List of Are You Being Served? characters
This is a list of characters from the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? and its spin off Grace & Favour. Are You Being Served? originally aired on BBC One between 1972 and 1985 and is still repeated around the world. Grace & Favour aired between 1992 and 1993.
- 1 Principal cast durations
- 2 Menswear
- 3 Ladies' Intimate Apparel
- 4 Management
- 5 Maintenance & Packing
- 6 Milstone Manor Staff
- 7 Supporting characters
- 8 Minor characters
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Principal cast durations
Character Series Series 1 (1973) Series 2 (1974) Series 3 (1975) Series 4 (1976) Series 5 (1977) Series 6 (1978) Series 7 (1979) Series 8 (1981) Series 9 (1983) Series 10 (1984) Grace and Favour: Series 1 (1992) Grace and Favour: Series 2 (1993) Captain Peacock Frank Thornton Mrs Slocombe Mollie Sugden Mr Humphries John Inman Miss Brahms Wendy Richard Mr Rumbold Nicholas Smith Mr Grainger Arthur Brough Mr Lucas Trevor Bannister Young Mr Grace Harold Bennett Mr Mash Larry Martyn Mr Harman Arthur English Mr Tebbs James Hayter Mr Goldberg Alfie Bass Mr Grossman Milo Sperber Mr Klein Benny Lee Mr Spooner Mike Berry Old Mr Grace Kenneth Waller
This section contains information on the characters who worked in the Menswear department of Grace Brothers
Mr Wilberforce Claybourne Humphries
Mr Humphries (John Inman) - The senior menswear assistant, who later became head of the Gentleman's Department. His ambiguous sexuality is used as a catalyst for many comedic situations and one-liners. Mr Humphries was particularly noted for his mincing walk and his slightly high pitched voice, which he discarded when answering the phone: "MENNNSWEAR," he intoned in a falsified baritone. He had one of the most famous catchphrases of the era: when asked by a colleague, "Mr Humphries, are you free? (to serve someone)", he always gave the exaggerated response, "I'm free!" in a very high pitched voice. He often arrived at work in outrageous attire including punk rocker clothing and hair, motorcycle leather jacket and chaps, and a sailor uniform, always with an equally outrageous accounting of his previous night's activities and efforts to nonetheless make it to work on time. At one time, Mr. Lucas opined to him after a recount of the previous evening: "It's all go at your place!" Mr Humphries frequently spoke of a companion or companions referred to only as "my friend." The precise status of this friend was never elaborated upon. Everyone always assumed that the friends that he mentioned were men and would sometimes ask about them, and Mr Humphries would answer back, "What makes you think it's a 'he'?!" (Which was often accompanied by a lower octave of voice). He is often described as the most loveable character on the show.
Mr James/Dick Lucas
Mr Lucas (Trevor Bannister) was the 'Jack the lad' junior menswear assistant, who was nearly always late for work but always had a creative excuse. He wasn't very concerned about the pecking order, and thus made many sarcastic remarks (usually towards Mrs Slocombe). He directed much of his amorous attention toward Miss Brahms, but only went out with her once (though nothing came of their date because "the usherette had fresh batteries in her torch"). His departure is never explained, although Captain Peacock remarked in an episode after Mr Lucas left, in which the departments had performed no business for the day, that the last time the departments had no sale, "we fired the junior." Mr Lucas serves as a representation of the fresh, current thinking in society against the stale, old-fashioned thinking that permeates Grace Brothers. In the season 5 episode where Mr Grace decides to Americanize the store, and the staff are required to refer to each other by their first names, Mr Lucas embarrassingly reveals to his co-workers that his first name is Dick, much to the delight of Mr Humphries. (In the season two The Clock, Mr Mash addresses him as Mr James Lucas.) Despite the character's assumed youth, Trevor Bannister was thirty-seven when the series began, approximately one year older than John Inman (Mr. Humphries). Trevor Bannister died in April 2011, aged 76 (heart attack).
Mr Ernest Grainger
Ernest Grainger (Arthur Brough) was the original head of the menswear department; he had been with Grace Brothers for over four decades. He resented being forced to share the floor with the Ladies Department. He vaguely resembled Winston Churchill, in both appearance and demeanor, and did impressions of him during the war while in ENSA. Mr Grainger often fell asleep while in the store, and failed to wake up when being called, unless Mr Humphries asked him "Are you free, Mr Grainger?" When flabbergasted, Mr. Humprhies would often come to his aid and call for water for him: "Glass of water for Mr. Grainger!"
Although he generally got on well with the others, Mr Grainger would protest and become resentful whenever a situation occurred that forced the menswear department to share valuable space with the ladies, or when Captain Peacock would nonchalantly drop a reference to a perk he had earned despite having less time at the store than Mr Grainger (such as a visit to the company boardroom). When given a chance to fill in for Mr Rumbold who was leaving for a one-month conference (in a nice gesture, as it would entitle Mr Grainger to collect a bit more money on his pension), the position went to his head; while taking full advantage of all Mr Rumbold's perks (in particular the liquor cabinet and cigars), he became a strict disciplinarian to the rest of the staff, threatening to put an adverse entry in Peacock's record and actually sacking Mrs Slocombe (however, he did repent his ways by the end of the episode). His character left when Arthur Brough retired from acting in 1977 following the death of his wife Elizabeth Addyman, to whom he had been married for fifty years. Arthur Brough himself died several weeks later.
Mr Percival Tebbs
Mr Tebbs (James Hayter) was Mr Grainger's first replacement as head of menswear. Although he shared many traits with his predecessor, he appeared, unlike the somewhat sloppy Mr Grainger, to be obsessed with order and propriety and (in his own mind at least) was an extraordinary salesman. He was also an overachiever, having received a number of recognitions from Grace Brothers for his contributions. After only one year in Mens-Ready-Made, Mr Tebbs retired from Grace Brothers. Mr Humphries filled in his position; Mr Lucas filled in that of Mr Humphries'; and Mr Harry Goldberg was hired as junior salesman (but was quickly promoted after one day).
Mr Harry Goldberg
Mr Goldberg (Alfie Bass) replaced Mr Tebbs as Head of Menswear; he originally took on the junior position, while Mr Humphries and Mr Lucas were respectively promoted to Head of Menswear and Senior's Assistant. However, Mr Goldberg had all of his friends purchase goods from him the very next day after he was hired! As a result, he was quickly promoted to Head of Menswear, and Mr Humphries and Mr Lucas returned to their former positions. He often tried to make a bit of extra cash to supplement his wages, for example by establishing his own recruitment agency (and recruiting Grace Brothers' employees away to better-paying jobs). At his job interview, he revealed that he had spent time in the Army with Captain Peacock, to the shock and amusement of all except Captain Peacock. A slick businessman, Mr Goldberg allegedly burned down his own store for insurance purposes and blackmailed Captain Peacock with a picture of them in the army, in order to remain at Grace Brothers. Mr Goldberg was much more relaxed than his predecessors, and was in general a friendly presence. The character was a broad stereotype of a Jewish merchant.
Mr Grossman (Milo Sperber) replaced Mr Goldberg as Head of Menswear. Not much is known about him as he only appeared in four episodes, although his first episode revealed him to be an expert in shoe sales. Like Mr Goldberg, Mr Grossman was a relaxed and friendly influence in the Men's Department. Mr Grossman also spoke with a foreign accent.
Mr Klein (Benny Lee) replaced Mr Grossman as Menswear Head. He was formerly from the Cutting Department. Speaks often of his wife, generally in disparaging tones, and doesn't object to quietly making jokes at Captain Peacock's expense. Other than that, his character remained undeveloped over his brief tenure. Like Mr Grossman, he lasted only four episodes as well.
Mr Bert Spooner
Mr Spooner (Mike Berry), Mr Lucas' replacement was similar to him in many ways: he made rude remarks, most frequently toward Mrs. Slocombe (often being made to change tables in the canteen for this) and had a crush on Miss Brahms. In the final episode he became a pop star. He shared many traits with Mr Lucas, such as sarcasm and laziness, though was generally less witty and charming. Mike Berry chose not to return for Grace and Favour.
Ladies' Intimate Apparel
This section contains information on the characters who worked in the Ladies' Intimate Apparel.
Mrs Betty Slocombe
Mrs Slocombe (Mollie Sugden), born Mary Elizabeth Jennifer Rachel Abergavenny Yiddell in 1926  in Blackpool, (though usually goes by the name Betty) is the Head of the Ladies Department. She frequently sports elaborate hairstyles with brightly coloured rinses ranging from blue to more outrageous shades. Mrs Slocombe's husband left her, or was possibly arrested by the Fraud Squad (although viewers are finally introduced to him in the second series of Grace & Favour), and she lived with her cat, Tiddles, which she referred to as "my pussy"; this was the source of many a double entendre, most of which Mrs Slocombe herself completely missed. Though Tiddles was generally referred to as a tomcat (male), this was contradicted when Tiddles had a litter of kittens in the store during one episode. Mrs Slocombe also tried to sound refined and "posh", but when exasperated or annoyed, she reveals more than a trace of a Northern accent. She has something of a mild adversarial relationship with Mr. Lucas, frequently exchanging insults although they do get along reasonably well for the most part. Mollie Sugden died in July 2009 - aged 86.
Miss Shirley Brahms
Miss Brahms (Wendy Richard) was the busty junior ladieswear assistant who was often cheeky to Mrs Slocombe. Known for her Cockney accent, Miss Brahms was sometimes unintelligible to the person with whom she was speaking, but often put on her best voice when answering the telephone. Under Mrs Slocombe's guidance, she became a more useful assistant throughout the series, though the hierarchy of Grace Brothers was such that she would have moved up only when Mrs Slocombe left, if ever. Attractive and voluptuous, she was sometimes (but usually not) receptive to the advances of Mr Lucas. (Their one actual date, early in the series, did not progress very far because "the usherette had fresh batteries in her torch".) Despite this, she considers herself to have standards. In one incident, when she was approached to participate in a store-wide Holiday Girl contest with the assumption that she would easily win, Miss Brahms refuses, mainly because one of the prizes is a vacation aboard the yacht of Old Mr Grace, who had tried to indecently assault her hitherto. The one key fact that has always remained a secret was that Miss Brahms always wore six-strap suspender belts and pure tan coloured nylon stockings. The biggest sale she ever makes is when Mrs. Slocombe is not by her side having (temporarily) taken place of Rumbold. Wendy Richards died in February 2009, aged 65 (cancer).
This section includes the characters who had a Management role in Grace Brothers.
Captain Stephen Peacock
Captain Stephen Peacock (Frank Thornton), the somewhat stuffy floorwalker, considers himself above the assistants with both his position and his dubious military record, which wouldn't be so shameful except Peacock feels the need to brag about his experiences fighting Rommel in North Africa. Mr Mash likes to tell the staff that Peacock served in the NAAFI instead, and probably didn't ever leave England, and Mr Goldberg hints that Peacock's real rank was a Corporal. Allegedly, despite his rank, Peacock began as a sweeper in the stockroom. Although Peacock usually talks as if he were a member of the elite Commando unit, on two occasions he admits he was in the Royal Army Service Corps. By 1975 he has been working at Grace Brothers for 20 years.
Mr Cuthbert Rumbold
Mr Rumbold (Nicholas Smith), the manager of the floor, was often mocked for his bald head, jug-ears, and lack of intelligence.Nicknamed "Jug Ears", He frequently took slang phrases literally, leading to his formulating far-fetched explanations of incidents between staff members. He often took credit for others' ideas but subsequently tried to deny all involvement when the idea inevitably proved disastrous. Mr Rumbold's greatest ambition was to be called to the board of directors at Grace Bros. (he looks up dreamily whenever the word "boardroom" is mentioned), and was usually oblivious to the sex appeal of his attractive secretaries. By the time of Grace and Favour Mrs Rumbold has left Mr Rumbold for a younger do-it-yourself man.
The Grace brothers
The Grace brothers, Young Mr. Grace (Harold Bennett) and Old Mr. Grace (Kenneth Waller), were the old-fashioned owners of the store. Both were old but loved young, curvaceous women. They both treated their employees with respect and encouragement, hence Young Mr. Grace's catch phrase, "You've all done very well!" However, they were terminally naive to the fact that Grace Brothers was in its declining years. Despite the wealth of the family, they were somewhat stingy with money. Young Mr. Grace started off as a fish salesman before inheriting the store from an uncle. Old Mr. Grace remained an unseen character until series eight, and there was a recurring joke for many years where, upon seeing Young Mr. Grace for the first time, someone would ask in surprise (usually Mr. Lucas), "That's Young Mr. Grace?" The other person always replied, "Old Mr. Grace doesn't get about much these days." Ironically, when he finally did appear in the show, Kenneth Waller (as Old Mr. Grace) was actually a couple of decades younger than Harold Bennett (as Young Mr. Grace). None of the Graces appeared in series nine or the final series, ten, but Old Mr Grace was mentioned several times. In Grace and Favour Young Mr. Grace has died after a scuba-diving holiday.
Maintenance & Packing
This section includes characters who worked in Maintenance & Packing.
Mr Beverley/Harry Harman
Mr Harman (Arthur English) replaced Mr Mash in Season 4 as maintenance man. He shared some traits in common with Mr Mash, both being "common" sorts and union men, and he similarly battled with Captain Peacock over his appearances on the floor during store hours. However, he was considerably less militant and was more friendly towards the sales staff. Reciprocally, the other staff were much more accepting of him than they had been of Mr Mash, and he frequently acted as a member of the group and not just as an antagonist. He graciously assisted Mrs Slocombe in the episode "The Apartment", when she was allowed to stay on the sixth floor of the building, setting up various furniture and displays so she could have all the creature comforts. He also masterminded the deception pulled off in "The Hold Up", dressing up as the leader of "The Gumby Gang" in order to fool the small-time burglars that were holding Miss Brahms, Captain Peacock and Mr Spooner hostage. In one episode he gives his first name as "Beverley" but in earlier episodes had been referred to as "Harry." In the episode "Monkey Business," after Mr Rumbold addresses the staff by their first names (calling Harman "Harry") Harman states his name is actually Beverley, "but it's the thought that counts."
Mr Mash (Larry Martyn) was a Grace Brothers maintenance man. He was frequently reprimanded by Captain Peacock for appearing on the sales floor during business hours, but had no fear of his superiors. He had a thorough knowledge of store operations and was a union agitator. He often bragged of taking home much larger paycheques than the sales assistants due to overtime. Mr Mash was rather weedy and class-conscious, and made sneering comments towards the sales staff.
Warwick, Seymour and Goddard
Warwick (Jimmy Mac) and Seymour (Keith Hodiak) were both assistants to Mr Harman in later seasons. Warwick made brief appearances from season six to season nine and Seymour appeared more visibly in three episodes of season ten. However in earlier seasons Mr Vash and Mr Harman were assisted by by Goddard whom was virtually never seen to speak but credited in one episode "It Pays to Advertise". He was played by (Freddy Wiles)
Milstone Manor Staff
This section includes characters who worked at Milstone Manor in Grace & Favour
Mr. Maurice Moulterd
Played by: Billy Burden
A longtime farmer and ratcatcher, old Maurice proves to be a ghost from Mrs. Slocombe's past when he remembers her from her days as a land girl during the Second World War, and as it turns out he still fancies her. It is Maurice who saves Mrs. Slocombe's hide on two occasions, first when she is tried for the theft of a gypsy horse and cart, and second when her ex-husband Cecil attempts to buy Millstone Manor.
Played by: Fleur Bennett
Maurice Moulterd's beautiful, hardworking daughter, she has been relentlessly pursued by village bully Malcolm Heathcliff, whom she detests, for as long as she can remember. And things get even more complicated when she falls for Mr. Humphries after he and the rest of the Grace Brothers staffers arrive at Millstone Manor.
Played by: Joanne Heywood
Ms. Lovelock was Mr. Grace's assistant, who tended to Mr. Grace in his last year and was with him when he died while scuba diving. In Grace and Favour, she is living in the groom's quarters. Her presence gave Captain Peacock something to look forward to each morning and reminded Mrs. Slocombe and Miss Brahms a bit too much of their long-gone youth.
This section includes characters who had supporting roles in Are You Being Served?.
Played by: Diana King and Diana Lambert
Mrs. Peacock was the long-suffering wife of Captain Peacock. She always suspected her husband of cheating on her and all her on-screen appearances were during periods of marital discord. She once pretended that she was having an affair with Mr. Rumbold to make Captain Peacock jealous. By the time of Grace and Favour, Mrs. Peacock either seems to be deceased or divorced from Captain Peacock as she is neither seen nor mentioned.
Mrs. Diana Yardswick, canteen manageress
Played by: Doremy Vernon
Manager of the canteen, once addressed as Diana and again as Mrs. Yardswick, mostly cooked disgraceful food, and had a large rubbish-strewn kitchen. She frequently had arguments with the senior staff and wasn't worried about being fired due to her union, 'National Associated Canteen Employees, Restaurant and Domestic' (NACERD, a play on the term knackered).
Played by: Penny Irving
Miss Bakewell was Young Mr. Grace's secretary from season four to the end of season seven where she left alongside Mr Grace. Irving's first appearance was in the movie where she was named Miss Nicholson. Due to her good looks, she frequently came to the attention of Mr Lucas.
Played by: Candy Davis
Miss Belfridge was the longest running secretary of Mr. Rumbold (lasting two seasons) and caught the attentions of most male staff (besides Mr. Rumbold). She appeared to be smitten by Captain Peacock, often flirting with him. She appeared in many episodes and was the most prominent of Mr Rumbold's secretaries.
Nurse to the Grace Brothers
Played by: Vivienne Johnson
Although her character was never given a name, the blonde nurse to both Old Mr Grace and Young Mr Grace appeared on the programme for three series. She is mostly recalled for her good looks and particularly for her seductive, husky voice; which was used for effect in the episode "Closed Circuit" when Miss Brahms' high-pitched Cockney accent proves to be incompatible as the public face of Grace Brothers' department store. Nurse dubs Miss Brahms' voice, causing a passing by Lord to become smitten with the sound of her.
Played by: John Inman
Mrs Humphries is Mr. Humphries' mother. She only appears twice during the show. The other times that we hear about her is from Mr. Humphries himself or from their telephone calls during and after work. She stays with Mr. Humphries at home, and Mr. Humphries speaks frequently about her. The first time she appears is in the episode Founder's Day, where she explains how Mr. Humphries got his job at Grace Brothers. The second time she appears is in "The Heir", where Old Mr Grace is thought to be Mr Humphries' father. In this episode, Mr. Humphries' mother does come to Grace Brothers. Her first appearance was a video recording. John Inman was not credited for that episode. In the second episode, however, he was credited as a 'guest appearance'. In this episode the mother and son never cross paths, and one is always looking for the other. Mr. Humphries' mother often tries to change her son's sexual orientation. She often enrolls him in things that will 'make him a man'. In the movie, she overhears the female worker, Conchita, asking Mr. Humphries if she can share his bed. She tells him that 'the change will do him good.'
This section contains the minor characters in Are You Being Served?
Mrs Axelby is the best friend and possibly close neighbor of Mrs Slocombe. She is never seen on-screen but is referenced and mentioned many times by Mrs Slocombe, which mostly always starts with the line "My friend Mrs Axelby". She is mentioned to be a tough woman, who plays many contact sports and is a chain smoker. She was mentioned in Grace and Favour when Mrs Slocombe talked about her being trapped in Spain while working on a nude beach renting umbrellas and chairs to tourists.
Tiddles was the longtime feline companion of Mrs Slocombe. Mrs Slocombe refers to Tiddles as her "pussy". Tiddles was represented by props in two episodes, once in a dark-colored cage when the staff camped in the store, and her wagging tail was seen sticking out of the coffee pot tap when she gave birth to kittens. (Live kittens were shown briefly in the episode.) She was seen live for the first time in Grace and Favour. Despite having been depicted as having had kittens, in many episodes, Tiddles was sometimes referred to as a tomcat (male).
- Are You Being Served? at BBC Online
- Are You Being Served? at the British Film Institute
- List of Are You Being Served? characters at the BFI's Screenonline
- Are You Being Served? at the Internet Movie Database
David Croft sitcomsDad's Army (1968) • Birds in the Bush (1972) • Are You Being Served? (1972) • It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974) • Come Back Mrs. Noah (1977) • Hi-de-Hi! (1980) • Oh Happy Band! (1980) • 'Allo 'Allo! (1982) • You Rang, M'Lord? (1988) • Grace & Favour (1992) • Which Way to the War (1994) • Oh, Doctor Beeching! (1995) • Here Comes the Queen (2008)
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