ACTOR Derek Fowlds, known to millions for playing Bernard Woolley in Yes Minister, has died at the age of 82.

He also played sergeant-turned-publican Oscar Blaketon in ITV police drama Heartbeat for 18 years, and was ‘Mr Derek’ on the Basil Brush show in the 70s.

The actor, who lived at Colerne, near Chippenham, died at Royal United Hospital in Bath on Friday morning, after having suffered with pneumonia.

"You couldn't have met a nicer person ever" said his assistant Helen Bennett.

"He was just a wonderful man and I will miss him terribly."

She added: "He was the most beloved man to everybody who ever met him, he never had a bad word to say about anybody and he was so well respected, adored by everyone."

Basil Brush himself said he is "so desperately sad" at the news, describing the late star as "my best friend forever".

In a tweet, he said: “Don’t know what to say, I’m so desperately sad. Such times we had, rest in peace Mr Derek, my best friend forever.”

Mr Fowlds worked on the BBC children's television show as a presenter between 1969 and 1973, where he replaced Rodney Bewes.

Gavin and Stacey star and former EastEnders actor Larry Lamb paid tribute to his "dear old colleague".

Born in south London, Fowlds trained at Rada before making his West End debut in The Miracle Worker.

He appeared in several films, including Hotel Paradiso, and then TV shows including Z Cars in 1968 and a couple of episodes of the Liver Birds between 1969 and 1971.

Mr Fowlds was the last of the remaining original Yes Minister stars, following the earlier deaths of Sir Nigel Hawthorne and Paul Eddington, who he appeared alongside in the BBC political satire from 1980 to 1984, and in Yes, Prime Minister from 1986 to 1988.

He played hapless civil servant Bernard Woolley, alongside Nigel Hawthorne as Sir Humphrey Appleby and Paul Eddington as PM Jim Hacker.

He appeared in Heartbeat for its entire run of 18 years, first as a local police sergeant, then running the post office after the character retired from the force, before running a pub.

Jason Durr, who starred alongside Fowlds in the police drama series said he was "a great actor and a kind, intelligent man" and that he would "treasure the memories" of working with him.

Mr Fowlds released his autobiography, A Part Worth Playing, in 2015 in which he recalled how he started to act "just for kicks".

"Growing up the thought of acting as a living never crossed my mind. I wanted to be a footballer or sportsman," he said, adding he started acting in school plays.

"I enjoyed mucking about the stage," he wrote.

He told the tale of how in his first play a child, he got his sword stuck up another actor's skirt and "I heard the sound of audience laughter for the first time in my life, and I was just knocked out."

Speaking to The Stage publication last year, he offered some advice to any budding actors.

"My advice to young actors today would be to work hard whenever you can, but also to have fun and, whatever you do, don't take yourself too seriously.

"Always remember that an acting career is a marathon, not a sprint, and I wish all of today's actors good luck with it."