In memory of Yorkshire actor William Simons who starred in every Heartbeat series

William Simons played PC Alf Ventress in ITV's Heartbeat.
William Simons played PC Alf Ventress in ITV's Heartbeat.
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The actor William Simons, who has died at 79, was as familiar a face in the North York Moors as he was on TV, during his two-decade turn as the curmudgeonly PC Alf Ventress in the ITV perennial, Heartbeat.

A fixture through all 18 series, from 1992 to 2010, he enjoyed the experience so much that he and his wife, Janie, bought a house in the village of Goathland, where much of the filming took place.

The role – the type of recurring job for which actors long – was the icing on the cake of a career that had already spanned six decades.

Born in Swansea, he won his first film role at age 10, in a dramatisation of Phyllis Hambleton’s book, No Place for Jennifer, in which a young girl is traumatised when her parents divorce. The screenplay was by J Lee Thompson, who would go on to direct The Guns of Navarone.

Simons also appeared with Bill Owen in a knockabout binmen comedy called Not So Dusty, and with Dinah Sheridan in the exotic adventure Where No Vultures Fly, and its sequel, West of Zanzibar. But his juvenile career was curtailed by acne, and he retreated backstage for four years, as a stage manager.

The Stables Theatre Company, set up in Manchester by Granada Television, was his entrée to adult acting, and he appeared for the company in a string of single plays, as well as Coronation Street and a in recurring role as a barrister in Crown Court.

Seldom short of work, he graduated to become Patrick Malahide’s sidekick in the BBC’s Inspector Alleyn Mysteries and could also be seen in Last of the Summer Wine, Bergerac, Lovejoy and Yorkshire TV’s Hadleigh and The Darling Buds of May.

After Heartbeat, he spent much of his time at the house he had bought in France. Widowed in 2002, he is survived by his second wife, Jackie.