She was born on 14 March 1940 in Liverpool, and started her career as a stage actress at the Liverpool Playhouse. Her screen debut was in A Taste of Honey in 1961, the groundbreaking movie of the British realist tradition. She had memorable performances in The Leather Boys (1963), The Knack...And How to Get It (1965) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). The Knack (and how to get it) was filmed in the Southam Street area of Notting Hill.
She was an icon of 1960s Britain, and was popularised again in the 1980s by her appearance in Carla Lane's Bread.