First appeared: 9th December 1960
William Roache has played the role of Coronation Street stalwart Ken Barlow since 1960.
Born in Ilkeston in Derbyshire in 1932, Roache was educated in Rydal School in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. He then joined the army for five years before embarking on an acting career. He made his TV debut in Behind the Mask in 1958 before performing in repertory theatre for two years. In December 1960, his life changed forever when he was cast in the role of 21 year old student Ken Barlow in new drama serial Coronation Street.
For over 50 years, Ken has been a mainstay on the cobbles. While characters come and go, Ken and his quiff have been a constant presence and he’s gone from being a rebellious student to the street’s elder statesman. He’s had four wives (Valerie Tatlock, Janet Reid, Deirdre Langton and Deirdre Rachid), four children (Lawrence, Peter, Susan and Daniel) and a colossal 22 girlfriends! Debuting in the first episode, he’s lived on the street all his life and has held numerous jobs over the years, ranging from a teacher to a newspaper editor and columnist to a supermarket trolley pusher! He’s desired to leave the street on many occasions but his entanglements with women and life in general have let him down. He’s proved much grief and tribulations over the years. He lost his mother, brother, nephew, first wife, father and second wife in the space of 16 years. Plus daughter Susan died in a car crash in 2001 aged 36. In recent years he’s managed to rebuild his relationship with son Peter. When Valerie died in 1971, Ken sent twins Peter and Susan up to Scotland where they were brought up by their maternal grandparents. Deep down, Peter has never forgiven Ken for what he did and always reminds him of what he did.
For over 20 years, he enjoyed a rivalry with Cockney tycoon Mike Baldwin. They originally clashed over principles – Barlow being a socialist while Baldwin was a capitalist. But what embittered their rivalry was Ken’s wife Deirdre. Mike had an affair with her in 1982/3 and when Ken found out they had a memorable showdown on the doorstep of No. 1. The feud escalated when Mike married Ken’s daughter Susan in 1986 but Ken rightly predicted that the marriage wouldn’t last. In 1992, Ken and Mike battled again for the affections of two ladies: Alma Sedgewick and Maggie Redman. Mike eventually married Alma while Ken’s relationship with Maggie fizzled out. After Susan’s death in 2001, Mike and Ken locked horns again for the custody of 13 year old Adam, Susan’s son with Mike which Mike won. Although their relationship thawed as they grew older, they often exchanged insults. Ironically, Mike died of a heart attack in Ken’s arms in 2006 after suffering from Alzheimer’s.
While Ken has always been dubbed boring by the press (a subject that caused Roache himself to take tabloid newspaper The Sun to court in 1990s), Ken has often shared comic scenes with Albert Tatlock, Blanche Hunt and Roy Cropper over the years.
When Jack Howarth (Albert Tatlock) died in March 1984, Roache was left as the sole original character still in Coronation Street, albeit Anne Cunningham (Linda Cheveski) made guest appearances in May and June that year. For 27 years, he was the only original member of cast still in the programme until Philip Lowrie (Dennis Tanner) returned to the show in 2011, having not appeared since 1968. Roache has won much recognition for playing Ken for over 50 years and acknowledges that he loves playing him. He admits though that he thought of quitting in the early 1980s which sparked the Ken/Deirdre/Mike love triangle story in a bid to keep Ken in the programme. Ken had also been saved in 1964 when producer Tim Aspinall wanted to write him and wife Valerie out but both stayed put. Over the years, Roache has become an ambassador for Corrie and due to his long association with the programme is the only one that can recall every stage in the show’s development over the years. In September 2010, he became the world’s longest continuous actor in a drama serial, surpassing US soap As the World Turns veteran Don Hastings (Bob Hughes) who had been in that soap since October 1960. Roache, now 80, is showing no signs of retirement, and has clocked over 4000 episodes over 51 years.
Roache has been married twice. He married Anna Cropper in 1961 and they divorced in 1974. In 1978, he married second wife Sara Mottram and they were married until her death in 2009. He has four children: Linus (b. 1964), Vanya (b. 1967), Verity (b. 1981) and James (b. 1986). He lost daughter Edwina in 1984 from pneumonia when she was only two. Anna, Sara, Linus and James have appeared on Corrie in various roles between 1962 and 2011. In 2001, Roache was awarded an MBE for his services to acting.
Have you ever seen or met William Roache? Have you any pieces of trivia about him?
Research from Wikipedia, Corriepedia, IMDB and Corrie Net.