Actors Ross Kemp and Steven McFadden, who played the sons of Dame Barbara Windsor’s EastEnders matriarch Peggy Mitchell, have paid tribute following the star’s death at the age of 83.
Kemp, who played Grant Mitchell in the BBC soap, said she was “the woman who always had time for everybody”.
McFadden, who played Phil, said: “I truly loved Barbara and, like everyone, I am going to miss her terribly.”
He added: “She was everything you would hope she would be, and more.”
Other former co-stars also fondly remembered the actress. Larry Lamb, who played Peggy’s controlling husband Archie, described her as “an extraordinary woman”.
“The word ‘star’ gets a little bit over-used, and if you’re going to be a star you’ve kind of got to learn out to be one,” Lamb told BBC Radio 5 Live.
She knew how to carry herself on set, he said. “You know what it means to be the top of the bill, to have the responsibility of carrying the show and and looking after everybody all around you, helping you to move it along and keep it up to scratch, and she had to do it.
“Everybody looked up to her – which physically wasn’t the easiest thing to do, she was so tiny!
“But she was an extraordinary woman and a great loss.”
Tracy-Ann Oberman joined the Albert Square cast in 2004, playing Chrissie Watts, the wife of “Dirty” Den. She told 5 Live Dame Barbara was “like showbusiness’s fairy godmother”.
“She was a wonderful, wonderful woman, because not only was she excellent at her work, she was also a really good human being,” she said.
Oberman recalled how welcoming the star had been when she first arrived into the “whirlwind” of the “fast-moving” show, despite Dame Barbara having been absent from EastEnders for a couple of years due to ill health.
“She got my number and she rang me up and she said, ‘Hello darling. This is Barbara here. I just want to let you know that I’ve been watching you on screen and you’re fantastic, and if there’s anything you need call me’,” Oberman said.
Fellow soap star Danny Dyer, who played Mick Carter, posted on Instagram that Dame Barbara was “the only one Dame in my eyes”.
“So grateful to have known ya. You was a beautiful rare one,” he wrote.
Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale, said it was “a privilege and honour” to work with Dame Barbara, having watched her in the Carry On films during his youth.
“I have so many happy memories and moments that I will always cherish, even when Peggy floored Ian with a punch,” he said.
Former EastEnder Shane Richie said he was “absolutely devastated” at the news because “Barbara was a friend as well as my TV boss in the Queen Vic”.
The actor, who played Alfie Moon and was recently in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, wrote on Instagram: “She will always be my Duchess.”
Letitia Dean, who plays Sharon Mitchell, said the actress “will be missed beyond measure”, adding: “They broke the mould when they made Dame Barbara Windsor. There will never be another like that incredible woman. Everyone who met her loved her.”
Elsewhere in the TV world, Phillip Schofield called the actress “gorgeous”, adding that she was “a real icon, showbiz lost a lot of sparkle today”.
Sheridan Smith called her “one of my idols”, having met her through David Walliams, who told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I grew up watching Carry On films on television, for a lot of boys my age it was like a first crush because she was one of the first beautiful, funny dazzling women you ever saw.
“We became friends nearly 20 years ago – she was very kind to everybody… she would immediately make everyone feel at ease, immediately make everyone feel happy. Everyone who comes and talks to her she’s got time for, she was just absolutely golden to spend time with.
“I sat on the sofa blushing as red as a tomato as I had never seen anyone as beautiful, funny or adorable as Barbara Windsor and I still never have.”
Fellow Little Britain star Matt Lucas said “it’s not an overstatement to say I think the whole country is in mourning today” and praised Dame Barbara for working “tirelessly” for charity “even when her own health was failing her”.
Amanda Holden wrote on Instagram: “I was a big fan and was thrilled to meet Barbara on several occasions… she was an absolute joy.”
TV presenter Jonathan Ross tweeted: “Barbara Windsor in real life was everything you might have hoped for. So warm, so funny, so kind. Goodnight sweetheart x.”
Danniella Westbrook, who played Dame Barbara’s on-screen daughter Sam Mitchell in EastEnders, tweeted: “My heart is broken. Bar, you will always [be] in my heart forever.”
Patsy Palmer, who played Bianca Jackson, said on Instagram: “I’m sitting here thinking of the 100s of memories we shared.
“Too many to comprehend. We were like family for a long time, ups, downs, ins and outs but you will never meet a more professional actress than Babs.”
Lucy Benjamin, who played Lisa Fowler, added: “You were a true star in every sense”, while Tamzin Outhwaite, who played Mel Owen, described the actress as an icon and national treasure. “All I can hear is ‘ello darlin’,” she added in reference to Peggy Mitchell’s cockney catchphrase.
Nitin Ganatra, who played Masood Ahmed, said it had been “a privilege and honour to work with this remarkable, sparkling, funny, straight talking, generous woman… and what a giggle!! I will never forget the kindness she showed me”.
Craig Fairbrass, who left EastEnders in 2001 having played Dan Sullivan, tweeted that she was a “larger than life proper legend”, while Diane Parish, who played Denise Fox, said she would remember “her kindness, and of course laughter”.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden added his voice to the tributes, telling BBC Breakfast she was “the greatest landlady Albert Square ever saw”.
Doctor Who star John Barrowman, who was interviewed by Dame Barbara on BBC Radio 2 in 2011, said in a Twitter video that the star would be “sorely missed”.
“She was a small woman but feisty, and she had the biggest, biggest heart in the business,” he said. “And she was a genuine, lovely, warm, caring person and she will be sorely missed by the film, television, radio and theatre worlds.”
Veteran broadcaster Tony Blackburn added that she was a “lovely lady who was always such fun”.