Filming in Albert Square came to standstill this week as the cast ofEastEnders
bade farewell to their colleague Wendy Richard. On a day marked by both sadness and laughter over 100 members of crew and cast, both past and present, arrived by coach to attend the central London service while hundreds of fans lined the streets outside the church.
There were tears in the eyes of Todd Carty, who played Wendy's on-son Mark Fowler in the BBC soap, as he accompanied the wicker casket. Later the actor, who served as a pall bearer, paid tribute to the actress, who died of cancer last month aged 65.
"She was a loving, caring down-to-earth person and a real classy lady," he said, before describing the moment he met her in 1990, when he joined the cast of EastEnders. He approached her nervously, he said, with the words: "Hello mum", to which she replied: "Hello son". Raising laughter, he confessed that as a teenager Wendy had been among his favourite pin-ups, not realising she would one day play his mother.
Albert Square residents among the 1,000 mourners included Letitia Dean, who portrayed Sharon Watts, June Brown, who plays Dot Cotton, and Patsy Palmer, aka Bianca Jackson. They were joined by Wendy's colleagues from her time in Seventies series Are You Being Served, actor Frank Thornton - Captain Peacock - and Mollie Sugden.
In a particularly personal touch, Wendy - who played grumpy matriarch Pauline Fowler for 21 years until her character's death in 2006 – had requested her special recipe for chilli con carne be printed in the order of service. "That was Wendy for you – thoughtful to the end," said actor Ian Lavender, who became Pauline's second husband in the soap.