Actor Leonard Fenton, best known for his role as Dr Harold Legg in EastEnders, has died aged 95, his family has said.
He appeared in EastEnders in its very first episode, which was broadcast in 1985, with his last scenes airing in 2019.
A statement from his family said: “The family of the actor Leonard Fenton are heartbroken to announce his death at the age of 95 on Saturday January 29.
“Best known for his role as Dr Legg on EastEnders, Leonard’s acting career spanned more than 60 years.
“He worked in TV and film and his long stage career included time at the National Theatre and most recently the Royal Shakespeare Company.
“He felt privileged to have worked with some of the greats of the theatre, including Samuel Beckett, Orson Welles and Jonathan Miller.
“His passion for painting and singing pre-dated his acting career and was equally as important to him. He will be missed beyond words by his family.
“We feel incredibly lucky to have been able to be with him as his health worsened towards the end – a privilege denied to so many during these tough times.”
An EastEnders spokesperson added: “We are deeply saddened to hear that Leonard has passed away. Since appearing in the very first episode of EastEnders, Leonard created a truly iconic character in Doctor Legg who will always be remembered.
“Our love and thoughts are with Leonard’s family and friends.”
He appeared in a total of 267 episodes of the long-running BBC soap opera while his other TV credits included roles in Colditz, Secret Army, Z-Cars, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and more.
The character was a close friend of Dot Cotton, played by June Brown, as he entertained her hypochondria and seemingly endless list of ailments.
In a statement, Brown called him a “charming man in all ways”.
She said: “I first met Leonard as Dr Legg when I joined the cast of EastEnders as Dot, his hypochondriac patient, in 1985.
“He was a charming man in all ways, first as a person and then as an actor, extremely polite and kind. I enjoyed working with him enormously for many years and missed him when he retired.
“I was glad that I’d been with him for his last scene with Dot at his bedside and my thoughts are with his devoted family.”
Dr Legg was written out of the soap in emotional scenes which aired in 2019, after he had returned to tell Dot that he had terminal cancer.
Natalie Cassidy, who plays Sonia Fowler in the show, said the “utterly charming” Fenton “continuously joked with me and loved talking about his past. I feel honoured that our paths crossed”.
Another long-running cast member, Gillian Taylforth, who plays Kathy Beale, said he was “so kind and always told the most wonderful stories. RIP dear Leonard.”
Cheryl Fergison, AKA Heather Trott, said on Instagram in a post with with a red love heart: “Sad news Leonard Fenton (Dr Legg) has passed away … @bbceastenders casting the best in great characters … lovely man and talented actor.”
Lord Sugar, the star of The Apprentice, tweeted that he was “very sorry”, adding Dot “needs a new doctor.”
Great British Bake Off co-host Matt Lucas said he had grown up watching him on screen and was “chuffed when I got to work with him a few years back”.