Peter Bowles, most notably known for his role opposite Dame Penelope Keith as the self-made businessman Richard DeVere in To The Manor Born, has died at the age of 85. Airing from 1979-1981, the series was reprised for a one-off special in 2007 celebrating Audrey and Richard’s 25th wedding anniversary with a party at Grantleigh Manor.
To the Manor Born regularly attracted viewers in excess of 20 million with the final episode of series 1 watched by just under 24 million making it the fourth-highest audience total for any program in the UK in the 1970s, and the highest for a non-live event.
Bowles also appeared in films such as The Bank Job, Eyewitness and The Steal as well as TV shows including Victoria, Magnolia Street and Only When I Laugh. His pre-To the Manor Born days included guest shots on classic British series such as The Avengers and The Prisoner while his post-TTMB days were filled as a series regular on the likes of Rumpole of the Bailey, The Bounder, The Irish R.M. and Executive Stress.
We were more than fortunate back in the late 90s to have the great good fortune to cross paths with Peter Bowles during our filming of the PBS special celebrating 25 years of British comedy for public television. Talking about his time on To the Manor Born, Bowles waxed eloquently (as only Richard DeVere could) about the series and about co-star Dame Penelope Keith.
While known in America primarily for his work on To the Manor Born, Irish R.M., Executive Stress and Victoria (where is played the Duke of Wellington), Bowles had an extensived stage career which started at the Old Vic Theatre in 1956, starring in 45 theatrical productions ending at the age of 81 in The Exorcist at the Phoenix Theatre.
Trained as a leading Shakespearian actor, Bowles told the Daily Mail in a 2018 interview that he became somewhat of an overnight success in his 40’s after his time on To the Manor Born. The day after it screened Bowles said he was “…tooted at in the street by fans driving past and, later, given a standing ovation when he walked on stage in the West End“. “It did not go down well with the rest of the cast!” he added with a bit of a smile.
RIP, Peter Bowles. Thank you for years of laughter and for your stage expertise. May they both live on for generations to come.