She may have only lived in Solihull for a few years, but the borough's love affair with Stephanie Cole runs deep. Neil Connor met up with the actress when she visited her former home town.


Stephanie Cole is a household name thanks to her television appearances on Tenko, Waiting for God and Doc Martin, but the actress has also played a less well-known role which is closer to home.

The veteran actress lived in Solihull during the war years until bombing from the Luftwaffe forced her family to depart for the south. Solihull may have more closely resembled its motto of "Urbs in Rure" (Town in the Country) in those days, but it seemed it was still on the civilian front line because of its proximity to Birmingham.

Thanks to the bombing raids, Cole doesn't remember much about her time in Solihull. However, she is clearly fondly thought of by her fellow Silhillians.

The 66-year-old actress was recently voted Solihull's favourite Silhillian in a competition run by the Council in December 2006. She beat Lucy Davis, Martin Johnson and Richard Hammond to win "The S Factor" - which isn't bad considering the last time she lived in Solihull she was young enough to be transported around the borough by sitting in a basket on the front of the bike.

"I remember well my great aunt had an errand boy called Ron Perkins who used to put me on the front of his bike," said Cole.

"I should be meeting him today. It's been quite a nostalgic journey."

Cole was having a tour of Solihull (not via a bike basket this time) thanks to the people behind the opening of the revamped Knowle Library.

After officially opening the new library, Cole was visiting other areas in the borough yesterday, including Elmdon Heath, Catherine-de-Barnes, Hampton Lane and Shirley, where 82-year-old Ron now lives.

Cole said: "I just love Solihull. They are very lucky in Knowle that things have not changed too much and there is still lots of greenery there.

"I really enjoyed my time living in Solihull and when I have a look around now it is fascinating for me as I can see places that I used to know when I was a child.

"I used to live at my great aunt's house on Cornyx Lane in Elmdon Heath, but we were bombed out and then went to live in North Devon."

Cole said being named the 'favourite Silhilian' by the borough's residents has left her feeling a little shocked - and a little guilty. "I do feel a bit like a fraud," she said. "I only lived in Solihull for two or three years and I spent most of my time living between Bristol and Bath, so really I consider myself a West Country girl. But I am very proud to be named the favourite Silhilian."

Cole's most recognised roles was of Dr Beatrice Mason in Tenko, a drama that chronicled the lives of British women in Singapore after the Japanese invasion.

She also played the role of Delphine Featherstone (nicknamed "The Black Widow") in Open All Hours, and exphotojournalist Diana Trent in Waiting for God.

She is currently starring alongside Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz in the ITV comedy-drama, Doc Martin.

"In September it will be 50 years since I started making money as an actor and I have really enjoyed every single year," said Cole.

"I have worked with some of the best in the business - Alan Bennett, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen. It would be invidious of me to chose which one was the best."

But Cole is still looking to the future with a series of theatre performances in Bath and a new series of Doc Martin keeping her busy.

"I do not want to put my feet up until either my head or my legs go," she added.