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Monday 25 June 2012

Corrie originals - Violet Carson OBE as Ena Sharples

First appeared: 9th December 1960

Last appeared: 2nd April 1980

Violet Carson played the role of hag in a hairnet Ena Sharples between 1960 and 1980.

Born in Manchester in 1898, Carson had a successful career prior to her debut in Coronation Street. Her career was mainly radio based and was a regular member of the BBC’s Children’s Hour from 1928 alongside Wilfred Pickles and Trevor Hill. Corrie’s creator, Tony Warren, appeared on Children’s Hour and that’s how Carson got the role of Ena many years later. She made her television debut in 1957 in A Job for the Boy and appeared in various programmes between 1958 and 1960.

In 1960, Violet was cast in the role of 61 year old battleaxe Ena Sharples in new serial Coronation Street – a role she would play for twenty years. Debuting in the first episode, Ena made her mark as the nosy, gossipy and moralising battleaxe of Coronation Street. Her feud with street siren Elsie Tanner dominated her early storylines, with them having slanging matches in the street and catty remarks. When not clashing with Elsie, Ena was to be found drinking milk stout and gossiping with fellow cronies Martha Longhurst and Minnie Caldwell in the Rovers snug. A staunch Christian, Ena worked as the caretaker of the Mission Hall on the street until its demolition in 1968 and then the Community Centre between 1971 and 1973 and then from 1975 until 1980.

Known for her trademark image of wearing a hairnet and a double-breasted raincoat, Ena would also clash with Annie Walker and Leonard Swindley over various matters. Having lost husband Alfred since the 1930s and driven her children away, Ena, although she didn’t admit it, was devoted to her friends. She was fiercely defendant of best friend Minnie and helped her out when she had money problems. Violet Carson’s experience of being an accompanist came out when playing Ena, who could also play the piano and would lead sing-alongs in the Rovers and taught young Tony Parsons to play the harmonium.

Playing Ena made Violet Carson a household name in Britain and abroad. She toured Australia in 1968 to visit loyal fans and was awarded an OBE in 1965. She did however admit that playing Ena had become a burden and that Ena would take over but Violet stayed loyal for twenty years. During the 1970s, Violet was plagued by ill health and suffered strokes and heart attacks. From 1974 onwards, she would only make sporadic appearances in Coronation Street. During her absences, Ena was said to be in Lytham St. Anne’s with old friend Henry Foster or visiting family in Hartlepool. Due to her frailty and affected speech, Violet Carson would only appear in few scenes and, although there were still signs of the old battleaxe still there, Ena as a character mellowed and became a grandmother figure to the residents of the street. When Minnie left for Whaley Bridge in 1976, Ena socialised and reminisced with old friend Albert Tatlock and her frosty relationship with Elsie thawed as they both grew older with Elsie even offering Ena a bed when the Community Centre was being refurbished. In 1980, Ena became fed up of the Centre still being renovated and left for St. Anne’s once more. Both the producers and indeed Violet Carson herself believed Ena would return, but sadly didn’t. Carson fell ill and all return storylines for Ena were scrapped. For twenty years, Carson appeared in 1150 episodes and at the time of her departure, was one of five members of the original cast still in the programme.

Three years after her final Corrie appearance, Violet Carson died aged 85 after failing to recover after an operation for an abscess. She had been living in Blackpool for many years and that is where she died. Ena wasn’t officially killed off, but died prior to 1989.

Violet Carson married George Pepworth in 1926 but became a widow in 1929. She never remarried and thus was a widow for 54 years.
Did you ever see or meet Violet Carson? Do you have any pieces of trivia about her? Any memories of her on Children's Hour?

Research from Wikipedia, Corriepedia and IMDB.

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Anonymous said...

Married for three years and widow 54 years?! Wow. I couldn't do that!

Why did she always wear hairnet? Was it fashion back then?

Nemo said...

Vi Carson introduced the hairnet to protect her delicately coiffured hair - she wouldn't let the Granada hairdressers touch it!

Love Ena - one of the greats. :)

Anonymous said...

Can't recall where, but just recently I read an article that told how Ena started wearing the hairnet; she didn't in the first episode, but in the second Violet used the hairnet to keep her hair styled until she went "on stage", but forgot to remove it and the net then became an official part of Ena's costuming.

Anonymous said...

I've also read that she wore up to three hairnets at once to get the right effect for the camera. Just because she was a widow for 54 years doesn't mean she didn't have any men in her life. Even still, it was obviously right for her!

Anonymous said...

Or women in her life... or both! There are a lot of women of her generation that were single most of their life - it only seems to be a big deal now-a-days.

Anonymous said...

A little Internet trivia...

Memory Lane: Ena wows crowds

Anonymous said...

I loved Ena in the scene where Elsie asked her why she kept thinking back to the old days - and Ena said that it was because they were the days when she was young - she reminds me so much of my nan. My nan's name is Violet as well - and I love hrer a lot. Nan - I love you more than you'll ever know. Your loving grandson Scot.

Anonymous said...

My great Aunt passed away, in her collection of things, I came across a photo, of Violet Carson, with my great Aunt, in Gawler South Australia. I believe this was when Violet came to Australia in 1968, and visited Gawler as part of her tour. I know my Great Aunt treasured that, I remembered growing up she said about this, but I was too young to know who she was referring.


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