ACTRESS Emma Chambers, much loved for her role as goofy Alice Tinker in the hit sit-com The Vicar of Dibley, has died aged just 53.

Co-star Dawn French said in a statement: "Emma was a very bright spark and the most loyal and loving friend anyone could wish for. I will miss her very much."

Chambers' agent John Grant said: "We are very sad to announce the untimely death, from natural causes, of the acclaimed actress Emma Chambers.

"Over the years, Emma created a wealth of characters and an immense body of work. She brought laughter and joy to many, and will be greatly missed.

"At this difficult time we ask that the privacy of the family and loved ones be respected."

Emma Freud, the wife of The Vicar Of Dibley's creator Richard Curtis, paid tribute to Chambers saying: "Our beautiful friend Emma Chambers has died at the age of 53. We're very very sad. She was a great, great comedy performer, and a truly fine actress. And a tender, sweet, funny, unusual, loving human being."

Hugh Grant - who starred opposite Chambers in Notting Hill - called news of her death "very sad".

He wrote on Twitter: "Emma Chambers was a hilarious and very warm person and of course a brilliant actress. Very sad news."