She trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and made her stage debut at the age of seventeen playing the ninety year old Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit. A long career in repertory theatre followed as well as small parts in television series such as Z Cars, Take Three Girls, Just William, Within These Walls and several Play for Today's before she gained national fame as Nurse Beatrice Mason in the acclaimed wartime BBC drama Tenko in 1981. Her fame established, she then also starred in Open All Hours, The Return of the Antelope, A Bit of a Do, the Alan Bennett Talking Heads series and the long running comedy Waiting for God. Immediately prior to Coronation Street, her most visible starring role was in the ITV drama Doc Martin. West Stage stage roles include Noises Off, Steel Magnolias and A Passionate Woman.
Since leaving Coronation Street she reprised her role as Mrs Featherstone in the 2013 Open All Hours sequel Still Open All Hours.