A NORTH-EAST shop owner has shared her memories of sending Christmas cards and collectables to Sir Ken Dodd, following the legendary comedian's death aged 90.

Janice Winfield, owner of The Now and Then, just off Woodland Road in Darlington, got the chance to meet the comedian every year when he visited her shop before he took to the stage at the Civic Theatre.

The shop is now closed after Mrs Winfield, 72, decided to retire last year, but she still has fond memories of her encounters with Mr Dodd.

"He must have been coming to the shop for more than 20 years," she said.

"He loved everything at the shop - he bought such a selection of items, from pictures, jugs and bowls."

Mr Dodd spent around 40 years coming to Darlington and would regularly call in to see Mr and Mrs Winfield before he performed at the Civic, which is now Darlington Hippodrome.

"He was just like he was on the stage, he would talk to the customers and we would look forward to him coming every year, and we both had black poodles and they got on great.

"He didn't come last year because of the refurbishment of the Hippodrome, so the last year we saw him was 2016.

"We exchanged Christmas cards every year - he collected fairings which are German ornaments, and we used to send some to him every year.

"One time, my uncle who lived across the road couldn't go to his show, so Ken took the time to go across and see him - that was the sort of man he was."

Lynda Winstanley, director at Darlington Hippodrome, also paid her own tribute to Mr Dodd.

"Everyone at Darlington Hippodrome was so saddened to hear that our dear Sir Ken passed away.

"We heard from Ken just last week - he was so looking forward to returning to Darlington next month – a venue he said always welcomed him so warmly.

"Ken was also excited to see for himself the extent of the venue’s wonderful restoration - the venue was always one of the first to be booked for every tour Ken arranged.

"His unique style of comedy was enjoyed by Darlington audiences for many, many years."

Mr Dodd was to due to play to a complete sell-out audience at Darlington Hippodrome on Sunday, April 8.

The theatre will now be contacting everyone who had booked to arrange refunds.

" His love of the venue was underlined by a personal letter he wrote in support of the recent restoration project," said Ms Winstanley.

"It is so sad that he never got to see or perform in the new Hippodrome.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Ken’s wife Anne at this very sad time, but we will never forget the hours and hours and hours of endless joy and laughter Ken brought to Darlington over the years."

Northern Echo reporter Lizzie Anderson also recalled her own experience of meeting the comedian.

"Ken Dodd easily stands out as the nicest celebrity I have met," she said.

"In April 2009, I was covering the official unveiling of the Laurel and Hardy statue in Ulverston, the Cumbrian town where Stan Laurel was born.

"My dad, John, is also from Liverpool and a fan of Ken’s.

"When I told the comedian about this, he insisted on signing a photograph for me to pass onto my dad.

"However, his stressed-looking PR officer said I was out of time and ushered me out the room without the photograph.

"A few days later a letter addressed to me with a signed photograph of Ken turned up at the office.

"He had obviously arranged for it to be sent to me, which was such a lovely thing to do," she added.