Ray Galton, one half of the writing duo who created Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe & Son, has died aged 88.

The iconic scriptwriter died last night after a "long and heartbreaking battle with dementia", his family announced.

He "passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family".

Along with Alan Simpson, Galton helped shape British comedy, pioneering a formula of sitcom that is followed to this day.

Image: Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell, stars of the television series Steptoe And Son, pictured in 1974

The family has asked for privacy at this time.

His manager Tessa Le Bars said: "I have had the great honour of working with Ray for over 50 years and for the last 40 as his manager and friend.

"With his lifelong co-writer, the late Alan Simpson, they were regarded as the fathers and creators of British sitcom.

"The end of an iconic era, but the legacy of Hancock's Half Hour, Steptoe and Son and over 600 scripts is huge.

"They will endure, inspire and bring laughter to the nation for evermore."

English comedian and actor Tony Hancock (1924 - 1968), UK, 7th July 1965
Image: English comedian and actor Tony Hancock, star of the Galton and Simpson-created Hancock's Half Hour

Ray Galton met his friend and writing partner at Milford Sanatorium in Surrey after both were diagnosed with tuberculosis as teenagers.

As well as their famous sitcoms, they wrote television, film and stage scripts for the likes of Frankie Howerd, Peter Sellers, Leonard Rossiter and Arthur Lowe.

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Steptoe and Son was adapted for US TV as Sanford and Son and ran for several years in the 1970s on NBC.

Simpson died in February 2017.

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