Former Chester MP and TV personality Gyles Brandreth was among various stars of screen and stage who gathered to pay tribute to actress Lynda Bellingham at her funeral on Monday.

Gyles, who had been a longtime friend of the 66-year-old who lost her battle with colon cancer on October 19, was one of the first mourners to speak at the service, held at St Bartholomew’s church in Crewkerne, Somerset, reading out a touching eulogy.

He spoke to the mourners, which included actor Robert Lindsay and TV personality Christopher Biggins, of how he had been first introduced to the actress, best known for her role in the Oxo adverts, more than 40 years ago.

“I liked her at once,” he said. “I couldn’t not. She was so funny and so sexy. Every guy who met her fancied her. Gay men fancied her,” “Lynda was an extraordinary force of nature, intelligent, gifted, generous, funny, feisty, open, honest, kind and caring.

Lynda Bellingham,who lost her battle with cancer on October 19

“She showed us how to live and then in her last months she showed us how to die; with grace and courage and humour and acceptance. Gyles added: “About three weeks ago she called me and she said: ‘I’m in a good place you know, I really am.’”

“Brave, beautiful, brilliant, funny, fabulous Lynda. As we say goodbye to her in here, her book is No 1 bestseller. I think she would have liked to have gone out on a high.

“She was all right, she was the best and she was our friend. Aren’t we the lucky ones?”

After the service, mourners left the church to the song ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business” and as Lynda was laid to rest, a display of fireworks lit up the sky.

Gyles will receive an honorary degree from the University of Chester at a graduation ceremony held at Chester Cathedral on Friday November 7.  He will be made a Doctor of Letters in recognition of outstanding contribution to the arts and former role as MP of Chester.