Born Phyllis Primrose-Peachy in Leytonstone, Essex on 26 February 1909, “Fanny” lived with her family in a house called “Apthorp” on Fairlop Road in Leytonstone.
In 1926, at the age of 17, she married her first husband, Sidney Evans. A pilot in the Royal Air Force, he was killed in a plane crash (their son, Peter was born after Sidney was killed).
Fanny sold hoovers and encyclopedias door to door for a time until she remarried in July 1928. She had a second son from this marriage, but abandoned both the son and the marriage, and went off on her own to manage a dressmaking shop.
In 1939, she married again for the third time (perhaps illegally, as there had reputedly been no divorce from the 1928 husband) but a few weeks after that marriage, she left her husband for the man she would finally stick with — Major John Whitby Cradock.
Aged 35 at the time, “Johnnie” was married himself at the time but he left his wife and children for Fanny. Fanny adopted his surname but she and Johnnie did not actually marry until 7 May 1997, even though she would insist that everyone call her “Mrs Cradock.”
Fanny and Johnnie Cradock presented a popular cookery programme on British television from the 1950s until the 1970s – starting with Kitchen Magic for the BBC and Fanny’s Kitchen for the newly launched ITV – as well as writing several successful cookery books.
Johnnie, an alumnus of Harrow, always sported a monocle and tuxedo.
From the start, there was a great deal of sadomasochism in Fanny’s cookery. For instance, in 1956, she and Johnnie were filmed on stage at the Albert Hall where she demonstrated how to make a souffle.
As she beat the ingredients into shape in a little bowl, Fanny said in a French accent; “And then you think about the woman next door that you have never really liked but you have never really told her and so you take it out on the sauce. And that is the perfect way to make a souffle” . . .
The beginning of the end came in 1976 when Fanny poured scorn on a menu presented by an amateur cook called Gwen on the BBC show The Big Time.
Fanny was so scathing and condescending – and the public backlash so strong – that her career was permanently damaged and she rarely appeared on television again.
Fanny Cradock died on 27 December 1994 in East Sussex. She was 85.