COMEDY viewers will likely know Martha Howe-Douglas best as Lady Fanny Button on hit sitcom Ghosts or perhaps her turn in Horrible Histories.

Aside from her multi-character work over the last decade and a half, Howe-Douglas has also worked on several other projects.

Howe-Douglas is also a writer and has written for shows she herself was starring in.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, to see Martha Howe-Douglas’ journey to Button House.


Howe-Douglas’ origins are in Moseley, a suburb south of Birmingham and she attended Edgbaston High School.

Having decided to pursue acting, Howe-Douglas enrolled at RADA, graduating in 2003.

Her first television camera appearance in 1997, with an episode of Armstrong and Miller, much like her future co-star Jim Howick.

Karwai Tang/WireImage

Six years later, Martha Howe-Douglas appeared as Mel in the Christmas special finale of BBC’s The Office.

As it happens, Howe-Douglas’ character replaced Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) as the receptionist at Wernham Hogg.

Following a minor role in 2005, Howe-Douglas joined BBC daytime soap opera Doctors in 2006.

Her character, Donna Parmar, was also a receptionist, in this instance at the Mill Health Centre.

Martha Howe-Douglas EastEnders

Howe-Douglas received awards including Best Newcomer and Best Comedy Performance at the British Soap Awards for her portrayal, however, she left Doctors in 2007.

Shortly afterwards, Howe-Douglas made a minor appearance in BBC comedy Freezing, starring future Downton Abbey leads Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern.

She reunited with Armstrong and Miller on The Armstrong and Miller Show, playing various characters.

In addition, Howe-Douglas had a minor role as a parent in the film Nativity!, starring Martin Freeman and Pam Ferris.

Horrible Histories

In 2009, Howe-Douglas became one of the principal performers on a new CBBC sketch show titled Horrible Histories.

Based on a series of bestselling novels by Terry Deary, the show told viewers historical facts, but through the medium of comedy.

Howe-Douglas joined a cast including Simon Farnaby, Mathew Baynton, Ben Willbond, Sarah Hadland, Laurence Rickard and the aforementioned Jim Howick.

Each actor played multiple historical figures across the 5 season run.


After Hadland’s departure, Howe-Douglas became the only female main cast member on the show.

Some of Howe-Douglas’ Horrible Histories characters included Elizabeth I of England, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc and Mary Shelley.

Throughout the Horrible Histories experience, Howe-Douglas and the other cast members grew close. They wished to continue working together once the show had completed.

To achieve this, the group created a new sitcom, Yonderland, which primarily took place in a fantasy setting and incorporated puppets.

Martha Howe-Douglas Yonderland
Sky One

Whereas Horrible Histories was an ensemble cast, Howe-Douglas played Debbie Maddox, the definitive lead protagonist on Yonderland.

As well as starring in the show, Martha Howe-Douglas also wrote the series 3 premiere alongside Laurence Rickard.

Yonderland aired three series on Sky One before it concluded.

During its run, the cast also starred in 2015 film Bill, written by Willbond and Rickard.

This movie was a fictional adaptation of William Shakespeare’s life, with the core cast playing several characters between them as per standard.

Howe-Douglas portrayed Anne Hathaway, who was Shakespeare’s wife and also played supporting characters.

Between Horrible Histories and Yonderland, Howe-Douglas booked roles in other shows, including comedy series Crackanory and procedural drama WPC 56.

Howe-Douglas had a 6-episode role as ‘Becky’ on BBC psychological thriller Doctor Foster, starring Suranne Johns.

She also appeared in assorted series including Noddy, Toyland Detective, Tracey Breaks The News and EastEnders.

Ghosts (and beyond…)

Howe-Douglas and her one-time Horrible Histories castmates collaborated again to create the BBC sitcom Ghosts.

The show follows a young couple who inherit a stately home and discover it is inhabited by several ghosts. Howe-Douglas plays one of these benovolent spirits, former lady of the house Stephanie ‘Fanny’ Button.


Lady Button is a prim, proper and uptight lady who holds everyone to a high standard – although it is later revealed she would be lost without having something to criticise.

Although quite a hard-nosed character, viewers were shown her backstory and softer side in one of the show’s Christmas specials, which featured Jennifer Saunders as Lady Button’s mother.

Howe-Douglas has written multiple episodes of Ghosts, which is now entering its fifth and final series.

Outside of her full-time role on Ghosts, Howe-Douglas has appeared on other shows including Breeders, Motherland and Friday Night Live.

Follow writer Conor O’Brien on Twitter

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