Actress Mary Wimbush, who played Julia Pargetter-Carmichael on The Archers for 13 years, has died at the age of 81.
Mary Wimbush worked in BBC radio for more than 60 years
Wimbush, a familiar voice on BBC radio for more than 60 years, died at the BBC's Birmingham studios shortly after finishing recording on Monday night.
Julia was the actress' third major role in the BBC Radio 4 soap. She previously played village schoolteacher Elsie Catcher and Lady Isabel Lander.
"Working with Mary was simply a joy," said Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn.
"Julia Pargetter was every inch Mary's creation and she played her to perfection. She is a great loss and we will miss her."
"Lower Loxley will be a duller place without her," said Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer.
"She took the character with all her flaws and affectations and made her into a believable human being for whom listeners felt a mixture of affection and exasperation."
Jenny Abramsky, director of BBC Radio and Music, said Wimbush had been "part of the fabric of BBC Radio drama since her first broadcast in 1945".
"Her contribution has been enormous and news of her death will sadden everybody who appreciates great performances."
Wimbush died from a stroke after collapsing in the arms of actress Alison Dowling, who plays her daughter-in-law Elizabeth in the programme.
Emergency services were called and the actress was taken to hospital.
A spokesman for the series said it was too early to say what would happen to Wimbush's character.
"Everyone is in shock," he said. "She has been around for a long time and we certainly won't make an instant decision."
The future of her most recent recordings, which were due to be aired in December, is uncertain.
Wimbush won a Sony award for best actress in 1991 for her performances in The Horse's Mouth and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
In 1993 she played Lady Edith in The Governor's Consort, a role especially written for her by Peter Tinniswood.
Other BBC Radio 4 productions included Villette, The Poor Clare, The Grey Woman, Easy Virtue and Diary of a Provincial Lady.
She also appeared in the 1974 BBC drama series Fall of Eagles
She also recorded the role of the Duchess of York in Richard III for Riverrun's Arkangel Complete Shakespeare Collection.
On television she played Aunt Agatha in three series of Jeeves and Wooster. Her most notable film role was as Mary Smith in Richard Attenborough's Oh! What a Lovely War.
Asked last year to account for her professional longevity, she said: "I really don't know.
"I've just been very lucky to have a lot of stamina - and a sense of humour."
She is survived by a son, two grandsons and a sister.