Actress Gwyneth Powell, who was best known for playing headmistress Mrs McClusky in the BBC series Grange Hill, has died aged 76, it has been confirmed.


Powell's agent Matthew Lacey revealed in a statement on behalf of the family that she died “after complications following a major operation for a perforated colon".

The statement added: “She passed away peacefully, with her husband (Alan Leith) and niece at her bedside.

“Gwyneth will be greatly missed by her adoring family and friends along with her many fans from multiple TV appearances.”

Patricia Hidalgo, director of BBC Children’s and Education, said: “We are very sorry to hear of the passing of Gwyneth Powell.

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“Her famous portrayal of Mrs McClusky is one that will be fondly remembered by all those that grew up watching Grange Hill.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.”

Lee MacDonald, who starred as Zammo McGuire on Grange Hill, was among those to pay tribute to his former co-star, writing on Twitter: "So sad to hear the loss of Gwyneth Powell AKA Mrs McClusky, what a wonderful lady and will be missed by so many, she was a massive part of my childhood, sleep well Gwyneth."

Powell began her acting career with a role in the 1971 London Weekend Television dystopian drama series The Guardians.

However, it was her role as the tough but fair headmistress Bridget McClusky in Grange Hill that she became best known for.

She portrayed the character between 1981 and 1991, when she asked to be written out in order to try her hand at other acting roles.

Powell went on to appear in Holby City, Heartbeat and Father Brown, and memorably starred in Greg Davies's Channel 4 comedy show Man Down.

Most recently, she appeared in an episode of Not Going Out earlier in 2022.

After the BBC axed Grange Hill in 2008, Powell spoke to the broadcaster about her time in charge.

"At first Mrs McClusky was written as a 'twin set and pearls' role but I was quite young at the time and didn't want to play it like that," she explained. "We started with the clothes and she was quite fashion conscious and chic."

She continued: "I was told by lots of people she was a great fillip to young women teachers who started applying for headships. The show had repercussions in all kinds of ways and the character did too. My period did coincide with the Thatcher years. I think Mrs McClusky became memorable because we had a prime minister like that."


Powell was married to fellow actor Alan Leith.