John Inman, best known for playing one of the most prominent camp characters in British TV history, has died. He was 71.

Mr Inman’s portrayal of Mr Humphries in the popular BBC comedy Are You Being Served, made him a household name.

He died this morning in St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, West London.

His catchphrase, “I’m free,” and his camp mannerisms and double-entendres made his Mr Humphries character one of the most obviously gay voices on television.

Both Inman and the producers of Are You Being Served denied that Mr Humphries compounded a stereotype of gay men. In 1976 he was named BBC TV personality of the year.

Mr Inman remained a popular figure after the sitcom came to an end in 1985, after twelve years and 69 episodes.

He worked in panto for many years, and also starred in an Australian version of Are You Being Served which ran for 13 episodes in the early 1980s.

In December 2005 Mr Inman formed a civil partnership with his partner of 33 years, Ron Lynch.

Actress Rula Lenska, who worked with Mr Inman, told the BBC:

“It was suggestive but never in your face or aggressive. It had an innocent quality that you rarely find today.

“He was a joy to work with and even after an exhausting day in pantomime he would have time for the fans who crowded round the stage door.”

In 2004 Mr Inman had to cancel opening a pantomime in London, and revealed that he had been told that he had Hepatitis A some years previously.