 2000, with the pair having first met in 1992.