Elizabeth Chater obituary

by Simon Jenner

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 April 2010

Elizabeth Chater | From the Guardian | The Guardian

My friend Elizabeth Chater, who has died aged 83, was known to the acting world by the stage name Elizabeth Havelock. She would light up any screen � for instance, as the fortune teller in an early episode of the 1970s TV detective series Shoestring. Lighting up her environment was a characteristic of Elizabeth's, I realised, when we met in 1999 at a poetry reading. She was elegant and warm, but with a toughness that had something of the stiletto to it.

She was born Elizabeth Devonshire Jones in Bath. As a girl, she rode horses and model trains � her father, a businessman and landowner, and a train fanatic, had built his own steam railway. Elizabeth's mother at one point had two grand pianos, but with her father's death in 1948, the family lost everything.

Elizabeth, then in her 20s, turned to antique dealing. This continued for nearly 60 years of Sundays throughout her acting and family life. No one undercut her. She knew the value, as well as the price, of everything.

Educated at Gardenhurst school in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, she trained as an actor with Hedley Goodall in Bristol. She undertook second world war service in 1944 at Bletchley Park, and was selected as one of 100 Wrens who took part in the VE day march in London in 1945.

Elizabeth did four seasons in rep, from 1952 to 1956, at Gainsborough, Chesterfield, Colchester and Guildford. She was an assistant stage-manager and played characters of all kinds, notably Cinderella. Later, she appeared in television parts into her 60s.

In 1956, a newly ordained junior curate had arrived in Bath to take up his first post at the abbey. Within a week, Elizabeth's mother had invited him to tea, and John Chater soon dismissed the horde of other suitors. They married in 1957, with Elizabeth thereafter alternating the roles of actor and vicar's wife.

John ended his career as rector of St Marylebone in London. On retiring to Brighton, John and Elizabeth co-founded Poetry for Pleasure, a poetry programming, performance and recording group, in 1999. A fine artist, Elizabeth sketched on tours of Russia and Greece, and in her 60s she added those languages to her repertoire.

She is survived by John, their son and three daughters, and three grandchildren.

TV Credits:

"Shoestring" .... Madge (1 episode, 1979)

- Knock for Knock (1979) TV episode .... Madge

"The Clifton House Mystery" .... The Lady (4 episodes, 1978)

- Episode #1.2 (1978) TV episode .... The Lady

- Episode #1.4 (1978) TV episode .... The Lady

- Episode #1.5 (1978) TV episode .... The Lady

- Episode #1.6 (1978) TV episode .... The Lady

"Follow Me" .... Woman (1 episode, 1977)

- Episode #1.4 (1977) TV episode .... Woman

"Leap in the Dark" .... Mary Murray (1 episode, 1977)

- Parlour Games (1977) TV episode .... Mary Murray