Fires, murders, take-overs, burglaries, kidnaps and car crashes – Coronation Street’s fictional factory Underworld has seen it all over the past 30 years!
The lingerie-making business at 14 Coronation Street has been a hot-bed of human passions since Mike Baldwin opened it in 1989.
Even now it’s at the centre of the action on the long-running TV soap.
A battle royal is brewing over its ownership following the sudden death of factory boss Aidan O’Connor, played by Shayne Ward.
It all started so differently when businessman Mike Baldwin, played by Johnny Briggs, first acquired the premises and launched into production.
New jobs, new opportunities and a book full of orders brought fresh hope to the struggling Street.
Along with designer Angie Freeman (Deborah McAndrew), Mike Baldwin recruited a posse of Corrie stalwarts to work in the factory.
Among the first machinists were the formidable Janice Battersby played by Vicky Entwistle, the belligerent Linda Baldwin (Jacqueline Chadwick) and Karen McDonald (Suranne Jones) described as a ‘bulldog in hooped earrings’.
Also on the factory floor was soap’s first transgender character Hayley Cropper, brilliantly portrayed by Julie Hesmondhalgh.
With such a powerful cocktail of characters, sparks had to fly. And sure enough they did.
Linda gave Hayley a hard time then set her sights on newly single factory owner Mike. They had an affair and she was promoted to sales rep, bringing in some big orders for Underworld.
Linda found her affections were growing for Mike, who was old enough to be her father, and the two married at a plush ceremony.
Of course, the day didn’t go smoothly as Linda was also having an affair with Mike’s son Mark Redman (Paul Fox) who was made a partner in the business in 1999.
The secret leaked out and Mike threw his son out of his life, preferring to forgive his bride and new wife instead. They split up a year later.
Another big Underworld drama unfolded in 2004 when careless Janice caused a fire by dropping a lit cigarette on a pile of clothes in the store-room.
Nick Tilsley, later to become an Underworld owner himself, saved Janice but both lost their jobs as a result.
When Mike needed help in the factory in May 2004, fast-talking son Danny played by Bradley Walsh arrived on the set like a whirlwind.
His first line to Mike was ‘You call that fast? I was being overtaken by a milk float…You want to pedal harder. Is this it?’
Danny quickly started an affair with Sunita Parekh, played by Shobna Gulati. She was pretty upset to find out he was married when wife Frankie turned up on the Street with sons Jamie and Warren.
In the meantime Mike, who was battling Alzheimer’s Disease, died on the Underworld steps in April 2006 in the arms of his arch-rival Ken Barlow (William Roache).
Danny then ran the factory until September when fellow share-holders Jamie Baldwin (Rupert Hill) and Adam Barlow sold up to Paul and Liam Connor.
The curse of Underworld struck again in 2007 when Polish worker Kasia Barowicz, played by Irena Rodic, died after falling down the stairs.
She was working illegally at night to rush out an order for Carla Connor (Alison King) who was setting up her own clothes venture Trendy Tots.
Helping her were familiar Corrie faces Becky Granger (Katherine Kelly) and Kelly Crabtree (Tupele Dorgu).
Kelly and her fellow machinists made the front pages in May 2006 when they sent a collective get well card to injured England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney.
Becky endured two extraordinary attempts to marry Rovers Return landlord Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson). She was too drunk to carry on at the first and drugs police raided the second!
Kidnapping came to Underworld in June 2007 when Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) was bundled into the boot of a car by factory owner Paul Connor (Sean Gallagher) who identified her as a former prostitute. The car crashed and Paul died but Leanne survived.
His screen brother Liam (Paul James Collier) met an equally grisly end in October 2008 when Carla’s jealous partner paid a hitman to run him over.
The Underworld curse returned in June 2014 when former manager Rob Donovan (Marc Baylis) murdered Tina McIntyre (Michelle Keegan) in a bid to keep her quiet over her affair with Peter Barlow.
Just for good measure, the factory was gutted and robbed again last year. Repairs were carried out by none other than the Street’s most notorious killer Pat Phelan, played with real menace by Connor McIntyre.
The ill-fated Underworld had only just re-opened when owner Aidan Connor died and plunged everything back into confusion.
Who knows what’s coming next!
Many more unmissable pictures and memories of the past can be found in Clive Hardy’s brilliant book Around Manchester in the 1970s – now on sale at a reduced price for M.E.N. readers.