How late Wallace and Gromit and Last of The Summer Wine star Peter Sallis began his career in Sheffield

Peter Sallis trod the boards at Sheffield Repetory Theatre.
Peter Sallis trod the boards at Sheffield Repetory Theatre.

His voice was among the most familiar in British television - but long before fame, late Last of The Summer Wine star Peter Sallis first honed his skills on the stage in Sheffield.

The actor, whose death was announced earlier this week at the age of 96, was among a star-studded line up of the famous Sheffield Repetory Theatre, which included a host of household names among its ranks in the 1950s and 60s.

Peter Sallis (Clegg) with Brian Wilde (Foggy) and Bill Owen (Compo) in Last of the Summer Wine.

Peter Sallis (Clegg) with Brian Wilde (Foggy) and Bill Owen (Compo) in Last of the Summer Wine.

As well as Sallis, who also performed the voice of Wallace in Wallace and Gromit, acclaimed actors such as Patrick McGoohan, Patrick Stewart, Paul Eddington, Keith Barron and Sir Nigel Hawthorne also trod the boards in Sheffield in the early days of their careers.

They were all members of the Sheffield Rep, whose origins can be traced all the way back to 1919.

Herbert Prince, a railway clerk, founded the amateur dramatics society in that year and a first meeting took place at the Oxford Street Settlement in Shipton Street.

By1923, it had become the Sheffield Repetory Theatre and by1928, the Company gained a permanent venue and moved to the former Temperance Hall, in Townhead Street.

Sheffield Repetory Theatre.

Sheffield Repetory Theatre.

With the outbreak of war in 1939, the theatre was closed, along with nearly all British theatres by a government fearful of German bombing and consequent mass loss of life in such public buildings.

The company arranged to reform in Southport, a de-restricted area, and carried on the business there and 240 productions took place in the Lancashire resort by before its return in 1945.

By 1951, the theatre was a cultural and financial success and plays ranging from Shakespeare to interpretations of the latest 'West End Smash' would alternate throughout the year.

Its heyday was in the 1950s when the host of future stars listed above trod the boards and actors such as Sir Alec Guinness and Patrick Macnee also performed there.

The new Crucible Theatre replaced the old theatre in 1971 and of course remains to this day.

Sheffield theatre writer Paul Allen said: "Peter was one of a group of fine actors developed by the late Geoffrey Ost, artistic director of Sheffield Playhouse from 1938 till the mid-sixties

"In his book, Fading into the Limelight, Sallis says Ost didn’t tell you how to act a part, you had to find that out yourself. It was his job to get you on and off at the right time – this is why actors loved him of course."

He added: "Last of The Summer Wine writer Roy Clarke told me that Sallis as Clegg was the character closest to himself in the show - diffident, reflective, preferring to observe rather than to participate but unable to get out of the scrapes."

While much of the series was filmed in and around Holmfirth in West Yorkshire, Doncaster-based writer Clarke often chose South Yorkshire locations for filming including his hometown and other parts of South Yorkshire and his other sitcom classic, Open All Hours and follow-up Still Open All Hours were filmed at a converted hairdressing salon in Balby.

Sallis played Norman "Cleggy" Clegg from its first episode in 1973 until the series concluded in 2010 and was the only actor to appear in all 295 episodes of the sitcom.