Here's where Emmerdale star John Middleton is now away from Ashley Thomas

8 April 2022, 13:58 | Updated: 8 April 2022, 15:02

John Middleton played Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale
John Middleton played Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale. Picture: Alamy/Shutterstock/Twitter

What happened to Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale and why did John Middleton leave the soap?

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Emmerdale fans will know vicar Ashley Thomas who made his debut on the soap back in December 1996.

He was part of some huge storylines in his time, including his short-lived marriage to Bernice Blackstock (Samantha Giles) and second marriage to Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy), as well as the birth of their son Arthur.

But why did Ashley leave Emmerdale and what is actor John Middleton doing now?

Who played Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale?

John Middleton played vicar Ashley in Emmerdale from 1996 to 2017.

John Middleton played Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale
John Middleton played Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale. Picture: Shutterstock

Ashley appeared in further episodes in home movie scenes, making his final appearance on 13 February 2018.

Some of his plots have included abusing his elderly widower father Sandy (Freddie Jones), being accidentally run over by Victoria Sugden (Isabel Hodgins) and being involved in the October 2016 week of episodes ‘No Return Week’.

His biggest storyline came when his character was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2015.

As part of a special episode in 2016, the soap shared Ashley's point of view to ‘give people an insight into how ordinary, day-to-day experiences can become disorientating and distressing when refracted through the lens of dementia.’

Why did Ashley leave Emmerdale?

It was announced in 2015 that John would be leaving the show at the end of his contract after his character was diagnosed with dementia.

John Middleton left Emmerdale in 2017
John Middleton left Emmerdale in 2017. Picture: Alamy

The contract was later extended so the storyline to be extended, but the actor filmed his final scenes in March 2017.

In heartbreaking scenes, Ashley died on-screen on 7 April 2017, ending his 21 years on Emmerdale.

John’s performance earned him the ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Male Dramatic Performance’ at the 2017 British Soap Awards.

Emmerdale also won the gong that year for ‘Best Storyline’, ‘Best Single Episode’ (for the instalment told from Ashley’s perspective) and ‘Best Soap.’

John said at the time: “Most people have some experience of this disease. I’ve found it really quite astonishing, the number of people who have come up to me and said ‘Thankyou very much for doing that; my Dad had this’ or ‘My Mum died a few years ago and she had this.’

“That’s what drama’s for; it’s for holding out a hand to people and saying, ‘You’re not alone.’”

What is John Middleton doing now?

John was back on our soap screens soon after he left Emmerdale and landed a guest role on Doctors.

In his first TV role since the ITV soap in September 2021, he played a man suffering from dementia called Feargal Lumsden.

He now focuses on charity work, including supporting the Trussell Trust and Alzheimers Society with walks and runs.

Before starring in Emmerdale, John appeared in many other TV programmes, most notably in 1993 as John Hargreaves in Coronation Street, the man who knocked down and killed Lisa Duckworth.