Hattie Jacques was born in Sandgate, Kent, in 1924. She originally trained as a hairdresser but during the war worked first as a nurse and then as an arc welder. It was in these unlikely surroundings that she began to discover a talent for making people laugh. As in many such cases, Hattie's sense of humour was largely a defence against her size: she remained a rather large lady throughout her life.
Hattie's first exposure to the world of showbusiness came when she would follow her brother to work; he was a lift-operator at London's Little Players Theatre. Before long, she was appearing on stage in a variety of roles, normally singing Victorian songs and performing in the Players' pantomimes. Hatties' famous outsize fairy act was developed and fostered in these early days. She regularly appeared as the Christmas fairy in the theatre's pantomimes, a role which she often nominated her favourite. Hattie remained faithful to Little Players Theatre, returning to it regularly as a performer, producer and writer.
As her early career developed, Hattie became famous as a music hall act. Her songs and comedy, full of smutty innuendo, were ideal grounding for her later roles in the Carry Ons and Hancock. Like many of the Carry On regulars, Hattie became well known to a wider audience, thanks to radio. Her first major role was as Sophie Tuckshop, the greedy schoolgirl, in ITMA - Tommy Handley's immortal radio comedy. A tenure in Educating Archie followed soon after, and it was there that she first met her long time sparring partner, Eric Sykes. Hattie and Sykes continued to work together for 30 years, in a succession of TV series that became incredibly popular.
Hattie was loved by everybody who worked with her. When she died, Eric Sykes said that she had been like a real sister to him. And she was a continual source of comfort and affection on the Carry On sets. Everyone seemed to run to her with their troubles. 'She never lost her temper', said Barbara Windsor, 'and was always helping people with their problems'. Joan Sims was particularly close to her and Hattie gave her a lot of moral and practical support during a particularly stressful period in her life.
She was a generous hostess and frequently invited the other members of the team home for a hot meal. At Christmas and New Year, single members of the Carry On team, like Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims, were always made welcome. According to her agent Felix de Wolfe said, her main fault was that she allowed people to take advantage of her. She would earnestly try to attend every fete or charity appearance that she was offered.
Hattie Jacques was married to actor John Le Mesurier. They had 2 sons and although they later divorced, they remained strong friends. Hattie died in October 1980, after suffering a heart attack. She was just 56.