Coronation Street icon Jean Alexander, who played gossipy Hilda Ogden, has died at the age of 90.
Alexander had been admitted to Southport Hospital, Merseyside, three days before she passed away. The actress’s niece Sonia Herald announced her death on Friday. “My aunt died sadly earlier today,” Mrs Herald of Selby, north Yorkshire, said.
Alexander portrayed busybody Hilda between 1964 and 1987, the character’s hair curlers, oversized ‘muriel’ and plaster flying ducks all becoming emblematic of a golden era for the ITV soap.
For three decades, the Ogdens were the family on whom every other resident of the Street could look down. And yet despite being deemed more common then their neighbours, their was real pathos to the relationship between snooping Hilda and workshy Stan.
The 1977 episode in which the Ogdens celebrated their second honeymoon in Blackpool was a tender, comedy classic, while the 1984 scene in which a grieving Hilda broke down clutching Stan’s glasses following the funeral of her late husband has come to be seen as one of Corrie’s most moving ever moments.
The Christmas Day episode from 1987 in which Hilda left Weatherfield drew Coronation Street’s biggest-ever audience (26.65 million viewers), while the character went on to live long in the memories of fans. In 2004, Hilda was voted the greatest soap character in a Radio Times survey of 5000 readers, despite having not been on screen for 17 years. Commenting at the time, Alexander said:
“I’m very flattered. It came totally out of the blue. I knew nothing about it. Friends rang to tell me and I was completely taken aback. I am surprised that so many people remembered Hilda, considering it was so long ago that I played her.”
The character even had a group of famous celebrity fans – Michael Parkinson, Laurence Olivier, writer Willis Hall, John Betjeman and Russell Harty having formed the British League for Hilda Ogden.
After leaving Coronation Street, Liverpool-born Alexander went on to play miserly shopkeeper Auntie Wainwright in sitcom Last of the Summer Wine, and also took on roles in Heartbeat, Where the Heart Is and Barbara.
Alexander announced her retirement in 2012, two years after her last television appearance.