Crossroads’ Kitty: Beryl Johnstone: 1914 – 1969

Remembering Beryl Johnstone

When Crossroads launched in 1964 it revolved around two sisters Meg, played by Noele Gordon, and Kitty, played by Beryl Johnstone. The action took place around their work and home lives. For Meg at the Crossroads Motel in Burbank, near Kings Oak, and Kitty with her general store in Heathbury. Both characters were equally important in those early days, and continued to be, right up until January 1969 when sadly Beryl died aged 54.

We felt it important that Beryl, and her contribution to the early success of Crossroads, should be remembered. Here we present a selection of articles looking back on her life and career…

Mary Beryl Johnstone was born on November 30th 1914. She was the daughter of Herbert Johnstone and Florence (nee Phipps). Before working for ATV Midlands she spent her professional career on the stage working mostly in ‘weekly rep’. She was cast as Kitty Jarvis by producer Reg Watson who had seen her perform onstage and found her perfect for the role. She was one of the eight original members of the actors in the show appearing in episode one and ultimately over 800 episodes.

In April 1940 Beryl married theatre co-star Kenneth More at Christ Church in Wolverhampton. They had one daughter – Jane, born in 1941 – who didn’t follow her parents into showbiz (apart from a brief special appearance in Crossroads) and instead became a nurse. Kenneth and Beryl divorced in 1946. He had been away a lot during WWII and had ambitions in acting that Beryl didn’t for herself seek, she was happy to be a home mother rather than travelling around the country from theatre to theatre.

Kenneth went on to become a hugely successful movie, TV and stage performer. His big break came in 1953 in the film Genevieve. Kenneth also worked for ATV on the Father Brown drama series. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and died in 1982.

A year after her divorce from Kenneth, Beryl remarried. She and Arthur Hewlett wed in December 1947, they divorced in March 1964. Arthur was also a well-known television, movie and theatre star. He appeared in small film parts and television roles ranging from Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who to The Black Adder and The Saint. Arthur passed away in 1997.

Beryl died suddenly, after a short illness, on January 28th 1969 in Cheltenham at her home which she shared with her brother Dennis and his wife Mary, along with their children James and Ruth. She recorded her final episode of Crossroads – edition 1022 – on January 20th and was due back in the studio on the morning she passed away. While unfortunately most of Beryl’s episodes were wiped not long after transmission she is still fondly remembered by many viewers of those early days of the serial.

TV TIMES, October 29th 1964. Written by George Bartram

She was white-haired, looked about 75 and was smoking a small cigar! That was my introduction to Beryl Johnstone who will play Kitty Jarvis, sister to Noele Gordon’s Meg [Richardson] in Crossroads, the ITV daily serial which starts on Monday.

But she won’t look 75 in that. She will have shed her white wig and 30-odd years. We have met at her dressing room at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre where she had assumed old age for her final week in repertory in Agatha Christie’s ‘The Unexpected Guest‘.

Nor will Beryl be smoking a cigar. That is her private ‘vice’, restricted to the dressing room. “I had smoked cigarettes all through my career,” she told me. “As many as 40 a day. Until a few weeks ago I gave them up completely. But when television rehearsals began I felt I had to relax with something and so I started smoking these miniature cigars. I get through about five a day – they help me a lot.”

Crossroads will be Beryl’s TV debut. “I shall miss the theatre,” she reflected. “I’ve worked for Derek Salberg – he runs the Alexandra Theatre – on and off for 25 years. But I must say I’m looking forward to my first dabble in television.

“Of course, the serial means a lot of hard work. Six days a week in front of the cameras and rehearsing, then Sundays spent learning lines. It’s a great challenge.”

Beryl’s TV husband, Brian Kent, has been playing opposite her in the theatre for the past four years. “We run a shop in Crossroads”, said Beryl. “You know the type of shop you find in most streets – sweets, cigarettes and newspapers. I’ve always wanted a shop of my own preferably a wool shop – perhaps I can gain a bit of experience from the series.”

Her introduction to the lush fields of soap opera could mean a new, brighter fame for Beryl Johnstone. I asked her why she had never pursued her career into television or West End. She replied with refreshing honesty:

“I had a daughter to bring up and I didn’t want to leave her for too long. My home is in Cheltenham and playing in repertory in the Midlands suited me domestically.

“But I’ve played Harrogate and Scotland for lengthy periods during this time; it’s been a good safe career and that’s the main thing. Over the years, three months is about the longest I’ve been out of work!”

Her daughter Jane is now a nurse at Westminster Hospital and is married to a schoolmaster. Strangely enough, Kitty Jarvis’s daughter in Crossroads is also a nurse – but in Australia.

During the week Beryl will be living in Birmingham, and travelling home to Cheltenham after rehearsals end at six o’clock on Saturdays. More than anything she is looking forward to playing opposite Noele Gordon. “I’d never met her before our first rehearsal,” she said, “but I’ve always had tremendous admiration for her work on television and in the theatre.

“She’s an ex-Alexandra Theatre type, you know – she did two consecutive pantomimes as Principal Boy”

Then Beryl stubbed out her cigar, adjusted her wig and went back to the stage.

THE BIRMINGHAM PLANET, March 25th 1965. Written by Ramsay Steele

Thousands of Birmingham people know Beryl Johnstone’s face as that of a close friend.

She portrays the sympathetic shopkeeper Kitty Jarvis in the Midlands television serial Crossroads. Yet this is merely the latest development in a successful acting career which stretches back 30 years.

Cheltenham, where she lives today, was her birthplace 50 years ago. She was educated at Overton House private school and then went to the Irving Academy of Dramatic Art in Cheltenham.

In 1940 she was married to a man now famous – Kenneth More. “I met Ken in ’39 at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton,” she said. “We did Candida. I was Candida and Ken was the poet.”


They were married more than five years, and divorced soon after the war. Most of the time, Kenneth More was in the Navy. “It was obvious he would have great success,” she said. “He was a very good actor – and the pushing type.

“I’m afraid I’m not the pushing type at all. Throughout my life other people have pushed me forward. Even my part in Crossroads was absolute luck. The programme producer, Reg Watson, saw me and decided he was going to put me into it, but I wasn’t pushing in that direction at all.”

Beryl finds television interesting, but very much different from theatre work. “You’ve got no idea of what audience reaction you’re getting. On stage, you put over a different thing every night, according to the audience, but on television, you’re just playing to cameras.”


Beryl says she has no film ambitions – but a few months ago she had no television ambitions.

“I’ve never really thought about films. But I don’t suppose I’ll pass the chance by if it came up. I’ve always been inclined to play safe. In acting, Rep is as safe as anything, so I’ve done more Rep than anything else.”

Beryl’s one daughter is 23-year-old Mrs Jane Woolley, a state-registered nurse and married to a schoolteacher. She has never had theatrical ambitions – but despite this a recent role of hers made national headlines.

“Jane wanted to have a look around the studios where we do Crossroads, but this wasn’t allowed. I mentioned it to Reg Watson and he said ‘Well if she wants to come on as a non-speaking extra and get £5 for it, she can.’ That’s how it came about that Kenneth More’s daughter made her acting debut.”

But her daughter is not the only member of the family that Beryl has got onto Crossroads. She did the same for her Yorkshire Terrier, Folly.

“I hope to die in the theatre” she announced, lighting a miniature cigar. “I never want to retire”


She explained that she went onto smoking cigars because of her health. “I couldn’t give up smoking altogether – not after years of 40 cigarettes a day.”

Beryl’s hobbies are simple – gardening, sewing and knitting. “I’ve always been the home-loving type” she said. “I’ve been lucky enough never to have to work far away from home for long.”

She takes little interest in the arts apart from theatre. “Although we’re quite an artistic family really. My father [Herbert Johnstone, 1887 – 1961] was an architect, my brother [Dennis] a draughtsman. My grandfather was chief illustrator for Cassell Publishing Company.”


Mr Derek Salberg, Managing Director of the Alexandra Theatre, told me: “Beryl has been with us since before the war, first at the Grand, later at the Alec, then at Cheltenham and Hereford, and afterwards at the Alec again.

“She is returning here next month, which I think is proof – after the relatively big money she’s been earning in Crossroads – that she loves the theatre more than anything else. We have always had more of a friendship than an actor-manager relationship.”


Beryl has recently been in Macbeth at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. “It’s quite amazing some of the young talent around,” she said. “Two of the actors in this production David Kelsey and Lionel Thomas are almost certain to be famous in 10 years’ time.

“I think it’s as well to be on the lookout for new talent. I was looking through an old programme of Blood Wedding the other day and noticed the name Roy Kinnear in a small part. I hadn’t the faintest recollection of him”


Kitty Jarvis’s home near Crossroads Motel is proving quite a boon to Beryl Johnstone, who plays Kitty in the daily serial.

Her real home is in Cheltenham, which she shares with her civil servant brother Dennis Johnstone, his wife Mary and their two children Ruth, two, and James, five. And as an actress, she is rarely able to get home more than once a month.

Being away normally means there is always some ice to break with the youngsters, but since they now see her so often on TV it is as if she had never been away.

To them, she is known simply as ‘A.B.’ She hates the word ‘auntie’ and James never used to be able to pronounce her name properly. Now, too, that Crossroads is being seen in the London area Beryl doesn’t feel so far away from her own daughter, 22-year-old Jane.

Jane, formerly a nurse at the Westminster Hospital, is married to London Schoolmaster Stewart Woolley. They both travelled recently to Cheltenham for a family reunion.

“Being with the family is the nicest thing about a rest from Crossroads,” said Beryl, who had a week off. “It was nice, too, to go to bed with a book instead of a script.”

Quite obviously, too, as our pictures show, it was quite nice to have things swinging with the children, and fun playing with  Folly her Yorkshire terrier and constant companion.

THE BIRMINGHAM POST, January 29th 1969.

Beryl Johnstone, the Midlands actress, well-known for her television role as Kitty Jarvis in the ATV serial Crossroads, died at her Cheltenham home yesterday aged 54.

Miss Johnstone, formerly the wife of Kenneth More, the actor, joined the Alexandra Theatre Repertory Company in 1935. Later she appeared regularly with Mr Derek Salberg’s companies in Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

She commuted between Cheltenham and Birmingham and attended a recording at the ATV Studios in Birmingham last Saturday. She was due to attend rehearsals in the city yesterday.

Mr Leonard Mathews, General Manager of ATV Network (Midlands), paid tribute to Miss Johnstone. He said she had always represented the best traditions of the entertainment world.

“She carried on despite occasional bouts of ill-health, and her personality was such that she inspired her colleagues by her ability and professionalism”

An ATV spokesman said that the recorded episodes [featuring Kitty] would be screened, but future episodes would have to be revised.

Miss Johnstone, who lived in All Saints Villas Road, Cheltenham, leaves a daughter, Jane, who married in 1964.


A large number of the cast of Crossroads, the ATV programme, were in Cheltenham yesterday for the funeral of  Miss Beryl Johnstone, who played the part of Kitty Jarvis in the serial.

Miss Johnstone, aged 54, died earlier this week at her brother’s home at 25, All Saints’ Villas Road, Cheltenham. She was the former wife of actor Kenneth More.

The funeral was at Cheltenham Crematorium and the Rev. K.B. Hobbs curate of All Saints’ officiated.

Present members of the cast were joined by a number of actors and actresses who had worked with Miss Johnstone in Crossroads, but have now left the story.

The family mourners were Jane and Stuart Woolley (daughter and son-in-law). Dennis and Mary Johnstone (brother and sister-in-law), Carol Evans, Mr and Mrs P. Arrowsmith, Mr and Mrs J Evans and Johnathan Evans.

Also present were Noele Gordon, Alan Coleman, J. Marlborough, Jane Rossington, Elisabeth Croft, William Avenell, Brian Kent, Margery Field, Ann George, Peter Brookes, Reg Watson, Pat Crowther, Margaret French…

Many thanks to Rob Wilde for some of the items on this page.