SIR Michael Hordern, one of Britain's leading actors, has died at the

age of 83.

He died ''peacefully'' yesterday afternoon at The Churchill Hospital,

Oxford after long illness. A hospital spokeswoman said the actor had

been receiving dialysis treatment.

His roles ranged from playing King Lear to providing the voice for

Paddington Bear.

He was born on October 3, 1911, to a family whose traditions were

partly naval but mostly clerical.

He began a career as a schoolteacher but this lasted only two terms

until an attack of polio.

He then became a commercial traveller for the Educational Supply

Association for five years, during which time he took up amateur


Eventually, acting was taking up so much of his time that he decided

to become an actor, undaunted by his lack of formal training.

Sir Michael was advised to do some repertory work which led to two

45-week seasons with the Little Theatre, Bristol, and a meeting with

actress Eve Mortimer, whom he married in 1943.

With the outbreak of war he volunteered for the Navy and reached the

rank of Lieutenant Commander.

It was a performance as Chekov's Ivanov in the Arts Theatre, London,

that brought him his first critical acclaim.

The stage took up the largest portion of his time and he played some

of the wordiest parts in the language, from Shakespeare's Prospero and

Lear -- in which he played the lead three times -- to distracted George

in Tom Stoppard's Jumpers.

In all he appeared in more than 80 theatre productions and more than

60 film roles.

In 1972 he was awarded the CBE and he was knighted in 1983.

He made several memorable television appearances and his voice became

familiar to viewers through the many commercial voice-overs he did.

He also narrated the children's story Paddington Bear and made

recordings as Badger in Wind in the Willows.

Fishing was a passion for him. He had many fishing rods and hundreds

of flies which he made himself.

Such was his skill that a leading anglers' catalogue lists a Michael

Horden Nymph, which he regarded as a great accolade.