TRIBUTES have been paid to the acclaimed sitcom writer Carla Lane, who ran an animal sanctuary from her 16th century mansion in Sussex.

The Liverpool-born writer of popular TV sitcoms including The Liver Birds, Butterflies and Bread, died in a Merseyside care home on Tuesday at the age of 87.

In a statement on Tuesday, her family said: "With heavy hearts we said goodbye to our darling Carla today. But with smiles on our faces we also take this opportunity to reflect on her incredible achievements, all of which make us so unbelievably proud to be part of her family."

A vociferous animal rights campaigner, Ms Lane, who was born Romana Barrack in 1928, converted the grounds of the isolated Broadhurst Manor, in Horsted Keynes, into an animal sanctuary and charity called Animal Line in 1993.

Inside the house, she had parrots, parakeets and cats, while the sanctuary housed sheep, goats, horses, cows, emus, ducks, swans, chickens, geese, bats and birds of prey.

Outside in a walled garden were injured seagulls, which she fed donated salmon and prawn cocktail.

In 2009, she was forced to sell the manor house, set in 40 acres of grounds, when the sanctuary hit financial difficulties.

She told The Argus in 2007: “I bought the house when I was rich and opened the sanctuary. My career has absolutely dropped.”

In 1995, she was on the frontline of the “Siege of Shoreham” when violent clashes took place between animal rights campaigners and animal exporters at the town's harbour.

Sue Baumgardt, who lives in Hove, met her at the protest and later volunteered at the writer’s animal sanctuary. She said: “I remember she came down to the protest each day in her 4x4, which was covered in stickers and slogans about animal welfare.

“We met because we both had megaphones and I ended up standing near her. We got chatting and discovered we both loved animals and we were both cat women.

“She was such a lovely woman, never pretentious about her celebrity, just natural. She saw the funny side of life and the things that people do that makes someone so sunny.”

She described Ms Lane as “a bit eccentric", recalling: “She had a 28-year-old cat called Daniel, and he was kept in a room at the kind of temperature that was like a wall of heat. I said to her, 'for God’s sake why don’t you switch off that convector heater', and she said, 'darling, if I switch it off, he screams'.

“A little bit of British history has gone with her passing.”

Former Hove councillor Bob Carden also met Ms Lane at the siege.

He wrote on his Facebook page that she will be sadly missed by many in the Portslade area, where she had an Animal Line shop

He added: “She was fantastic. She lived for animals and was a lovely lady."

Carla Lane was a close friend of Linda McCartney, the late wife of the former Beatle, who lived at their estate in Peasmarsh.

Linda, a vegetarian, and Ms Lane bonded over their love for animals.

Paul’s younger brother Mike McCartney, a musician with the band The Scaffold, also paid tribute to his fellow Scouser. He tweeted: “Thank u very much Carla (Lane) for choosing us to sing & whistle the theme tune to your ace Liver Birds TV show! RIP.”

Brighton-based vet, author and animal welfare campaigner Marc Abraham tweeted: “Sad to learn of the passing of brilliant writer and phenomenal animal welfare campaigner Carla Lane.”