The Rada-trained actor, known as Mr Derek on the much-loved BBC children’s show, suffered heart failure after contracting pneumonia.
Derek Fowlds’s big break came in 1969 with the TV fox and yesterday his death was marked on the official Twitter account for Basil Brush.
It said: “I don’t know what to say. I’m so desperately sad. Such times we had, rest in peace Mr Derek, my best friend for ever.”
Friends said he spent his final hours with sons Jamie and Jeremy and other family beside him at the Royal United Hospitals in Bath.
Helen Bennett, his friend and personal assistant, said last night: “He was the most beloved man to everybody who ever met him.
“He never had a bad word to say about anybody and he was so well respected, adored by everyone. You couldn’t have met a nicer person, he was just a wonderful man and I will miss him terribly.”
He went on to play civil servant Bernard Woolley in Yes Minister and later was police sergeant Oscar Blaketon who became a pub landlord in the long-running ITV series Heartbeat.
Former EastEnders star Larry Lamb said he was a “real legend”, adding: “A dear old colleague passed on today. Derek Fowlds was a truly lovely man and a fantastic actor…my condolences to all his family and friends.”
Film director Edgar Wright posted a clip from Yes Minister with the message: “RIP Derek Fowlds, AKA Mr Derek, AKA Sir Bernard Woolley.”
Jason Durr, who played Mike Bradley in Heartbeat, said: “Such a great actor and a kind, intelligent man. I will treasure the memories.” Sarah Walker, daughter of Heartbeat creator Peter N Walker, shared a photograph of her father with Derek Fowlds and William Simons, who played PC Alf Ventress. Ms Walker said: “So sad that another of the Heartbeat stalwarts has passed away.
“Derek Fowlds was always a real gentleman, according to dad.
“Here he is on set with these two lovely gents, all three lost within the past three years.”
The son of a salesman, Derek was born in Wandsworth, south London, and became an apprentice at a printing firm but earned a place at Rada.
He once said: “Growing up, the thought of acting as a living never crossed my mind. I wanted to be a footballer or sportsman.”
His first professional part came in 1958 when he appeared at The Prince of Wales Theatre in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. He made his West End debut in The Miracle Worker before being offered roles in films such as East Of Sudan and Hotel Paradiso plus TV series including Z Cars and The Liver Birds.
He appeared on the Basil Brush show for four years before joining Sir Nigel Hawthorne and Paul Eddington in the BBC political satire Yes Minister and its sequel Yes Prime Minister for eight years.
In 1992 he joined Yorkshire-based Heartbeat and remained for its 18-year run. He last appeared on BBC drama Doctors two years ago.
Derek was married twice, to actor Wendy Tory, then Blue Peter presenter Lesley Judd.
His son Jeremy also acts and has appeared in television dramas including Wycliffe.