Ruth Kettlewell

Actress often cast as a battleaxe


Ruth Anne Berry (Ruth Kettlewell), actress: born Worcester 13 April 1913; married 1932 The Rev Robert Kettlewell (deceased); died London 17 July 2007.

By her own admission, the character actress Ruth Kettlewell often played battleaxes, but it kept her in regular work on stage and television for half a century, sometimes only in fleeting roles.

A lifelong Christian, she even felt sympathy for those on the receiving end of her characters' stern actions. In Cathy Come Home (1965), the classic television drama that put homelessness on the political agenda, she played the unsympathetic judge serving an eviction order on Cathy and Reg (Carol White and Ray Brooks). This led to the couple and their two children being forcibly evicted from their squalid council house, a scene in which fear is etched on the toddlers' eyes as the door is hammered down, in this shocking play written by Jeremy Sandford, directed by Ken Loach and filmed documentary-style.

"I only had a cough-and-spit role, to condemn these poor souls and shift them," recalled Kettlewell, who had visited a magistrates' court to get a feel for the part. "I was very harsh to them. They were going through a very bad time."

She was born Ruth Berry in Worcester in 1913, the daughter of a clergyman and niece of Lt-Col W.P. Drury, a former Royal Marine and prolific author of novels and short stories, many featuring Private Pagett of the Marines. From the age of seven, she was brought up in North Yorkshire, where her father was the rector of Kildale.

In 1932, after attending Casterton School at Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire, then art college, she married the Rev Robert Kettlewell, the vicar of the North Yorkshire village of Great Ayton, given away by her uncle in a ceremony performed by her father.

She later started acting with a local repertory company, before joining the Women's Land Army during the Second World War. Her husband, who contracted scarlet fever while working as an Army padré, died after the war. Never marrying again, Kettlewell continued her fledgling acting career by joining the repertory company at Windsor, in 1949, then performed all over Britain.

She appeared in the West End as Miss Yorke in the Tennessee Williams play The Rose Tattoo (New Theatre, 1959) and Mrs Paroo in the original London cast of Meredith Willson's musical comedy The Music Man (Adelphi Theatre, 1961). Later, she took the role of Bosom in the National Theatre Company's production of the Jim Cartwright play Bed (Cottesloe Theatre, 1989).

Kettlewell's first film role was as a member of a group of actors seen in Room at the Top (1958), one of the first "kitchen sink" dramas, based on John Braine's novel about the working-class Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey), who falls for two women and will do anything to further his social ambitions.

Marked out clearly as a character actress, Kettlewell was subsequently cast as Mrs Bonner in the film version of Sons and Lovers (1960) and Duchess Sophie, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand's wife, in the satirical Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), but it was in television that she found herself most in demand.

Her earliest small-screen appearance had been as Mrs Murphy in an episode of the children's adventure serial Potts – Gangbuster (1956). Later, she played Mrs Jackson in the BBC serialisation of Swallows and Amazons (1963) and the by-the-book Dean's wife, Mrs Pugh-Critchley, in the sitcom All Gas and Gaiters, centring on the rivalries of clergy at the fictional St Ogg's Cathedral, but had to hand over to Joan Sanderson after the first run because of her own stage commitments.

She had regular roles on children's television, as the larger-than-life cook Mrs Grapple in Hope and Keen's Crazy House (1970-73) and Bessie Dearlove in both Boy Dominic (1974) and its sequel, Dominic (1976). Kettlewell also enjoyed appearing with comedians. She was in the sitcoms The Howerd Confessions (with Frankie Howerd, 1976) and How's Your Father? (alongside Harry Worth, 1979), as well as entertainment programmes such as The Mike Reid Show (1977) and Mike Yarwood in Persons (1977).

A regular in the congregation at St Augustine of Canterbury Church, Highgate, in north London, Kettlewell formed the St Augustine's Players as an amateur dramatics group for members of local churches. She was also an active member of the Actors' Church Union.

Anthony Hayward

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
people
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher (One day per week)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Maths Teacher (one day per week) Gr...

EBD Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Science Teacher Greater Manchester

Humanities Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Humanities teacher required for ...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits