Manchester’s Granada studios broadcast some of the nation’s favourite TV shows in the 1980s and 90s. iNostalgia takes a look back at the stars – and characters – who were so familiar to us all.
The 1980s and 90s were busy decades for Granada TV studios. Classic Northern soap opera Coronation Street was in its prime and a host of new shows captivated viewers of all ages.
The Jewel in the Crown, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Crown Court and the Royle Family were just some of the screen gems produced by Granada over the two decades.
The variety of programmes was enormous, ranging from the gritty drama Band of Gold to the ground-breaking investigative reporting of World in Action.
There was comedy too with shows like the Cuckoo Waltz, Wood and Walters, Surgical Spirit and even Sooty and Co, set in a chaotic charity shop in Manchester.
One series, as ever, led the way. Coronation Street celebrated its 20th birthday in December 1980 and was showing no signs of age. In fact it was in its prime.
New favourites moved in while some of the stalwarts bowed out. Ena Sharples, Annie Walker, Elsie Tanner, Len Fairclough and Albert Tatlock had all left by middle of the decade.
By 1984, Ken Barlow (William Roache) was the only survivor from the original cast – and remains even now the longest-serving character on the Street.
The wealth of new favourites included Jack and Vera Duckworth (Bill Tarmey and Liz Dawn) who moved into No. 9 in 1983, grumpy Percy Sugden (Bill Waddington) and barmaid Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear).
Our photo shows Waddington being presented with a chocolate bust of Percy Sugden to celebrate Cadbury’s sponsorship of the show in September 1996. Also pictured are Roache and Sally Whittaker who plays Sally Webster.
Lovable rogue Jack met Vera while he was working on the waltzers at a fairground. The couple’s comic sparring was the perfect replacement for the Ogdens, although Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) held a special place in viewers’ hearts.
Alexander, who used to catch the train into Granada studios every day from her home in Stockport, eventually left the show on Christmas Day 1987. Her final scenes attracted nearly 27 million viewers, the highest audience in the show’s history.
She was voted the Greatest Soap Opera Star of All time in the TV Times poll of 2005. Our photo shows her alighting from her daily train in December 1987, largely unnoticed by her fellow commuters.
Jack and Vera were pictured together in July 1987 after actor Bill Tarmey had been absent from the soap for some months after undergoing major heart surgery.
Liz Dawn, who died recently, was a much-loved Street veteran. Her funeral in Salford Cathedral two weeks ago was attended by a host of Corrie stars past and present. Fans lined the streets to pay their last respects to our Vera.
One of the most prominent storylines in the soap’s history was Deirdre Barlow’s affair with factory owner Mike Baldwin in 1983. Baldwin, played by Johnny Briggs, was locked in long and bitter feud with Ken Barlow.
Some of the soap’s most popular characters first graced the cobblestones in the 1990s. They included the McDonald family, Fred Elliott, Ashley Peacock, Roy Cropper and the would-be model with a heart of gold, Raquel Wolstenhulme played by Sarah Lancashire.
Raquel was in the soap from 1991 to 1996 and enjoyed romances with store manager Curly Watts and bookmaker Des Barnes. She left the Street for a job in aromatherapy in Kuala Lumpur, but eventually settled down with a new man in France.
Oldham-born actress Lancashire went on to star in a number of productions including Where the Heart Is, Clocking Off, Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley. She recently played Mrs Pike in the film version of Dad’s Army.
VIP visitors to the Corrie set included none other than Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in January 1990. She’s pictured outside the Rovers Return with actor William Roache.
Comedian Russ Abbot was a big name in the 1980s and 90s. He won the Funniest Man on Television Award no less than five times. By 1992 he was starring in his own Blackpool show as well as working on serious roles in Granada TV plays.
Finally in our picture round-up, 1998 saw the launch of the drama series Grafters starring Robson Green, Emily Joyce and Stephen Tompkinson. The plots involved two brothers who were at odds with each other but were forced to work together to raise some cash.