Alan arrived in Weatherfield in 1969 to open a salon, at which Elsie was hired as manageress. After a short romance, the couple got wed although their plans to move to Bramhall were shelved when Alan was declared insolvent and had to sell his assets to pay debts; instead they lived at 11 Coronation Street. For the next three years, Alan worked as a mechanic at the Canal Garage, which he bought in 1972.
As with all of Elsie's relationships, the Howards' marriage lurched from one drama to the next, but survived threats from Janet Reid, Alan's first wife Laura, and his son Mark who disliked Elsie. In 1973, the Howards moved to Newcastle where Elsie had got a new job. Three years later, she returned to Weatherfield without Alan, the marriage effectively over. They were divorced in 1978.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Personality
- 3 Relationships
- 4 Hobbies and interests
- 5 Background information
- 6 First and last lines
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
1924-1969: Early life
Alan Patrick Howard was born in Gateshead on 23rd April 1924. He grew up in a terraced house in Jarrow and shared a bedroom with three brothers, all of whom went to work in the mines. Alan was the skinny one, and had days off school because of sickness.
Alan pursued a different career from his brothers. After serving with the British Navy in the war alongside Len Fairclough, Alan moved to Leeds where he worked his way up from car mechanic to garage owner. He eventually married Laura and they had a son, Mark, in around 1952. Laura also had a good head for business and owned a salon in Leeds which Alan managed for her. According to Alan, they didn't have a loving marriage and it survived because of practicality and sex. They were together for 12 years. Both strong personalities, each of them blamed the other when things started to go wrong and at some point during the 1960s they split up. Out of spite, Laura refused to allow Alan to see Mark and Alan had no further contact with his son.
1969-1970: Weatherfield, Elsie and insolvency
In 1969, recently divorced from Laura, Alan bought florist "The Pink Posy" in Weatherfield from Dave Smith and temporarily moved into 9 Coronation Street, home of his old shipmate Len Fairclough, while he converted the florist into a salon and hired staff. When Alan introduced himself to the residents, he turned the heads of the womenfolk with the apparent exception of Elsie Tanner, who was cool towards him - a façade Ena Sharples saw through. Elsie had managed The Pink Posy for Dave Smith and grudgingly agreed to operate in the same capacity at Alan's salon on the condition that he took on her nephew and niece Bernard and Sandra Butler as hairdressers. Meanwhile, Alan hired Valerie Barlow as head hairdresser and, naturally, Hilda Ogden as cleaner.
Gradually Elsie thawed towards Alan and she agreed to see in 1970 with him. However, when Ena commented to Alan that Elsie was after more than friendship, to make it clear that he didn't want anything serious Alan stood Elsie up, choosing to spend the evening by himself in a nightclub instead. After a miserable New Year, Elsie confronted Alan and threw his excuse that he didn't want to get involved back at him, telling him that she wanted the same thing. For all they fought it, Alan and Elsie felt strongly for each other and after a double date with Len and Anita Reynolds, they kissed passionately.
In February, Elsie's old flame Bill Gregory - another Navy man - returned with the intention of marrying her. Their relationship had ended in 1962 when Bill's hitherto unknown wife Phyllis surfaced, but she had died since that year leaving Bill free to pursue Elsie. The prospect of losing Elsie to another man pushed Alan to offer her a life with him, which led her to turn Bill down. Elsie was delighted when Alan showed her their new detached house in Hawthorne Grove, Bramhall, but less so when he refused to marry her as well. Unable to meet halfway, they split up and Alan left Weatherfield. A few weeks later, he sold the salon to Dave Smith, cutting all ties with the town.
In July, Alan made a surprise return to make things up with Elsie and popped the question. Because of the way he'd treated her before, Elsie turned him down, but after some thinking she decided to take the risk and accept. They were married in a registry office on 22nd July, with Len and Bet Lynch surprising them there and offering themselves as witnesses. Having scoffed at Elsie embarking on her third marriage, the neighbours threw them a surprise party at the Rovers and wished them well.
After returning from their honeymoon in Paris, the Howards prepared to move into the house in Bramhall, while Alan bought a new white Mercedes. While they were away, Ray Langton tried to secure the £350 payment for a job Fairclough and Langton had carried out, and discovered that Alan also owed other people money. Alan was put under pressure from his creditors to settle his debts, which had run up due to his flashy lifestyle which he considered essential to his public image. Alan set up a meeting at the Mechanics Hall with his accountant P.H. Vine where he offered his creditors a moratorium agreement, giving him three months to sell his assets at good prices so that he could pay them nine shillings in the pound on the money he owed them, promising that the rest would follow. Despite opposition from Willie Piggott and Sid Lambert, the majority supported the proposition, and Alan narrowly avoided being declared bankrupt. Alan planned to continue as before, but agreed to live within their means when Elsie read him the riot act. Alan moved into 11 Coronation Street and over the next three months, he sold his car, his salon in Huddersfield, his shares in a motel off the motorway, his garage in Ashton-under-Lyne and properties in Leeds and Ashton; when he re-entered the business world, he would be starting from scratch.
To earn a living, Alan returned to the trade he knew best. In August, Billy Walker hired him as a mechanic at the Canal Garage. Early on, Alan's pride got the better of him when Billy reprimanded him for repairing Ken Barlow's mini as a favour. Alan walked out, but later made up with Billy, accepting that he was now a hired hand.
1970-1974: Second marriage
In October, Mark shocked Alan by turning up at No.11. Now 18, Mark was studying textile technology at college and was keen to rebuild his relationship with his dad. Alan was thrilled to have his son back in his life but had to placate Elsie who had never been told about Mark. However, when Mark tried to drive a wedge between the Howards by accusing Elsie of having a thing with Len, Alan saw through his tactics and assured him that there was no way he would return to Laura. Mark walked out on Alan and normality resumed.
In June 1971, Elsie went to work at the new Mark Brittain Warehouse as checking supervisor. Alan got his first break since his insolvency a month later when Billy announced that he was moving to Chiswick to buy another garage and leaving Alan to run the Canal Garage. Alan managed to get a 15% share of the profits and £5 more a week from Billy, and also hired Colin Harvey as a mechanic. Colin had been put forward for the position by Janet Reid, who had once helped Alan with an application at the Town Hall when she'd been been a clerk there. When Janet got a job at the Corner Shop, she paid a few visits to Alan at the garage, making it clear that she fancied him. Alan didn't mind what started out as an innocent flirtation but asked her to play it cool. With Elsie nagging him at home, Alan was glad to get away and he and Janet shared a kiss. However Alan didn't want a serious affair - when Janet followed him to Leeds when he went there on business, he turned her down, to her disappointment. Elsie found out about they had been in Leeds together from a gossiping Betty Turpin, and proceeded to confront Alan, who insisted that he hadn't slept with Janet. After forcing Janet to admit the same, and that she was merely lonely and infatuated with Alan, Elsie warned her off.
More problems were to follow for the Howards. In December, Elsie booked the Fylde Castle Hotel in Blackpool to avoid having to slave over a stove on Christmas Day, only for Alan to pull out in order to service Jack Isaacs's vans as it was the only time they could be taken off the road. Alan compounded the situation by inviting Mark to stay over Christmas, causing Elsie to go berserk, which in turn led Alan to walk out. After a lousy Christmas, Alan returned for his belongings and slept in the garage until he sorted out lodgings.
In the New Year, Billy returned to the area and offered to sell the garage to Alan if he could come up with £2,500. Meanwhile, Alan confided in Maggie Clegg his doubts about returning to Elsie, complaining that their marriage had devolved into a treadmill of arguments. When Elsie asked him to come home, he agreed to give it another go, but to give their relationship a chance to heal Alan didn't tell Elsie that Laura was loaning him the £2,500 for the garage, telling her that he got the amount from his accountant Mr Vine. Alan admitted the truth to Elsie in July when Laura called the Rovers asking for him. Fortunately, when he did so Elsie was less bothered by the breach of trust and more that Laura was coming to see them. To Alan's relief, the women got on and the purpose of Laura's visit wasn't to chew him out about falling behind with the loan repayments but to announce that she was getting married and dropping the loan. Elsie refused on Alan's behalf, telling Laura that the Howards weren't a charity case. Although annoyed by his wife's brashness, Alan made Elsie stand by the offer.
Alan branched out from fixing cars at the earliest opportunity. In October 1972, he agreed to sell used motors for Jimmy Frazer, with whom he later formed a business partnership. Jimmy trusted Alan to look after all of his local properties in his absence, including The Capricorn nightclub, a task Alan enjoyed as it reminded him of the old days. However, to keep on top of things Alan had to work longer days, as well as give up the odd evening for "business meetings" with Jimmy in clubs, with Jimmy getting young floozies such as Deirdre Hunt to join them. Alan knew that he would being taken for a mug and started drinking heavily. He reached a low point when he staggered home drunk and passed out on the sofa just after putting a pan on the stove. Elsie came home to find the pan burning but managed to put it the fire out and proceeded to give Alan a rollicking. Another row followed the next day when Elsie found Alan in a drunken heap after a party to celebrate Alf Roberts being chosen as the new Mayor of Weatherfield. Alan felt profusely sorry and immediately dissolved his partnership with Jimmy, seeing it as the source of their problems.
In October 1973, Elsie was given the opportunity to help set up Mark Brittain's new warehouse in Newcastle by working there as a short-term staff supervisor. With Alan's encouragement, she accepted the job and a few weeks later she was offered the position full-time. Having remained in Weatherfield, Alan then went to join her and together they decided to take the chance of a better life in Newcastle. Alan was pleased to return home, as it meant living close to his mother who hadn't been well lately. Alan fixed himself up with a job managing a local garage and after the New Year, he returned to Weatherfield by himself to give up the tenancy of No.11 and sell the garage to Billy Walker.
1976-1978: Separation and divorce
In the event, the move to Newcastle heralded not a new lease of life for the Howards' stormy marriage but its slow death. Elsie missed her old life and resented having to look after Alan. Rows became more frequent and gradually they lost the urge to fight for their marriage. In April 1976, Elsie went back to Weatherfield with the news that she and Alan were embarking on a trial separation. Alan waited to hear from Elsie, and after hearing nothing for two months he wrote to her asking if they had a future together. Elsie didn't reply, preferring to let things continue as they were.
In 1977, Alan had an affair with an employee from the garage, Elaine Dennett. Elaine had marriage on her mind, despite an age difference, and secretly travelled to Weatherfield to ask Elsie to give Alan a divorce. As Alan hadn't broached the subject of divorce with her, Elsie realised that he didn't want to marry Elaine and was using her as an excuse, although to get Elaine off her back she agreed not to fight a divorce should Alan ask for it.
A few months later, Alan saw Elsie for the first time in a year when Mike Baldwin sent Elsie to Newcastle to interest buyers in Baldwin's Casuals's new denim designs. Against expectations, they had a laugh together and the old spark between them was still in evidence. Alan was surprised by how much he'd enjoyed seeing Elsie again but, to stop Elsie getting her hopes up, he immediately wrote to her to tell her that he wanted to go ahead with the divorce. After receiving her divorce papers in March 1978, Elsie phoned Alan to plead with him to give their marriage one more try, but Alan had plans to marry Elaine and refused. The divorce then went ahead.
Alan was a private man who fiercely guarded his affairs. As a businessman frequently meeting new clients, he projected an image of confidence, proficiency and affluence, even if he possessed none. A prime example was him marrying Elsie Tanner and buying a new Merc and detached house in Bramhall whilst fobbing off a rising number of creditors with rubber cheques. His creditors entered into a moratorium agreement to give him three months to pay them nine shillings in the pound - an agreement which Elsie forced him take seriously - but Alan retained this mindset even after getting out of the business world and going back to his trade.
Alan's pride made accepting his reduced circumstances a slow process but he was always friendly to his neighbours in Coronation Street, doing many of them a good turn, particularly Stan Ogden who had Alan to thank for fixing him up with two jobs and a free handcart for his window round (in exchange for six months cleaning). However, gossips like Hilda Ogden and their attempts to pry and provoke were met with outright anger and a raised voice.
Alan had a moustache between 1972 and 1973. He let Elsie trim it but she messed it up and he had to shave it all off.
He had a tattoo on his stomach from his Navy days which had a Portsmouth phone number included in the pattern. When Lucille Hewitt spotted the tattoo, she got Elsie interested in finding out why he had the tattoo and whose number it was. Knowing the true story behind it, Len Fairclough spun the women a tale about the number belonging to the CPO's daughter Lil. Alan continued the joke by telling them she was a cipher expert who had to be sent urgent messages.
In September 1973, in an effort to quit smoking Alan started a no-smoking syndicate with Elsie, Alf Roberts, Hilda and Stan Ogden, Norma Ford, Ray Langton, Bet Lynch, Lucille and Rita Littlewood, planning to buy a villa in Spain with the money they saved and use it between them. Despite initial enthusiasm, by the following month everyone was smoking again.
Alan met Elsie Tanner when he bought The Pink Posy from Dave Smith and arrived in Weatherfield to open a new salon in the premises in 1969 at which he gave Elsie the job of manageress. Elsie was cautious but open to being more than friends, while Alan, recently divorced from Laura, was firmly against it. Only months later when Alan was on the cusp of being declared a bankrupt did he realise what a good thing he had with Elsie, and go back to Weatherfield to marry her.
When the Howards returned from their honeymoon, Alan's creditors got together to force him to pay his debts, and Elsie discovered that Alan had married her on the promise of things he knew he couldn't provide, leading her to fear that he only wanted her for her house. The ensuing argument set the precedent for their marriage. Alan preferred to solve his problems without telling Elsie, but his pride and yearning to move back up the career ladder impaired his judgement and often he needed Elsie to steer him in the right direction. Alan admired Elsie's strength of character but didn't like being nagged. In 1970, he snapped at Elsie when she behaved in a way that reminded him of Laura, before apologising.
Elsie preferred things to be out in the open and was always straight with Alan, as she was with everyone. A rare exception was in 1973 when Elsie went to visit her son Dennis Tanner in Pentonville Prison after he was banged up for running a double glazing scam. Elsie was too ashamed to tell Alan the truth and lied to him that she was visiting Sheila Crossley in Sheffield. While in London, Elsie was hit by a car and lay unconscious in hospital for several days. Sheila tried to cover for Elsie by telling Alan she was unwell and was staying longer in Sheffield, but her cover was blown when Alan went to Sheffield to surprise his wife and found she wasn't there. Alan then reported her missing to the police, refusing to believe that Elsie had left him as running off without making a drama out of it wasn't her style. The police in London identified her through Dennis and Alan was notified of her whereabouts. He immediately boarded a train to London to see her.
Len Fairclough was an old Navy shipmate of Alan's and knew Elsie well. Len inadvertently brought Alan and Elsie together by letting Alan stay at 9 Coronation Street while Len was working in Huddersfield in 1969. Owing to his history with Elsie, Len grew jealous as their relationship bloomed. When Alan returned months after breaking up with Elsie, Len warned him off her at Elsie's request. He felt a fool when the couple then got engaged, and refused Elsie's request for him to be best man, bitter that she had refused to marry him twice. However, on their wedding day he thawed and surprised them at the registry office to act as a witness. Afterwards, Len was friendly to the Howards but made a point of not getting involved in their rows.
Alan also got on well with Billy Walker, gaffer of the Canal Garage where Alan was taken on after nearly being declared a bankrupt. The only notable clash between them subsequently occurred in March 1971 when Alan helped an old client, Barbara Bromley, sell her car and buy a new one. Billy smelled a rat when he found out that Billy had lied to Elsie about working overtime at the garage. When Barbara turned up at the garage to given Alan a cheque, Billy got the full story from her, having initially suspected that Alan was playing away. Billy reprimanded Alan for not putting the business through the garage's books. As a favour to a mate, Billy sold the garage to Alan for £2,500 in January 1972 even though he'd been offered £2,750 by another party. Alan returned the favour by giving Billy a job there when he came back to Weatherfield.
Alan got to know Lucille Hewitt well when she took 11 Coronation Street's spare room in 1973. Elsie had offered Lucille digs, against Alan's wishes, although he put his feelings aside when he learned that her landlord George Scully had confiscated her suitcase in lieu of payment of £4 compensation for damaging an electric heater which Lucille claimed she'd never used. George backed down and returned the case when Alan saw him and threatened him with the police. Alan then accepted Lucille into the Howard household. She liked them so much that when the couple moved to Newcastle, Lucille asked Alan if she could go with them but he turned down her request as they wanted to cut all ties with Weatherfield.
Hobbies and interests
Alan was a fan of cricket and football, and supported Weatherfield County FC. He was familiar with the guitar and in 1972 he was roped into joining a street band for a Community Centre concert, which, fortunately given the standard of talent, never went ahead.
Alan enjoyed watching the fireworks as a lad and this interest continued into adulthood, with him agreeing to supervise the communal bonfire in November 1973. Alan disagreed with Len Fairclough's assertion that fireworks were as dangerous to the children as guns, proffering his view that they were safe as long as precautions were taken. He had to eat his words when an accident did occur at the bonfire, as a spark landed in an open box of fireworks, setting them off and burning schoolboy Mark Hillkirk, who was badly burned. Although Mark made a full recovery, Alan blamed himself for letting it happen.
Unsurprisingly given his line of work, Alan was a petrolhead and in 1970 souped up a car for a rally drive at his garage in Ashton-under-Lyne. After watching the car go out of control and crash on TV, Elsie feared for Alan's life however he turned up unharmed.
Creation and casting
Alan Howard was introduced as Elsie Tanner's new love interest in late 1969. Patricia Phoenix was against Elsie getting involved with another man, but she came round to the idea when executive producer H.V. Kershaw allowed her to put an actor forward for the role. Her choice was Alan Browning, an experienced TV actor who had played the lead character Ellis Cooper in the BBC programme The Newcomers. Phoenix, on her selection: "It was, I promise, a purely professional decision on my part although I must confess it idly crossed my mind that he was an attractive man whenever I watched him on television... But selecting him for my screen boyfriend was not a romantic affair. It was simply that I admired the man's acting tremendously." (The Coronation Street Story, Boxtree Ltd, 1995) Browning was cast but wasn't told that he'd been Phoenix's suggestion.
Browning left at the end of his contract in March 1970 and was brought back full-time four months later, with Alan and Elsie marrying in Episode 991. Alan was Elsie's third husband but the only one to appear as a long-term character. To give the affluent couple a believable reason to live in Coronation Street, a storyline was written in which Alan was nearly declared bankrupt and had to sell his businesses to pay off debts.
Browning and Phoenix began courting while working on Coronation Street and were married in real life on 23rd December 1972. In 1973, while on holiday, Phoenix decided to quit and return to the stage. Browning also resigned but as Alan hadn't been written out with Elsie, he continued to appear for almost two months after which he (off-screen) travelled to Newcastle where Elsie was working at a new Mark Brittain branch. To provide the Howards with closure, Browning agreed to return for two episodes in January 1974 in which Alan told the residents they were staying in Newcastle and picked up their things from No.11. After leaving Coronation Street, Browning and Phoenix embarked on a 43-week stage tour performing in a play called Gaslight.
Phoenix came back to the programme in 1976, soon after Bill Podmore became its producer. Elsie returned to Weatherfield on a trial separation from Alan, who was not brought back with her. Podmore: “One evening I called at their home in Hollingworth and, over a couple of drinks, Alan Browning raised the question. It would have been unfair to beat about the bush. I explained I had no plans to bring him back, and the subject was never mentioned again.” (Coronation Street: The Inside Story, 1990)
For dramatic purposes, the possibility of Elsie and Alan getting back together was kept alive within the narrative for a while. In 1977, Elsie saw Alan while in Newcastle to interest buyers in Baldwin's Casuals' new denim designs. Alan Browning recorded a voice-over for a scene in which Elsie read a letter from Alan soon after her return from Newcastle. The narration was heard in Episode 1723 and was Browning's final work for the programme. He passed away in 1979 from liver failure following years of alcohol abuse.
First and last lines
"Well, we're out of it, aren't we? I mean somebody's going to get it in the neck, aren't they? And come to think of it, Councillor, you own...what - three properties in this neighbourhood? It could be you, couldn't it?" (Final line in his on-screen appearances to Len Fairclough about proposed redevelopment of the area)