How Scarborough man Steve Hollings and Dame Barbara Windsor met ... and married

Dame Barbara Windsor, who has died aged 83, had close links to Scarborough.

The actress, one of Britain’s most beloved entertainment stars, first found fame in her role as a buxom blonde in the Carry On films and later became a household name playing Peggy Mitchell, the Queen Vic’s battle-axe landlady in BBC soap EastEnders.

Dame Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 and made the news public in 2018.

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She died at 8.35pm on Thursday at a London care home, her husband Scott Mitchell said.

Dame Barbara pictured in February 2010.

Dame Barbara's second husband was a Scarborough man, Steve Hollings. They were married for nine years.

Mr Hollings was working at The Corner in Scarborough when he became romantically linked with Dame Barbara, who was appearing in a play at the Floral Hall in 1983 appropriately called The Mating Game.

At the time Mr Hollings was 28 years old – 18 years younger than the former Carry On star.

The Carry On star with second husband Steve Hollings, whom she met in Scarborough.

He was assistant manager at The Corner and also worked at the Floral Hall.

The Scarborough Evening News reported that staff at The Corner remembered Dame Barbara coming in to see Mr Hollings wearing a head scarf as a partial disguise.

She had been to Scarborough as a child to stay at the Norvic guest-house in Victoria Park Avenue, which was run by her uncle, one-time councillor Richard “Digger” Kelly.

Mr Hollings went to Malton School and trained as a chef at the Black Swan Hotel, Helmsley.

He completed his training in Gloucestershire, before being appointed second chef at the Hall Hotel, Thornton-le-Dale.

Mr Hollings was later head chef at the Chateau restaurant in York Place, Scarborough.

He eventually became manager of the former Scarborough Holiday Centre, off Scalby Mills Road, and then became a catering officer with Scarborough Council, based at The Corner.

Dame Barbara’s marriage to club owner Ronnie Knight ended early in 1985 and she married Mr Hollings in Jamaica in 1986.

Knight was jailed for seven years for his involvement in a £6 million Security Express robbery.

Dame Barbara told an Old Bailey trial in 1995 she knew nothing about the raid because she was appearing in Scarborough at the time.

Dame Barbara and Mr Hollings later ran a pub/restaurant in Amersham, in Buckinghamshire.

The couple parted in 1994, the same year that Dame Barbara first appeared in EastEnders, and were divorced in 1995.

She married Scott Mitchell in 2000.

Mr Mitchell said the cherished actress’s final weeks were “typical of how she lived her life” and “full of humour, drama and a fighting spirit until the end”.

He said: “Her passing was from Alzheimer’s/dementia and Barbara eventually died peacefully and I spent the last seven days by her side.

“Myself, her family and friends will remember Barbara with love, a smile and affection for the many years of her love, fun, friendship and brightness she brought to all our lives and the entertainment she gave to so many thousands of others during her career."

Mr Mitchell, who alongside his wife campaigned for greater dementia care from the Government, added: “Dementia/Alzheimer’s remains the UKs number one killer. Although in challenging times, I urge the Prime Minister, his government and other parties to be true to their previous promises and invest more into dementia/Alzheimer’s research and care."

Alzheimer’s Research UK said in a statement its staff were “devastated”, with director Tim Parry adding: “Dame Barbara’s work in helping to rally support and demystify an often-misunderstood condition made a difference to us and many others and further adds to her legacy as a one of the nation’s favourites.

“She was a friend to our charity, and we are desperately sad to lose her.”