BENIDORM star Geoffrey Hutchings, a familiar face in the Five Valleys for more than 20 years, has died, aged 71, following a sudden illness.

The Rada-trained actor died in hospital in London on July 1 from meningitis.

His agent Roger Charteris said: " He was fine at lunchtime on Wednesday but he had died the following morning."

Hutchings lived first in Summer Street, Stroud, with his wife Andi Godfrey and later in Amberley before moving to London in 2002.

His career stretched from Shakespearean theatre to a string of popular Dramas and he was most recently seen in ITV1's hit sitcom Benidorm.

Hutchings's celebrated TV dramas have also included the acclaimed saga Our Friends In The North, as well as Heart Of Darkness and Made In Britain.

But his work took him through a diverse range of roles, including daytime TV dramas, popular series such as Bad Girls and last year he had a brief spell in EastEnders.

The actor, who lived in central London, died suddenly in hospital at around 8am.

Hutchings's latest series, the sitcom Grandma's House written by comic Simon Amstell, is due to be screened on BBC2 this summer.

He was also due to begin filming the next series of Benidorm shortly.

The Dorchester-born actor studied French and PE at Birmingham University before attending Rada and becoming a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1968.

His stagecraft won him an Olivier Award for best comedy performance in 1982 for his role in Poppy.