Peter Baldwin – Actor

After training to be an actor, Baldwin joined the West of England Theatre Company, where he worked with future-partner on Coronation Street Thelma Barlow. He later toured with the Old Vicand joined the Bristol Old Vic. Baldwin made several appearances in films (in bit parts and extras) until he landed a main role in the television comedy Girls About Town which ran from 1969 to 1971. He also made guest appearances on other television series such as Menace, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, and Spy Trap, and had several roles in West End Theatre.

In 1976 he joined the cast of Coronation Street, playing the character of Derek Wilton. Derek wooed but let down Mavis Riley for many years, but eventually the two got married. It was reported that Derek Wilton was one of the favourite characters among the viewers of the show, but in 1997 the character was killed off.

For the year after this, Baldwin made many appearances on talk shows and quiz shows in the UK such as GMTV, This Morning and Crosswits and also returned to the stage for the first time in a decade in A Month of Sundays, as well as touring in the musical Summer Holiday. He then joined the cast of the TV show Out Of Sight as ‘Uncle Gus’ until 1999.

Since then he has continued to appear on TV series including The Court Room and Doctors. In 2005 he was a panellist for the Channel 4quiz show Countdown. He was married to the former Play School presenter and actress Sarah Long until her death in 1987.

In 2008 Baldwin took over the ownership of Pollock’s toy shop in London’s Covent Garden, where he had previously worked between acting jobs.



By Christina Shepherd

It is, perhaps, ironic that Peter Baldwin should be forever identified alongside the long-suffering Mavis, considering that Thelma Barlowand Peter worked together in their first repertory over thirty years ago. Later, at Bristol’s Old Vic, they played a husband and wife who were never actually seen on stage together in The Way of the World.

Peter was born in Chidham, Chichester, West Sussex in 1933, the older of two boys born to Primary School headmaster William Baldwin and his teacher wife. Younger brother Christopher was born in 1938. In 1939 after the outbreak of World War II Peter and Christopher moved to their grandparents’ home in Horsham. As a child Peter had a great love of the theatre and was always appearing in plays for the family. He visited the theatre for the first time when he went to see Peter Pan at the old Chichester Theatre in Theatre Lane. At the age of 12 he was given a toy theatre which sparked off a hobby that he still pursues. Peter was educated at Chichester High School for Boys. After leaving school, Peter was called up for his National Service in the Army at Aldershot, where he stayed for eighteen months.

Peter then enrolled at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and one fellow student was One Foot in the Grave actress Annette Crosbie. After graduating, Peter joined various repertory companies before returning to The Bristol Old Vic. In 1960 he joined The West of England Theatre Company in their production of The Way of The World. Other stage work includes The Inspector Calls, Romeo and Juliet, Dance with Death, The Browning Version, Ever Decreasing Circles, You Never Can Tell and Macbeth.

In 1969, Peter made his television debut in Girls about Town. In 1976 Peter was appearing at The Kings Head Theatre in London in The Browning Version when he was asked up to Manchester to audition for a role in Coronation Street. He got the part of salesman Derek Wilton, who was to woo and let down Mavis Riley for the next 21 years. His Street debut was on 7 June and Peter commuted between Manchester and London on the British Rail sleeper. Over the next twelve years he appeared on and off in the show and also made television appearances in Bergerac, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Seven Deadly Sins and the sit com Odd Girl Out. In 1985 he played DC Paul Garrett in Operation Julie. In 1987 he returned to the theatre, playing alongside Tom Baker as Mr Birling in An Inspector Calls when he was asked back to Coronation Street, this time as a regular character.

Just as Derek Wilton was to become a regular character, Peter’s wife Sarah was diagnosed as suffering from cancer. In true show business tradition, Peter decided to continue, knowing how such a problem could disrupt the Street’s storyline. He commuted back and forth until his wife’s last days. “Going back to work in The Street was a good thing for me,” Peter would later say. “It meant I had something I could immediately concentrate on.” Peter’s ‘Derek Wilton’ became a popular figure on- and off-screen, with Peter being one of the cast’s notorious gigglers.

In January 1997 Peter was told his contract was not being renewed by producer Brian Park, who felt that Derek had gone as far as he could go. The news devastated Peter and fans alike but Derek’s fatal heart attack following a road rage attack was transmitted on 7 April 1997. Thelma quit the series shortly afterwards.

Since leaving The Street, Peter has been very busy with appearances on This Morning, GMTV, Crosswits and The National Lottery but he also returned to the stage for the first time in ten years when he did a national tour of A Month of Sundays. He then appeared as Uncle Gus in the children’s television show Out of Sight before doing the pantomime Cinderella at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal. He appeared in the musical Summer Holiday at Blackpool over the summer of 1998. Peter has plans to appear in a new play called That’s Showbiz.

Peter married Play School presenter Sarah Long in February 1965 after an off and off romance since they met whilst appearing on stage in Romeo and Juliet at the Bristol Old Vic in 1961. The couple had two children, Julia, who works in television and Matthew who is a psychiatric nurse. Peter later dated radio drama producer Cherry Cookson until 1990 and was then involved with Coronation Street production manager Jan Munm.

During periods of unemployment, Peter would often work at Pollock’s Toy Museum and managed Pollock’s traditional toy shop in 1980. This led to Peter’s interest in collecting nineteenth century toy theatres. After the death of Benjamin Pollock, Peter was asked to take over the ownership of the shop. He still often works in The Benjamin Pollock Toy Shop in Covent Garden on days off and he has also had a book published called Toy Theatres of the World.

He lives alone in Hampstead, London.

Other works

Played Walter Lucknor in 1968 BBB Radio Four Day of the Triffids

(1974) He acted in Nikolai Gogol’s play, “The Government Inspector”, at the Oxford Playhouse in an Oxford Playhouse Company production in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England with Richard O’Sullivan, Brian Murphy, Richard Wilson, Patrick O’Connell, Andre Van Gyseghem, John Fraser and Norman Warwick in the cast. Gordon McDougall was the director.

(1962) He acted in George Bernard Shaw’s play, “Saint Joan”, in an Old Vic Theatre Company production at the New York City Centre in New York with Barbara Jefford, Job Stewart, Gerald James, William Sylvester, John Clements, George Howe and Andre Van Gyseghem in the cast. Douglas Seale was the director.

(1987) He acted in J.B. Priestley’s play, “An Inspector Calls,” at the Westminster Theatre in Westminster, London, England with Tom Baker, Pauline Jameson, Charlotte Attenborough, Adam Godley, and Simon Shepherd in the cast. Peter Dews was director.

Peter Baldwin Now

After leaving The Street, Peter appeared in various TV and stage rôles.

Whilst ‘resting’ from his acting career, Peter worked at Pollock’s Toy Museum and managed their traditional toy shop in Covent Garden. After the death of Benjamin Pollock in 1988, Peter took over the ownership of the shop, and can still be regularly seen working behind the counter.

Hatfield House

Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop has now opened a second shop in The Stable Yard, at Hatfield House.

The 17th Century stables alongside the Elizabethan Palace have been refurbished and now house a number of specialist retailers.

Peter spoke to BBC Three Counties Radio and explained how his love for toy theatre began.  

“I don’t know whether it was because I wanted to be an actor, or whether I had a toy theatre thirst and that led me to want to be an actor, but my parents gave me one when I was about twelve, just after the Second World War,” said Peter. “I played with it all that Christmas and all through my boyhood – I loved it.”

New interest

Some years later, Peter introduced his own family to the toys of his youth.

“When our first child was born, when she was about 2 or 3-years-old, we were trying to teach her about Jesus and the Nativity, and I remembered I’d got a Nativity play with my toy theatre. “I got it out and it sparked off a whole new interest. I soon started collecting old toy theatres and all the scene sheets and characters that went with them,” said Peter. Peter went on to explain why he thinks some children today are still fascinated by old toys. “I think it’s because toy theatre is something different. It’s what children had to play with in the 19th Century; they didn’t have computers and televisions,” said Peter. “It’s lovely; you stand behind and quite simply operate the whole thing. You push the characters on and off, change the scenery, take the curtain up and down, change the lighting – you’re totally in charge, it’s an actors’ dream!”

Still recognised

Even though it’s now over twenty years since Peter left Coronation Street, he is still recognised by members of the public for his role as Derek Wilton. “I even get customers from America, Canada and New Zealand who watch repeats of the show and are very surprised to see me when they walk into the shop!” said Peter.