Classic TV Features

35 Classic moments from the golden age of Coronation Street


Since it first appeared at 7.00pm on Friday 9 December 1960, Coronation Street has captured the hearts and minds of TV viewers all over the world. In this celebration we take a look at just a few of “The Street’s” many milestone and landmark moments.

The 1960’s

The Sixties was memorable for its grainy black and white pictures and countless spats between Ena Sharples and Elsie Tanner.

1964: First-ever wedding jilt
It was a leap year and Emily Nugent wasted no time in proposing to the man of her dreams, Leonard Swindley. She didn’t get quite the response she’d hoped though – he bolted from the room like a scared rabbit. But by the next day he’d changed his mind. The wedding day dawned and the groom and guests waited at the Mission Hall for the bride. But she’d had second thoughts and calmly told Jack Walker that Mr Swindley didn’t want a wife, and she wasn’t going through with it.

1967: Ena trapped
Ena Sharples had plenty of enemies – but no one wanted to see her buried alive. That’s what happened when five carriages of a goods train fell off the viaduct and crashed onto the street below. Several people were missing but all were found, except Ena. She was finally rescued by brave David Barlow who crawled under the rubble to free her.

Elsie becomes a Tanner.

Elsie becomes a Tanner.

1967: Soap’s most popular wedding
Elsie fell for American Steve Tanner during World War Two, but refused to meet him when he returned to Weatherfield 20 years on, fearing he wouldn’t fancy her with wrinkles. Finally Elsie gave in, the sweethearts were reunited and she agreed to marry him. The wedding was a huge event.

1968: Hostage drama
Teacher Ken Barlow was at school and the twins were fast asleep when an escaped convict forced his way into the family maisonette. The man, Riley – a convicted rapist – took Valerie captive and she told him she was alone, praying the children wouldn’t wake up. But when she banged on the pipes – in an agreed distress signal to Ena Sharples in the flat below – they did wake, and Riley threatened to harm them if terrified Valerie didn’t do what he wanted. The police burst through a window to rescue her just in time.

1969: Coach crash
It was to be the Street’s first episode in colour. Sadly, the technicians weren’t quite ready so the trip to the scenic Lake District still went out in black and white. But it didn’t detract from the drama that followed. The coach carrying the Street party home veered off the road, crashing into a tree. The driver was killed, Minnie Caldwell knocked unconscious and Ray Langton was left paralysed.

The 1970’s

Colour at last – you needed it to admire Hilda’s upmarket ‘muriel’. And what was Mavis doing having a fling with an electrician? Was it the same one who fixed Valerie Barlow’s hairdryer?

1971: Valerie Barlow electrocuted
Ken was waiting in the Rovers for wife Valerie to join him for a farewell drink as the couple were set to fly to a new life in Jamaica the next day. She just had to dry her hair first… and it was the last thing she ever did. The hairdryer had a dodgy plug which Valerie forced into an overcrowded adaptor and shoved into the wall. One gasp was all she made as the current shot through her. She collapsed, knocking an electric fire into a packing case, and burned to death. Grief-stricken Ken decided to stay in the Street.

1973: The Mayor and Mayoress
Everyone remembers Alf Roberts’ second stint as Mayor of Weatherfield, but he’d held the top job before – in 1973. Then, there was a battle for the role between Alf and the popular Len Fairclough, but Len blew his chances by his choice of Mayoress, namely nightclub singer Rita Sullivan. Rita disgraced herself by brawling with a drunken woman then sitting on the exiting mayor’s lap! Alf’s Mayoress was beyond reproach. Maggie Clegg, his first choice, turned him down. Annie Walker, the regal landlady of the Rovers, had no such hesitations – in fact, she volunteered for the role. And when she showed Alf the exquisite hat that she’d bought specially for the investiture, the poor chap had no choice but to accept her gracious offer to be his leading lady.

The Coro girls sample the delights of a 1970's european holiday.

The Coro girls sample the delights of a 1970’s european holiday.

1974: Fun in the sun
Girls just want to have fun – and there was plenty to be had when Bet Lynch flew her mates to Majorca after winning a competition. Bet, Rita, Deirdre, Betty and Emily were all out for a good time, enjoying the sun, sea and sangria. The sex was left to Mavis, who surprised the gang by having a fling with an electrician called Carlos. It’s always the quiet ones…

1975: Bet’s grief
Life was always a rollercoaster for Bet, and it hit an all-time low when a soldier came into the Rovers and told her that his mate – her illegitimate son Martin, born when she was just 16 and adopted – had been killed in a car crash. Bet was heartbroken and locked herself in her bedsit with a bottle of tablets. Binman Eddie Yates was the unlikely hero of the day, forcing his way in just before she could take the pills. He listened as she poured out her grief and then took the tablets away.

Deidre weds Ray Langton in Coro's sixth wedding.

Deidre weds Ray Langton in Coro’s sixth wedding.

1975: Deirdre weds Ray
Deirdre Hunt was set to marry Billy Walker but his mum, the redoubtable Annie, was not amused. She didn’t think Deirdre, a plumber’s secretary, was good enough for her son and she disapproved of her mother, Blanche, too. The wedding was just around the corner when 19-year-old Deirdre got cold feet and Billy fled to Jersey. The way was then clear for Deirdre’s boss, Ray Langton, to make his move and the two were wed in July. Her white wedding dress, though, was never worn as Deirdre turned up in a fawn office suit.

1976: Hilda’s ‘muriel’
When Hilda Ogden wanted her living room decorated, Eddie Yates was only too happy to oblige. He picked up some wallpaper on the cheap – then discovered several rolls had faded. He quickly improvised, getting hold of some more paper and creating a highly individual mural. He had no trouble selling the idea to Hilda. ‘It’s your “muriel” feature scenic panorama contrast wall,’ he told her. ‘Dead trendy. Latest there is.’ And, with the addition of three flying ducks, Hilda thought it was the most wonderful thing she’d ever seen!

1976: Gail, the scarlet woman
Gail Potter was just 19 and an innocent abroad when smooth-talking sales rep Roy Thornley came into her life. Elsie Howard tried to warn her off the older man, but Gail reckoned that she was just jealous and gave Roy her virginity in the stockroom at Sylvia’s Separates, where she worked. It was subsequently a nasty shock for Gail when Elsie forced him to admit that he was married with kids – and Gail was drawn into a messy divorce case. Roy’s wife also refused to believe that Gail was as green as Elsie made out, but eventually found someone else to site in the divorce, namely boutique boss Sylvia Matthews.

1977: Wedding bells for Rita and Len
The relationship between Rita Littlewood and Len Fairclough was on and off so many times that not even arch gossip Hilda Ogden could keep up with events. But when Rita was offered a singing contract in Tenerife, Len suddenly realised what he was about to lose – and he proposed. They were married in lavish style on 20 April 1977, with Rita’s expensive ‘Miss Muffet’ style headdress drawing lots of comments in the press. Rita was delighted that she’d achieved what both Elsie and Bet had failed to do – and become Mrs Len Fairclough.

1978: First-ever shotgun death
It started as just another day at Baldwin’s Casuals Factory for unassuming wages clerk Ernie Bishop. He was simply sorting out the week’s money – when armed gunmen burst in and demanded the wages. Ernie wasn’t about to play the hero and handed the cash over – just as Mike walked into the office. He accidentally nudged the gunman and Ernie was blasted in the chest when the shotgun went off. The men fled and Mike stared in horror at the lifeless body on the floor. The Street went into shock and poor Emily, Ernie’s devoted wife, found herself a widow.

1979: Crash terror
The peace of a lunchtime pint was shattered for the Rovers regulars when a timber-laden lorry veered out of control and crashed into the pub. Glass and planks of wood flew everywhere and the shocked customers struggled to help each other from the wreckage. Mike Baldwin clutched a broken leg and Alf Roberts was trapped under a table. But the worst sound was Deirdre Langton’s screams for her daughter Tracy, who she’d left in her pushchair outside the pub. She feared the worst, but it turned out that someone had tried to kidnap Tracy moments before the crash, and Emily was able to reunited mother and daughter just in time.

The 1980’s

Generally considered the show’s zenith, the golden years when the Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle drew record audiences and heroes and villains both bit the dust…

1980: Alf widowed
Alf and Renee Roberts’ humdrum marriage came to a tragic end just as the couple were preparing to leave Weatherfield for the new challenge of running a sub post office. Renee had been taking driving lessons and, after a country pub lunch to celebrate the move, Alf let her take the wheel. Exasperated when she stalled the car, he told her to swap places – and that’s how she came to be in the car and he wasn’t when a lorry smashed into it. Renee didn’t stand a chance… she suffered horrific injuries and never recovered. Widower Alf stayed in the Street and settled into life as owner of the grocery shop he inherited from Renee.

1980: Swain the swine
Arnold Swain seemed such a nice, unassuming man – and perfect for a nice, unassuming lady like widow Emily Bishop. Emily met him when she started doing the accounts for his pet shop, but she turned him down when he first proposed – much to a jealous Mavis’ horror. Emily changed her mind, though, and agreed to become Mrs Swain – but it turned out there already was a Mrs Swain, only Emily didn’t discover this until months after their wedding. When she confronted her ‘husband’, Arnold broke down and begged her forgiveness – but Emily ordered him out of her house and her life.

1981: Ken weds Deirdre
It was the wedding everyone wanted to see and hit the screens just two days before the year’s other big event – the royal wedding of Charles and Diana, and Deirdre did note that the age difference between herself and Ken was the same as between the royal couple. The Weatherfield bride was a picture in blue and, minus her trademark specs, walked down the aisle on the arm of Alf Roberts. Ken’s daughter, Susan, and her own daughter, Tracy, were bridesmaids and Len Fairclough was best man.

Who does Deidre choose? Mike or Ken. The love triangle that kept a nation on tenterhooks.

Who does Deidre choose? Mike or Ken. The love triangle that kept a nation on tenterhooks.

1983: The hottest-ever love triangle!
The Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle set tongues wagging on screen and off. The affair started when Mike took a bored Deirdre out for a meal – and ended with a doorstep slanging match with Ken telling Mike to sling his hook. In between were months of passion and pain for the trio. Ken and Deirdre were reconciled in an episode that clashed with an important Manchester United v Arsenal football match at Old Trafford – and the news was flashed up on the scoreboard to a big roar from the crowd.

1984: Mavis and Derek jilt each other!
Mavis Riley wasn’t used to having men falling over her, so when both Derek Wilton and Victor Pendlebury proposed, she was in more of a dither than ever. She said ‘yes’ to Derek, who’d been courting her on and off for eight years, but she had last-minute doubts and failed to turn up to their wedding. Her sadness at causing Derek pain turned to anger when she discovered he’d backed out and jilted her too! They eventually wed four years later.

1986: Whose baby?
The normally sensible Gail Tilsley’s head was turned by the arrival of Brian’s good-looking Australian cousin, Ian Latimer. The two had a brief but passionate affair, with Gail refusing to drop him despite her mum Audrey’s pleas. ‘I’m sick of being made a drudge,’ she said. It was after Ian returned Down Under that Gail found out she was pregnant, but she still confessed to Brian that he might not be the father. Brian’s ego was severely dented and he started divorce proceedings, but blood tests proved that he was Sarah Louise’s dad and, eventually, he accepted her.

1986: The Rovers Return inferno
Landlady Bet Lynch was asleep in her flat above the Rovers when an electrical fault sparked a small fire which erupted into an inferno. Sally Seddon spotted the flames in the early hours of the morning as she was on her way home from a concert with boyfriend Kevin Webster. Bet awoke to find her room full of smoke – and was only saved by Kevin’s bravery when he climbed a ladder and carried her to safety as the neighbours watched, hearts in mouths.

1989: Hero of the hour
He might have been a selfish big-head most of the time, but Brian Tilsley died a hero. Brian and Gail had remarried the previous year, but things weren’t going well and Brian spent more time picking up women at nightclubs than he did keeping his wife warm. It was during such a night out that a gang of youths molested one of his girlfriends. Brian tried to fight them off, but one of the thugs pulled a knife – and stabbed him in the stomach. As the blood seeped through his trendy shirt, it was obvious that he was a gonner. Gail was left a widow – and found comfort in the arms of the lad who worked beside her in the cafe, namely one Martin Platt.


The evil Alan Bradley tries to get rid of Rita in Blackpool.

1989: Death in Blackpool
Rita Fairclough Sullivan sunk to a new low in choosing men with new lover Alan Bradley. The relationship began promisingly but soon went downhill. He mortgaged her house and used the money to start a security firm, then tried to suffocate her when she found out. She had a breakdown, fled to Blackpool and took a singing job – but Alan tracked her down. When Rita saw him, she dashed across the road to escape. Alan chased her, ran into the path of a tram – and that was the end of him.

1989: Ken’s turn to play away
Ken, editor of the local paper, took a fancy to town hall secretary Wendy Crozier, who found her way into his affections by feeding him bits of council information. When she was sacked, he gave her a job on the paper – and the role of mistress soon followed. When Deirdre discovered the affair, on Christmas Eve, she was not amused. There was no forgive and forget for her and before the new decade had arrived, she’d thrown Ken out and started divorce proceedings.

The 1990’s

The decade that saw Weatherfield go off its trolley with Don Brennan, Carmel the nanny and Anne Malone all losing it in a big way. Deirdre even lost her freedom but the nation rallied round in an even bigger way. And if you’re looking for proof that miracles do exist, just look at how Jim McDonald sprang to his feet after being paralysed (yes, paralysed, not paralytic)…

1991: Steph leaves Des
Des Barnes broke his fair share of hearts, but flirty wife Steph did the dirty first. Only a year after declaring her vows, feisty Steph grew tired of married life and jealous of the time that Des spent on his beloved boat. Wanting her own thrills and spills, she turned to architect Simon Beatty for comfort and told all to Des on his boat’s maiden voyage. His reaction? Not one to burn bridges, Des instead burnt his boat, making a splendid river bonfire and setting his marriage adrift forever as Steph bolted with her fancy man.

1993: Lisa Duckworth’s death
After hubby Terry fled their wedding to escape his prison shackles, Lisa Duckworth deserved some happiness – which she found with Street smoothie Des Barnes. They got cosy when he let little Tommy play in his garden and the newly formed family were as happy as Larry – until Lisa met an untimely end on Corrie’s cobbles. Hit by a car, Lisa died from brain injuries, leaving a distraught Des and a custody battle over Tommy. Dad Terry later sold his son to Lisa’s parents in Blackpool.

1993: Carmel the mad nanny
With an Irish lilt in her voice and a spring in her step, needy nanny Carmel Finnan didn’t just want to look after Martin Platt’s children – she also wanted to bear them! Obsessive about the placid Platt, the trainee nurse became the family’s lodger and secretly snook under Martin’s duvet when Gail was out. Claims that she was carrying Martin’s lovechild proved false after she took a tumble down the stairs, and her grandfather took her home to Ireland.

Raquel marries Curly.

Raquel marries Curly.

1995: The unlikeliest-ever couple
Romantically, model-cum-barmaid Raquel Wolstenhulme was always out of Curly Watts’ grasp. So imagine his delight when she proposed to him in December 1995 and they tied the knot 48 hours later. Predictably, Curly’s blissful bubble soon popped – Raquel was on the rebound from Des and wanted more out of life than Curly could give. She went off to Kuala Lumpur to follow her dreams but returned on Millennium Eve to announce that she’d had Curly’s child – and wanted to marry her new love. Never mind, Norman…

1996: Don Brennan goes barmy
It’s no wonder Don Brennan finally lost the plot. After marriage to irritable Ivy and hobbling around for years on a wooden stump, it was only a matter of time before he blew. Taking a break from the taxis, Don bought the garage from sneaky Mike for an over-the-odds price and ended up heavily in debt – and a tad upset that he’d been duped. Bent on revenge, he torched Mike’s factory and took wide-eyed Alma on a taxi-ride from hell. They escaped drowning in the canal, but Don eventually met his maker when he drove Alma’s car into the viaduct.

1997: Kev and Natalie’s affair
Kevin and Sally were coming dangerously close to being a stable soap marriage, until siren Natalie Horrocks shimmied on to the Street to get her teeth into the garage – and Kevin. While Sally nursed her sick mother in Scarborough, Natalie was treating Kev to a bedside manner that truly ignited his spark plugs! Sally eventually sussed their affair, resulting in a great Corrie cat fight and the end of the Webster’s 10-year marriage. Poor Rawsie and Sawphie!

1998: The biggest-ever soap trial
Out of all Deirdre Rachid’s many disastrous relationships, her engagement to tie salesman Jon Lindsay tops the lot. Married con-man Jon went on a spending spree with someone else’s gold card and told a jury that it was all Deirdre’s doing. When she was sentenced to 18 months in jail for fraud, Deirdre was horrified. The whole of the nation demanded justice – even Prime Minister Tony Blair got in on the act (surprise, surprise) – and she was eventually freed on appeal.

1998: Des Barnes’ death
After splitting from wife Steph, Des Barnes was Coronation Street’s resident romeo – until Natalie Horrocks got him down the aisle. Yet only weeks after their ‘I dos’, drug-selling thugs came looking for Natalie’s son Tony and Des leapt to his defence. He survived a beating but later died from a heart attack, and Natalie’s mascara just ran and ran… More than 20million people watched the loveable bookie bow out, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

1999: Sharon’s big ‘I don’t’
When Rita’s foster-daughter Sharon paid a visit to Weatherfield in January 1999, she was all loved up with hubby-to-be Ian – but not for long. Before she had time for a headdress fitting, her man had slipped beneath the sheets with grieving widow Natalie and pretended he was single. Rita found out and spilled the beans to Sharon, who waited until the nuptials to walk out on Ian in spectacular style. ‘Liar, liar!’ was screamed through the church as bewildered wedding guests looked on and Ian was left with egg on his face.

I'll be fine, so I will.

I’ll be fine, so I will.

1998: Jim falls off the scaffolding, so he does
Unemployed Jim McDonald’s blood boiled over when son Steve offered him a job on his building site. Not one to accept charity, Jim tackled Steve on the scaffolding and slipped back into a skip full of rubbish. Ending up in a coma, Jim came round to find that he’d lost the use of his legs. Naturally, the thought of no more staggering back from the pub came as a shock, but after a bit of physio – and losing his wife – big Jim was eventually back on his feet.