John Nettles

John Vivian Drummond Nettles,[2] OBE, (born 11 October 1943)[3] is an English actor and author. He is best known for his starring roles as detectives in the crime drama television series Bergerac (1981–1991) in the title role, and Midsomer Murders (1997–2011) as Detective Inspector Tom Barnaby. He has also narrated several television series.

John Nettles

Nettles in Hamburg, March 2015
John Vivian Drummond Nettles

(1943-10-11) 11 October 1943[1]
St Austell, Cornwall, England, UK
Alma materUniversity of Southampton
Occupation(s)Actor, author
Years active1969–present
    Joyce MIddleton
    (m. 1966; div. 1979)
      Cathryn Sealey
      (m. 1995)

      Early life

      Nettles was born in St Austell, Cornwall, in 1943. His birth mother was an Irish nurse who came to work in the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He was adopted at birth by carpenter Eric Nettles and his wife Elsie.

      As a youth he attended St Austell Grammar School.[4][5] In 1962 he went to study history and philosophy at the University of Southampton, where he developed an interest in acting,[6] and after graduation he joined the Royal Court Theatre.[7]

      Acting career

      Nettles played Laertes to Tom Courtenay's Hamlet in 1969 at the University Theatre for 69 Theatre Company in Manchester. From 1969 to 1970, he was in repertory at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, and in the latter year had his first screen role in the film One More Time. The following year he played Dr. Ian Mackenzie in the period drama A Family at War, a role he continued until 1972. Following that he had small parts in many TV programmes including The Liver Birds, Dickens of London, Robin of Sherwood and an episode of Enemy at the Door called "Officers of the Law", first broadcast in March 1978. The latter was set in Guernsey during the German occupation of the Channel Islands in the Second World War and Nettles played a police detective ordered to work for the Germans, who is anguished over the conflict between his duty and collaborating with the enemy.

      In 1981 Nettles became a household name in the UK when Robert Banks Stewart cast him as States of Jersey Police officer Jim Bergerac in the crime drama Bergerac.[8][9] The series ran for 87 episodes on BBC1 until 1991. Following the end of Bergerac, Nettles did five seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company,[5] appearing in The Winter's Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Julius Caesar, Richard III and The Devil is an Ass.[10] In 1992 he appeared in an episode of Boon, and in 1993 reprised the role of Jim Bergerac in a guest appearance in the spoof police comedy The Detectives.

      In 1995 Nettles was approached by Brian True-May to play Tom Barnaby in a new murder mystery series he was to produce called Midsomer Murders.[5] This was to be the second major role of his television career, again playing a police detective. Midsomer Murders was an immediate hit, achieving 13.5 million viewers on its launch in 1997 and was sold to more than 200 countries worldwide.[11] In 2001 Nettles guest-starred in an episode of Heartbeat playing fraudster Giles Sutton. In 2003 he played Barnaby in the Boxing Day episode of French & Saunders. In 2007 he appeared in the BBC Radio 4 comedy series Will Smith Presents the Tao of Bergerac, alongside comedian Will Smith, which was about an obsessive fan of the series.

      In February 2009, it was announced that Nettles had decided to leave Midsomer Murders after two further series were made.[11] His final appearance on-screen was on 2 February 2011, by which time he had appeared in 81 episodes.[12] About his departure, he commented, "It’s always wise to leave people wanting more, rather than be booed off the stage because you bored them."[13]

      In 2016 and 2017, Nettles had a recurring role as Ray Penvenen in the second and third series of the popular historical drama Poldark.

      Other television work

      In 1982 Nettles was Raoul (the 4th man) in the Agatha Christie Hour story The Fourth Man.

      In the 1990s Nettles narrated the BBC documentary X Cars following Greater Manchester Police's stolen car squad during the height of the UK wide joyriding crime wave.

      Nettles narrated Wild Discovery in 1995 and the BBC documentary series Airport from 1996 to 2005.

      In early 2010 Nettles wrote, presented and produced a three-part documentary, Channel Islands at War, to mark the 70th anniversary of the German invasion and subsequent occupation of the Channel Islands.[14] He received threatening letters from some residents of Jersey, accusing him of implying that islanders were collaborators. He defended the documentary saying: "There is no possible way you could have avoided collaboration with the occupying power who had power over the civilian population. If you had not toed the line you would have been shot."[15] This view was supported by local historians and members of the Channel Islands Occupation Society.

      In 2020 Nettles took over as the narrator on the Channel 4 television show Devon and Cornwall,[16] a sister show to the network's The Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes programme. [17]


      During the filming of Bergerac, filmed on the island of Jersey, he wrote Bergerac's Jersey (BBC Books, 1988; ISBN 0-563-20703-5), a travel guide to filming locations in the series. He followed up with John Nettles' Jersey: A Personal View of the People and Places (BBC Books, 1992; ISBN 0-563-36318-5) about the island's landscape, personalities and history.

      In 1991 he wrote the semi-autobiographical Nudity in a Public Place: Confessions of a Mini Celebrity (Robson Books; ISBN 0-7451-1961-1) about becoming a "reluctant heartthrob" to female viewers of Bergerac. This was re-released as a Kindle version on Amazon in 2014 following the reruns of Bergerac on BBC2 as part of their afternoon nostalgia collection.

      In 2012 Nettles wrote Jewels and Jackboots (Hardback ISBN 978-1-905095-38-4) about the German occupation of the Channel Islands. It sold out in a matter of weeks, and was republished in 2013 as a paperback and on Kindle.

      In 2019 John Nettles published an edition of the diaries of Reverend Douglas Ord during the German occupation of Guernsey during World War. Nettles edited the diaries as well as writing an introduction.

      Personal life

      Nettles married his first wife, Joyce Middleton, in 1967. Their daughter, Emma Martins, was born in 1970, and moved to Jersey with her father for Bergerac. She joined the States of Jersey Police, working with officers who met her father during the show's filming. After Nettles's divorce from Joyce, she became a casting director for Midsomer Murders.[18]

      Nettles married his second wife, Cathryn Sealey, in July 1995 in Evesham, Worcestershire.[19]


      Nettles was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[20]


      In 2006 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Southampton, from which he had graduated.[21]

      On 21 September 2012, Nettles was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Plymouth. He also agreed to be a patron of Devon charity The Mare and Foal Sanctuary in July 2014.[22]


      Year Title Role Notes
      1969 The Expert John Franklin Episode: "Lie Down, You're Dead"
      1970 One More Time Dixon
      ITV Sunday Night Drama Methodist Number 1 TV series
      The Red, White and Black 10th Cavalry Trooper
      1971–1972 A Family At War Ian McKenzie 14 episodes
      1972–1976 The Liver Birds Paul 19 episodes
      1973 The Adventures of Black Beauty Edwin Palgrave 1 episode; "The Debt"
      1976 Dickens of London Macrone 2 episodes
      1977 Holding On Herbert Goodings 3 episodes
      BBC2 Play of the Week Theo Redman 1 episode; "Arnhem: The Story of an Escape"
      1978 Enemy at the Door Det. Sgt. Roy Lewis Episode: "Officers of the Law"
      1980 The Professionals Fugitive Uncredited
      The Merchant of Venice Bassanio Television film
      1981–1991 Bergerac Jim Bergerac 87 episodes
      1981 BBC2 Playhouse Gerald Episode: "Findings on a Late Afternoon"
      1982 The Agatha Christie Hour Raoul Letardau Episode: "The Fourth Man"
      1984 Robin of Sherwood Peter de Leon Episode: "The Prophecy"
      1991 Tonight at 8.30 Peter Gilpin 1 episode
      1992 Boon Joe Green Episode: "Queen's Gambit"
      1993 The Detectives Jim Bergerac Episode: "Studs"
      1994 Romeo & Juliet Capulet Television film
      1995 All Men Are Mortal Sanier
      1997 Millennium: Fact and Fiction Narrator
      1997–2011 Midsomer Murders DCI Tom Barnaby 81 episodes
      1998 Fraud Squad Narrator
      The Tourist Trap Narrator 1 episode
      1998–1999 Disaster Narrator 2 episodes
      2000 The Unforgettable Les Dawson Narator
      2000–2002 Airport Narrator 7 episodes
      2001 Heartbeart Giles Sutton Episode: "Still Water"
      2002 The Hound of the Baskervilles Dr. James Mortimer Television film
      2003 Sindy: The Fairy Princess Ulebus the Wand / Shay the Unicorn / The King Video only release
      French and Saunders DCI Barnaby Episode: "French and Saunders Actually"
      This is Your Life Self
      2008 John Nettles Applauds Presenter/Narrator 3 episodes
      2010 The Channel Islands at War Presenter
      2014 Toast of London John Nettles Episode: "Desperate Measures"
      2016 Never Land Fisherman John Short film
      2016–2017 Poldark Ray Penvenen 9 episodes
      2017 Walks with My Dog Self Episode: "- John Nettles, Jon Culshaw & Helen Skelton"
      History Presenter Episode: "Hitler's England"
      2020 Britain's Favourite Detective DCI Barnaby TV Special
      2020–2021 Devon and Cornwall Narrator 15 episodes
      2021 My Unique B&B Narrator 2 episodes


      1. "John Nettles – Biography". Retrieved 8 May 2011.
      2. " – UK Company and Company Director Reports". Retrieved 8 May 2011.
      3. "John Nettles Biography". 11 October 1943. Archived from the original on 30 August 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
      4. "School History - Information - Poltair School". Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-02.
      5. "John Nettles". Archived from the original on 15 April 2009.
      6. "Profile: John Nettles". BBC News. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
      7. "John Nettles". Archived from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
      8. Hodgkinson, Will (27 October 2001). "The feelgood factory". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
      9. "Bergerac actor John Nettles given an OBE by the Queen", Daily Telegraph 10 November 2010
      10. "Archive Catalogue – John Nettles". Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
      11. Holmwood, Leigh (12 February 2009). "John Nettles to quit Midsomer Murders". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
      12. "Nettles to leave Midsomer Murders". BBC News. 12 February 2009.
      13. Morgan, Clive (17 July 2009). "Interview: John Nettles on Midsomer Murders". The Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
      14. "Slavery and pain: the Nazis on the Channel Islands". The Telegraph. 21 June 2010.
      15. "John Nettles: I'm Jersey's most famous son but now I am being vilified simply for speaking". Daily Express. UK. 26 November 2010.
      16. "Devon and Cornwall Season 2". Archived from the original on 19 June 2020. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
      17. "The Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes Season 1".
      18. "Bergerac's fair cop; John Nettles' daughter joins Jersey police". Sunday Mirror. 21 February 1999. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
      19. "BMD Indexes 1984–2004".
      20. "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 12.
      21. "University recognises outstanding achievements with its honorary degrees 2006". University of Southampton. 13 July 2006. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
      22. "Midsomer Murders star John Nettles takes on new role". ITV. 22 July 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
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