A NORTHWICH actor who went from appearing in local chapel concerts to becoming well known for his work in live theatre and television has died.

Alan John Bennion died on Friday at the age of 88.

He grew up in Castle with his parents Edna and Jack Bennion and a close-knit family of uncles, aunts and cousins living nearby.

Edna’s father John Littlemore was the head of the family, a patriarchal figure and a staunch Methodist Sunday School Superintendent of the local chapel.

He encouraged the family to follow his example, and as a result Alan spent his early years in church activities such as youth clubs and Scouts. When he was 11 he won first prize for a Swiss roll in the baking class.

A feature of church life was the annual concert and pantomime in which Alan and Edna were enthusiastic participants.

One memorable evening a large portion of the ceiling fell down mid performance - no-one was hurt but it signalled the end for the old Chapel Street building. It merged with the nearby Zion Street Chapel, the basis of the present Castle Methodist Church was formed.

The disaster did not deter Alan. A scholarship boy at Sir John Dean’s Grammar School, he chose a career in the civil service.

During National Service in the RAF the theatre bug struck again and he appeared in several productions.

The civil service was history as the bright lights of London beckoned.

He acquired a highly-coveted Equity card and an agent gradually built up his reputation.

To quote programme notes he ‘made his West End debut in Mother’s Boy at the Globe Theatre’, claiming to have played almost every theatre in Great Britain, and forays to Zimbabwe, Vienna and a tour of the United States with the National Theatre.

He achieved recognition on TV appearing in three series of Dr Who as a most spectacular chief ice warrior, hidden under a mass of very uncomfortable make-up.

Other roles were in Z Cars, Coronation Street, Sherlock Holmes and many other programmes.

His cousin Jean Foster said: “Alan enjoyed the variety but his first love was live theatre, often in majestic Shakespearian roles.

“Alan was proud of his mid Cheshire roots and of his family background. He was well liked and loved by many.

“Retiring to Brighton, he remained independent and self-sufficient to the end, maintaining his connections with theatre people and family.

“He will be sadly missed, particularly by those who followed his career with interest and rejoiced in the many successes in his chosen way of life.”