(February 26, 1909 - December 27, 1994) born Phyllis Nan
, in Apthorp House, Leytonstone, Essex, was a British writer,
restaurant critic and television cook who mostly worked with John "Johnnie"
Cradock, whose surname she adopted long before they married. She was the
daughter of novelist and lyricist Archibald Thomas Pechey.
Fanny was married a total of four times, the first in 1926 was to an RAF
pilot named Sidney Vernon Evans. The marriage was short lived as he died in an
air crash after only a few days. This left Fanny as a pregnant widow. Within a
year of giving birth to her son Peter, Fanny married again, this time to Arthur
Chapman. Another child was born, Christopher, and when Christopher was four
months old, Fanny abandoned him and Arthur for a more exciting life in central
London. In September 1939 she married again whilst still legally married to
Arthur, but the new marriage only lasted eight weeks. By that time she had met
Johnnie Cradock. Johnnie was already married with four children. He left his
wife and family and had no contact with them for the rest of his life. Fanny and
Johnnie finally married in 1977 after the collapse of her television career.
The first ten years of her life in central London began with her living in
destitution, selling cleaning products door to door. She then worked in a
dressmaking shop. Things finally picked up for her when she began to work at
various restaurants and was introduced to the works of Auguste Escoffier, which
would prove influential. She later wrote passionately about the change from
service Ó la franšaise to service Ó la russe and hailed Escoffier as a saviour
of British cooking - although she would fiercely defend her opinion that there
was no such thing as British cuisine: "Even the good old Yorkshire Pudd'n comes
It is believed that Fanny met Johnnie Cradock at a food exhibition but this
is uncertain. They began writing a column under the pen name of "Bon Viveur"
which appeared in the Daily Telegraph from 1950 to 1955. This sparked a
theatre career, with the pair turning theatres into restaurants. Cradock would
cook vast dishes that were served to the audience. They became known for their
roast turkey, complete with stuffed head, tail feathers and wings. Complete with
French accents, their act was one of a drunken hen-pecked husband and a
domineering wife. At this time, they were known as Major and Mrs Cradock. She
also wrote books under the names "Frances Dale" and "Phyllis Cradock".
In 1955, Fanny recorded a pilot for a BBC television series. It was a winning
format and each series came with a printed booklet that gave a detailed account
of each recipe Fanny demonstrated. In later years, she would simply say, "You'll
find that recipe in the booklet so I won't show you now". Cradock's TV
programmes were extremely popular in the late 1950s. Fanny advocated bringing
Escoffier-standard food into the British home and gave every recipe a French
name. Her food looked extravagant but was generally cost effective and Fanny
seemed to truly care for her audience. Regular catchphrases were; "This won't
break you", "This is perfectly economical", "This won't stretch your purse". She
insisted that "Everyone [was] entitled to a piece of really good cake at least
once a year".
As time went on, her food became outdated. Her love of the piping bag and
vegetable dyes meant that her television show began to border on farce. As she
got older, she applied more and more make-up and would wear vast chiffon
ballgowns on screen. She became a figure of fun and the BBC was aware of it.
Fanny had always included her relatives and friends in her television shows.
Johnnie suffered a minor heart attack in the early 1970s and it was the perfect
opportunity for the BBC to request "Fanny-only" shows. Johnnie was replaced with
the daughter of a friend - Jayne. Another was Sarah and there was a series of
young men who didn't last very long.
Her series Cradock Cooks for Christmas is the only one of her
programmes to have been shown in the past decade - enjoying an annual Christmas
re-run on the UK digital television channel UKTV Food.
In 1976, Devon housewife Gwen Troake won a competition called "Cook of the
Realm", the prize being to organise a banquet to be attended by Edward Heath,
Earl Mountbatten of Burma and other VIPs. The BBC filmed the result as part of a
series called The Big Time, and asked Fanny Cradock to act as one of a
number of experts giving Troake advice on her menu. The result would bring about
the end of Fanny Cradock's TV career. Mrs Troake went through her menu of
Seafood Cocktail, Duckling with bramble sauce and Coffee Cream dessert. Fanny
told her that her menu was too rich, and while accepting that her dessert was
delicious, insisted it was not suitable, declaring: "You're among professionals
now". She grimaced, acted as if on the verge of retching, and pretended not to
know what a bramble was. She suggested that Troake use a small pastry boat
filled with cream and covered with spun sugar. It was completed by an orange
slice and a cherry through a cocktail stick, giving the dish the look of a small
boat, which Fanny thought was quite suitable for the naval guests.
In the event, the pudding was a disaster and couldn't be served properly.
Robert Morley had also been consulted on the menu and had said that he felt
Troake's original coffee pudding was perfect. However, so insistent was Cradock
that she won. When the pudding failed to impress, the public were annoyed that
Cradock had seemingly ruined a potential success for the Devon housewife.
Coupled with the rude manner in which Fanny had spoken to Troake, the public
demanded her shows be axed from the BBC. Fanny wrote a letter of apology to
Troake but the BBC terminated her contract just two weeks after the programme
was broadcast. She would never present a cookery programme again.
Fanny and Johnnie became regulars on the chat show circuit and appeared on
programmes such as The Generation Game and Blankety Blank. Fanny
appeared alone on Wogan, Parkinson and TV-AM. In earlier
years her husky voice and larger-than-life personality lent itself to mimicry:
for example, on the 1960s BBC radio comedy show, Beyond Our Ken, Betty
Marsden could regularly be heard in the guise of "Fanny Haddock".
She wrote several novels, the Castle Rising series which had recipes
as footnotes but they were not well received. When she appeared on the
television chat show Parkinson. Her co-star was drag artist Danny La Rue.
When it was revealed to her that La Rue was actually a female impersonator,
Cradock stormed off set. This was her final BBC appearance. Her appearance on
television show The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross would become her last time in
the public eye.
Fanny and Johnnie spent their final years living at 29 Cooden Drive, Bexhill
on Sea, East Sussex. After Johnnie's death in 1987, she spent her last years in
residence at Ersham House Hailsham, East Sussex, after having been found by a
television reporter living in squalor. She died on 27 December 1994. Both Fanny
and Johnnie were cremated at Langney Crematorium, Eastbourne. There is a
memorial plaque and a rosebush in the grounds of the crematorium for both of
Marguerite Patten has spoken about Fanny Cradock being the saviour of British
cooking after the war. Brian Turner has said that he respects Fanny's career and
Delia Smith has attributed her career to early inspirations taken from Cradock's
television programmes. Despite her extravagant appearance and novelty value, her
recipes were extremely well used and her cookery books sold in record numbers.
Fanny's huge legacy was not multi-coloured foods - rather, she is attributed
with the creation of the modern prawn cocktail which became extremely popular in
Stage and Screen Adaptations
She and Johnnie would be parodied by The Two Ronnies, Benny Hill
and most famously by Betty Marsden in Beyond Our Ken with the character
Fanny's life has also been the subject of two biopic dramas; Doughnuts
like Fanny's written by Julia Darling and Fear of Fanny written by
Brian Fillis 
Fear Of Fanny was originally a touring UK stageplay. Brian Fillis
formed the NRG Theatre Company with several friends, and together they toured
the Edinburgh Festival in 2002, to rave reviews.
"A deft piece of theatre that avoids easy laughs...with something more
poignant which exposes the unhappy woman who hid behind the exuberant evening
gowns and alarming eyebrows", said The Sunday Times, "Don't miss what
might be a future classic", said [edinburghguide.com].
After a successful run touring the UK in October and November 2003 with the
Leeds Library Theatre Company, the stageplay was turned into a drama starring
Mark Gatiss and Julia Davis (playing Fanny Cradock), and was broadcast in
October 2006 on BBC Four as part of a series of culinary-themed dramas. It was
filmed in high definition and also broadcast on BBC HD.
"Alan Bennett would have appreciated the poetry of Fanny's hostess
instruction to Johnnie to "mingle with the melon balls", reviewed The
- Something's Burning (1960)
- Fabulous Fanny Cradock: TV's Outrageous Queen of Cuisine by Clive
- as Phyllis Cradock
- Gateway to Remembrance (1949)
- The Eternal Echo (1950)
- The Lormes of Castle Rising ISBN 0-8415-0437-7
- Shadows Over Castle Rising (1985) ISBN 0-491-03184-X
- as Fanny Cradock
- The Windsor Secret (1986) ISBN 0-352-32064-8
- Fanny's Kitchen
- Chez Bon Viveur
- The Cradocks
- Dinner Party
- Fanny Cradock Invites
- Cradock cooks for Christmas
- Cooking with Bon Viveur 1955 Museum Press Ltd (writing as John and
- Bon Viveur Recipes circa 1960 Daily Mail
- The Daily Telegraph Cook's Book by Bon Viveur 1964 Collins Fontana Books
- The Daily Telegraph Sociable Cook's Book by Bon Viveur 1967 Collins
- Fanny & Johnnie Cradocks' The Cook Hostess' Book 1970 Cookery Book Club
- Modest but Delicious 1973 Arlington Books/The Daily Telegraph
- Common Market cookery France (1973) BBC, ISBN 0-563-12586-1
- 365 Puddings by Bon Viveur Summer 1975 The Daily Telegraph
- 365 Soups by Bon Viveur Winter 1977 The Daily Telegraph
- Fanny & Johnnie Cradock's Freezer Book 1978 W H Allen
- A Cook's Essential Alphabet 1979 W H Allen
- Time to Remember - A Cook for All Seasons 1981 Web & Bower
BBC all rights reserved
- Home Cooking 1965 BBC (TV Series April - June 1965)
- Adventurous Cooking 1966 BBC (TV Series April - June 1965)
- Ten Classic Dishes 1967 BBC (TV Series January - March 1968)
- Problem Cooking 1967 BBC (TV Series 1967
- Eight Special Menus for the Busy Cook-Hostess 1967 Gas Council
- Colourful Cookery 1968 BBC (TV Series Oct - December 1968)
- Giving a Dinner Party 1969 BBC (TV Series July - October 1969)
- Fanny Craddock Invites 1970 BBC (TV Series July - October 1970)
- Fanny Cradock's Nationwide Cook Book 1972 BBC
- Fanny Cradock's Christmas Cooking 1975 BBC (TV Series November -
Works about Fanny Cradock
- Doughnuts like Fanny's - play by Julia Darling, 2002. Later
renamed Fanny Cradock - The Life and Loves of a Kitchen Devil
- Fear of Fanny - play by Brian Fillis, 2002, adapted for BBC Four
in 2006 starring Julia Davis as Fanny Cradock
does anybody have a video of benny hill impersonating fanny hill.
I remember Benny Hill in full evening dress with a false eyelash dropping in
the soup and his train catching fire as it was caught in the oven. I still
laugh about it.
Page Updated December 2007 - Thanks