Coronation Street has been on the air since 1960, which makes it the U.K.’s longest-running soap opera. This show follows the everyday lives of regular, working-class people in Manchester, England.
The main characters on the show live around a fictional street called Coronation Street that was named after the coronation of King Edward VII. As of the end of June 2019, there have been 9,804 unique episodes of Coronation Street. That number is only increasing because this show airs a whopping six times a week. Keep reading to learn more about this strange and very British show.
More People Watched A Coronation Street Wedding Than A Real Royal Wedding
Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Camilla Parker-Bowles got married early in the day on April 8, 2005. That same day, Coronation Street characters Ken Barlow and Deirdre Rachid tied the knot for the second time. Seventeen million viewers tuned in to watch Ken and Deirdre get remarried. That’s four million more viewers than Charles’ second royal wedding got.
Coincidentally, Ken and Deirdre actually got married for the first time in 1981, the same year Prince Charles married his first wife, Princess Diana.
The First Time They Filmed Overseas Was No Walk In The Park
Coronation Street didn’t shoot overseas or on location until 1974 when the women of Weatherfield were sent on a holiday to Majorca. You would think the actresses would have loved their time in the Balearic Islands, but they actually had a lot of complaints about the shoot.
The crew got to stay in a five-star hotel while the actresses had to stay in a two-star hotel. Also, their make-up room was located right next to an open sewer.
The Longest-Serving Television Actor Of All Time
William Roache is the only actor still on the show who was a part of the original 1960 cast. He is now the longest-serving actor in the history of serial television programs. Roache is now 87 years old, and he is still playing Ken Barlow on Coronation Street.
In 1999, William Roache received the British Soap Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on this very popular television show. We can’t imagine Corrie without him.
A Shocking Situation
The Coronation Street character Izzy Armstrong is played by actress Cherylee Houston. Cherrylee actually does require a wheelchair due to a rare connective tissue disorder. Apparently, cobblestone streets and wheelchairs don’t get along so well.
The crew put rubber mats down on the street to make Coronation Street more accessible for Cherrylee, but unfortunately, those rubber mats generate a lot of static. Mikey North, who plays Izzy’s boyfriend Gary, is constantly getting shocked when he pushes Izzy’s wheelchair.
A Famous Fan’s Biggest Regret
John Nathan-Turner, the producer of the wildly successful and long-running program Doctor Who (1963) wanted to produce Coronation Street. His agent submitted him for consideration, but Nathan-Turner never got the job.
Before he died, Nathan-Turner said that not being able to produce Coronation Street was the biggest disappointment of his career. John Nathan-Turner absolutely loved the series, even though he never got a chance to work on it. His magnum opus did quite well for itself, though.
The Few Times Celebrities Played Themselves
Celebrities have only been able to play themselves three times in the history of Coronation Street. The first time was when Prince Charles appeared on the show’s 40th anniversary episode in 2000.
In 2005, members of the rock band Status Quo appeared in a few episodes of the show. The band ends up playing at Battersby’s wedding. In 2018, Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, hosts of the show This Morning, played themselves when characters from Coronation Street appeared on their show.
Coronation Street Wasn’t Always The Name Of The Show
Coronation Street wasn’t always called “Coronation Street.” Back when creator Tony Warren was first pitching the show, he titled it “Florizel Street.” Investors were dead set against the name because they thought it sounded like a disinfectant.
When Warren first tried to sell the show to Granada’s board, at least two members of the board found the show “disagreeable.” They thought it was a “downmarket” concept. Eventually, the board came to their senses and Coronation Street was born.
What The Beer Is Really Made Out Of
Tthe actors on Coronation Street aren’t really drinking real alcohol on the job, right? Actually, the beer served at Rovers is a very weak shandy that’s diluted with lemonade. It’s so sweet that it caused Bill Ward (who played Charlie Stubbs) to actually make a face on screen when he drank it.
The gin and tonic at the bar is just soda water mixed with a little bit of lime juice. The lime juice makes the drink look like it has the same consistency as a G&T.
The First Curse Word Ever Uttered
It didn’t take long for the writers of Coronation Street to start incorporating swear words into the show. The first time a character ever swore on Corrie was when Ken Barlow said the word “bloody” in 1961 after an argument with his mother, Ida.
The next swear word came in 1968, seven years later, when Len Fairclough called Steve Tanner a “bastard.” Both of those words wouldn’t even be considered curse words by today’s American standards.
The Shift To High Definition
Coronation Street wasn’t shot in high definition until 2010 for the special “Siege Week” episode. When production shifted to filming in high definition, the crew replaced all of the chimney stacks on the set. They had them rebuilt in fiberglass.
Also, before the high def show, all of the food served in Roy’s Rolls was fake. In 2010, the crew replaced the fake food with real food. High def cameras pick up on that sort of thing.
The Amount Of Make-Up This Show Goes Through Is Staggering
The hair and make-up team on Coronation Street have a big job to do. They have to have their actors camera-ready multiple times per week. In one month, the cast goes through 50 boxes of tissues, 20 packs of make-up wipes, ten lipsticks, five powders, six eyeliners, four blushers, six eye-shadows and 15 large cans of hairspray.
Do you know how long it takes the average woman to finish a tube of lipstick? Months. Years even, if you aren’t grossed out by three-year-old lipstick.
How The First Set Was Built
The original 1960 Coronation Street set is now an unused studio off to the side of the current Quay Street set. Originally, the set was built in two halves, so it was impossible to get a shot of the whole street. The iconic pavement and cobblestone streets were painted onto the floor of the studio.
Even though the set had some very real limitations, the crew was able to film some technically complex scenes there, like the train crash in 1967 and the collapse of No 7 in 1965.
Some Actors Suffered For Their Art
The late Bill Tarmey, who played Jack Duckworth on Coronation Street, was always game for some physical comedy (or physical drama).
Liz Dawn said, “If the script called for Vera to hit Jack, Bill always used to tell me that he’d duck out of the way. But he never did. He used to have lumps all over him. I swear to God, I once hit him with a frozen fish and sent him flying over a table.”
What The Buildings Look Like On The Inside
All of the houses on Coronation Street do have stairs, and all of the stairs from all of the buildings lead to one long hallway that spans the whole length of the terrace.
That space is generally empty or it’s used for storage. In interviews, some of the writers have said that they’ve held conferences above numbers 9,11, 13, and the Corner Shop. All of the interior shots of the buildings are filmed on a different set.
How Many Actors Can Play The Same Man?
Coronation Street has been on the air for a really long time, which means that actors have come and gone many times throughout the years. Soap operas are known for swapping actors in and out, but the number of actors who’ve played Peter Barlow is kind of mind-boggling.
John Heannau played him from 1965 to 1970, Christopher Dormer from 1970 to 1971, Mark Duncan in 1971, Linus Roache from 1973 to 1975, Joseph McKenna from 1977 to 1978, David Lonsdale in 1986, and Chris Gascoyne took over the role in 2000.
The Story Behind That Old Shopping Bag
Have you ever noticed how Roy Cropper uses the same old shopping bag in nearly every episode? Well, that shopping bag actually belonged to David Neilson’s mother. David Neilson is the actor who plays Roy on Corrie.
David Neilson explained, “That bag went ’round Loughborough market for years. You see guys standing at bus stops with bags like that and I thought I’d introduce it. It’s also very handy to carry my scripts round in.”
The Ones We Lost Along The Way
Coronation Street is a soap opera, so it’s no stranger to character deaths. In fact, there have been a staggering amount of deaths on this show about a working-class town in Manchester. Since Coronation Street has been on the air, 159 characters have been killed off.
The first character to die on the show was May Hardman. She died of a brain tumor on New Year’s Eve. The most recent character deaths have been more murderous in nature.
Prime Ministers Can’t Get Enough Of Corrie
Many British Prime Ministers have visited the set of Coronation Street. Harold Wilson even hosted a dinner at Number Ten. Margaret Thatcher had a drink in the Rovers and told the regulars, “I’ve got a Newton and Ridley in my cabinet.”
Tony Blair was so invested in the show that he said that Jack Straw would look into the case when Dierdre was wrongly incarcerated. The show has a special place in British pop culture.
A New Record In Television History
Philip Lowrie, who plays Dennis Tanner on Coronation Street, first appears on the show in 1960. He left the show in 1968, but then returned to the role in 2011. Lowrie was given an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest gap between appearances on a television show.
He beat out Kenneth Cope who left the role of Jed Stone for forty-two years. Basically, if you want to binge Coronation Street, it’s going to take a really long time.
They Were On Corrie Before They Were Famous
Prunella Scales played Eileen Hughes in 1961. Now she’s best known for her role as Sybil on Fawlty Towers. Beryl Bainbridge played Ginnie in 1961. She’s now an internationally known author. Ben Kingsley (we all know who he is) played Ron Jenkins from 1966 to 67. Patrick Stewart played a fireman in 1967. That means Professor Charles Xavier was on Coronation Street.
Many actors got their starts playing small roles on this very well-loved soap opera.