Anne "Annie" Walker (née Beaumont) was landlady of the Rovers Return Inn from 1937 to 1984. A proud member of the Beaumont family of Clitheroe, Lancashire, Annie moved to Weatherfield to find work and married Jack Walker in 1937. They immediately took over the tenancy of the Rovers and raised their children Billy and Joan there. When Jack died in 1970, Annie took over as licensee.
As landlady, Annie carried herself with an almost regal dignity acquired through many years of tending to the working classes. Resigned to a life at the Rovers, she concentrated on making a success of it while improving her social standing, although her pretensions more often than not led to despair at the behaviour and general demeanour of the less refined members of her clientele. It nearly always fell to Jack to offer an olive branch to both staff and customers who had been offended by Annie.
After Jack's death, Annie found it increasingly difficult to cope with her responsibilities at the Rovers. She remained in charge thanks mostly to having friends within senior management of the brewery, but in 1984 she decided she'd had enough and went to live with Joan in Derby.
1909-1937: The Beaumonts of Clitheroe
Anne Beaumont was born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, on 11th August 1909, the only child of Edward and Florence Beaumont. The Clitheroe Beaumonts - who originally came over to England with William the Conqueror - were a family of great wealth and influence.
Anne was educated at Clitheroe Council School but learned far more from her mother, from whom she inherited her social pretensions and a disdain for some elements of the working classes. She was, after all, a woman of a more sophisticated breed, interested in art and culture. She aspired to make something of herself in the theatre scene, and was a member of the Clitheroe Amateur Operatic Society. However, Anne's cozy life was to end in 1927 when her grandfather passed away, and her father inherited his considerable debts. Anne had to go out to work, but even her mother's tutelage couldn't prepare her for the working environment in the weaving shed where she gained employment as a loom operator. While she coped well enough with the work, Anne had to learn to tolerate the other women and their mannerisms.
On 7th April 1930, Anne's torment ended when her mother inherited a successful ice cream factory upon the death of her aunt. The last of the Clitheroe Beaumonts then traded their hometown for Weatherfield to run the factory and shop. This was a factory Anne was happy to work in, and more importantly, her family's improved circumstances allowed her to rekindle her operatic ambitions by taking singing and public speaking lessons with St Agnes Amateur Operatic Society at the Weatherfield Lyceum. The producer of her opera group was Edgar Nuttall, who became her mentor and gave her her first lead in Mayfair Melody in 1932.
With her career now on the right path, Anne turned her attention to finding a suitable husband. After some soul searching - and breaking some hearts - Anne began courting her cousin Edwin Beaumont. It was Edwin who first called her "Annie", which she soon decided she preferred to "Anne", and it was Edwin who dared Annie to enter the Pageant of the Ages on the condition that he chose her character, only for her entire family to turn out to watch her don a body stocking and blonde wig to appear as Lady Godiva.
One day, while admiring the dyed water in the canal from her favourite bridge, Annie aroused the attentions of one Jack Walker as he pushed his cart of wool to the dye rooms at Possitt's Dye Works. Seeing Annie leaning over the bridge, Jack thought she was about to take the route of so many victims of the Depression, and ran over to pull her back. Annie's initial shock turned to laughter when she realised the misunderstanding, while her would-be rescuer was unusually lost for words. Accrington-born Jack Walker had neither the status nor the brass of her previous suitors, but at last Annie had found her man.
1937-1945: Keeping the home fires burning
Annie and Jack were married on 23rd October 1937 at Mount Zion Baptist Chapel and they began their married life in Ashdale Road. Within weeks of the wedding, the Walkers were granted the tenancy of the Rovers Return in Coronation Street, replacing George and Mary Diggins as landlords of the backstreet pub. Jack came from a family of publicans and learned the trade at his brother Arthur's pub, The Nag's Head, and took to the Rovers immediately. Annie had no bar experience but decided that the Rovers would be a suitable stepping stone to a country inn up Cheshire way in about a year's time.
Reality had a different future in mind. With the outbreak of war in 1939, Jack wasted no time in signing up. He'd been there for the birth of their son Billy, but by the time Joan was born in 1940, Annie was on her own. Although she disliked the Rovers, Annie soldiered on behind the bar while fulfilling her responsibilities as a mother, with Ned Narkin helping out as potman. Annie distrusted Ned, but when a burglar at the Rovers held a knife to her throat, Ned was stabbed protecting her. She soon settled into the Street and made friends among the residents, including Esther Hayes and Albert Tatlock.
Jack occasionally visited on leave, but Annie was disturbed by his change in personality and she began to distance herself from him emotionally. By 1944 she had begun an infatuation with John Barnstable, headmaster at Bessie Street School, who made her feel cultured and flattered. They progressed to clandestine dates and kissing, at one point even being unable to open the pub because she and John had been stranded on a date due to heavy snow. Although Annie tried to end the relationship, John was persistent, and she seriously considered a life with him. Finally, a disgusted Ena Sharples wrote to Jack, and Jack returned home on Christmas 1944, dressed as Santa. Annie, assuming John was in the outfit, called him, "John," confirming Ena's story. Jack warned John off and threatened Annie to not make such a mistake again. A humiliated Annie tried to get her own back by lying to Ena's superiors that she had allowed alcohol at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall, but Ena blackmailed her into retracting her statement, saying she would tell everyone about Annie's relationship with Barnstable.
With the war over, Jack took his place behind the bar and normality resumed.
1945-1964: Annie's next challenge
Annie had high expectations of Billy and Joan, and placed them in private schools to give them the best start in life. Joan took to Weatherfield Girls' Grammar School like a duck to water, and became a teacher, but Billy - who had spent his formative years without a father in his life and subsequently never been close to Jack - was expelled from Mrs Dudley Henderson Private Academy for fighting, and left school to become a mechanic. Annie was nevertheless proud of both of her children.
In 1954, Annie decided it was time to move on from the Rovers, and this time there was no talking her round. She and Jack viewed some pubs in Wilmslow, Cheshire, but while the surroundings were very much to Annie's liking, her illusion of being among her own kind was shattered and they found her just as common as they found Jack. Annie hadn't waited all that time to live somewhere where people looked down on her, and so she resigned herself to a life in Coronation Street.
After completing his National Service, Billy moved to London to work in a friend's garage, and in 1961 Joan married Gordon Davies, a fellow teacher at the school where Joan taught English, and the couple moved to Derby. Billy visited occasionally; in 1962 Billy returned to introduce his parents to his fiancée Philippa Scopes. Annie disapproved of the union as Philippa was a beauty queen, but she changed her mind after getting to know her. In any case, Philippa broke off the engagement to return to beauty contests. Joan looked down on her parents and she and Gordon tolerated them on their occasional visits to Derby.
Jack and Annie were a popular couple in Coronation Street and made a good team as landlord and landlady of the Rovers. Though Annie considered herself a cut above most of her customers, Jack acted as a counterbalance, who could knock Annie off her lofty perch with one look.
In 1964, Jack and Annie came close to splitting up when Annie found out Jack had been making regular payments to a Mrs. Nicholls, and wrongly assumed she was a lover. The reality was that Jack was paying Billy's rent as Billy had lost his job, but Annie left Jack instead of confronting him, and only came to regret her hastiness when coping without Jack at Egremont Hotel proved too much for her. Though innocent, Jack remained concerned that Annie would not return, though she eventually did and was deeply apologetic.
1964-1969: A mother again
Later that year, the Walkers took in 15-year-old Lucille Hewitt as a ward when her father Harry and stepmother Concepta moved to Ireland. Concepta had been a live-in barmaid at the Rovers before marrying Harry, and the Hewitts had subsequently been close to the Walkers. When Lucille refused to go with her parents, Annie volunteered to put her up while she finished her O-levels.
Lucille was a different challenge to Annie than Billy or Joan had been. Annie refused to modernise her parenting approach, and found Lucille flighty and irresponsible, while Lucille found Annie cold and difficult to talk to, and became closer to Jack.
Annie was an active member of the community and in 1966 her aspirations turned political, when Mrs Arkinstall of the Federation of Women's Associations agreed to sponsor her application to stand as an independent candidate in the Council by-elections. She quickly got caught up in electioneering duties, putting them even above her duties as landlady. She was up against neighbour Len Fairclough, who during a debate accused Annie of being a mouthpiece for snotty women. They received the same amount of votes on election day, and on a coin toss Len was elected Councillor.
The Walkers had another of their meaningless fall-outs in 1967 when Annie was dissatisfied with Jack's answers to a truth game and refused to let the matter drop, causing Jack to sleep in the spare room and later Albert Tatlock's house to get away from Annie's nagging. Annie, unsure of where Jack was staying, got the mistaken impression that he was sleeping over at Elsie Tanner's house, and convinced herself they were having an affair. Jack couldn't believe Annie could think something so far-fetched but reassured her that he loved her and they were reconciled.
In 1968, Lucille became involved with Gordon Clegg, an accounting student whose protective mother Maggie had recently bought the Corner Shop. Annie objected to Gordon, fearing that his father's alcoholism was hereditary, and because she suspected Maggie thought Gordon was too good for Lucille. The lovelorn couple ran away to get married but missed the train to Gretna Green and returned home, to their parents' relief. Annie's attitude towards Gordon changed when he became a qualified accountant - a man of education.
The following year, Annie was once again on the wrong side of her children, with her racism towards Billy's girlfriend Jasmine Choong causing Billy and Jasmine to split up.
Annie was thrilled in 1969 when brewery rep Douglas Cresswell offered her and Jack a pub in Majorca, while she was in Majorca after winning the 'Perfect Landlady' competition arranged by Newton & Ridley. It was the chance she had been waiting for for years, and for her sake Jack was also willing to go, however they were turned down at the last minute when Cresswell's boss decided they were too old to run the Majorca bar.
1970-1976: Jack's death and Billy's return
It was a sad day in 1970 when Jack had a heart attack and passed away while visiting Joan in Derby. Annie was distraught but despite her grief was able to carry on with her job, taking over as licensee of the Rovers Return, with Billy moving to Weatherfield to keep an eye on her and help out at the pub when needed. The brewery was satisfied that with Billy around Annie could continue to function as landlady, though they did offer to make Billy licensee behind Annie's back, believing he would be the more ideal landlord, an offer he turned down.
Lucille's future continued to worry Annie. After gaining good qualifications, Lucille grew into a lazy young woman who worked when it suited her, and when she did have a job, it tended to be somewhere Annie disapproved of, such as the Aquarius disco club, which to add insult to injury, was a Newton & Ridley house like the Rovers. She once offered to buy the Corner Shop for Lucille, but Lucille wasn't interested. Lucille eventually left for good in 1974 to live with Concepta in Ireland.
Annie's big moment finally came in 1973 when incoming Mayor of Weatherfield Alf Roberts asked her to be his Mayoress. Annie was expecting the invitation - some would say she'd been rehearsing for it all her life - and she accepted it graciously. However, no sooner had Annie and Alf been sworn in that Annie found out that Billy had been gambling using the pub's takings. Furious, Annie made barmaid Betty Turpin manager and cut off Billy's access to the Rovers' accounts, and the pair had a blazing row. Billy decided to leave Weatherfield to rebuild his life in Jersey, while Annie told the brewery she was retiring as there was now nothing left for her at the Rovers. She changed her mind when the regulars showed her a petition they'd written, signed by 46 people telling the brewery that she was the only landlady they wanted.
Billy made another return to Weatherfield in 1974, soon to be engaged to Deirdre Hunt. Annie threw herself into wedding preparations, although secretly she didn't think much of Deirdre and disapproved of Billy paying for the wedding instead of Blanche Hunt. With three weeks to go, Billy called off the wedding, deciding he no longer wanted to marry Deirdre, and returned to Jersey.
Although she was now living by herself at the Rovers, Annie did not inform the brewery of Billy's departure as she feared they would retire her. Later in the year, two thugs, Les Grimes and Neil Foxall, broke into the Rovers in the night in search of valuables and money. Despite being unable to defend herself, Annie refused to be intimidated and defiantly told them her money was in the bank (in fact, there was money on the premises which she kept in a safe place). The thugs left after searching the place and finding nothing of value, and despite telling friends and staff she was fine Annie fell down the stairs the next day and was admitted to hospital. The brewery then discovered Annie's true living situation, however she was held in high enough esteem that she was offered the tenancy of a pub in Cheshire, rather than retirement. When informed of the brewery's decision by Warren Coates, an unflappable Annie immediately telephoned Coates's boss Douglas Cresswell, a personal friend, who put a stop to the plans. However, she agreed to take on a live-in cellarman, and hired pot-bellied widower Fred Gee herself.
1976-1983: Queen of the Rovers
In her final years at the Rovers, age was no obstacle to Annie, and she continued to rule with an iron fist. In 1976, when her business was threatened by Renee Bradshaw's application to turn the Corner Shop into an off-licence, Annie petitioned against her, but the matter was settled in court in favour of Renee.
At 67, Annie decided to learn to drive, and to pass her test after fewer than 86 lessons - the number her friend and rival Nellie Harvey had taken. To the surprise of all (after her first lesson ended with her hitting a lamp post), she passed her test first time and bought a second-hand Rover 2000. Not long after getting the car, Annie was stopped by the police while doing a turn in the road, and was breathalysed. Much to her horror, the crystal turned green. A blood test taken at the police station proved Annie was below the limit, but by that time her companion Kitty Stonely had already spread the word among Annie's posh friends at the Lady Victuallers.
In 1977, the brewery held a party in the Rovers celebrating Annie's four decades as landlady, with Billy arriving as a surprise guest. The following year, a take-over bid at the brewery nearly caused Annie to step down as landlord in favour of Billy - to guarantee she could stay at the Rovers - but the bid fell through at the last minute. In 1979, Billy returned again to ask Annie for a loan to buy a wine bar. Annie was willing to give him the money but retracted the offer when Billy asked Deirdre to come with him; Deirdre was now a married woman, albeit separated. When Deirdre decided not to go with Billy, Annie handed the money over.
In 1981, Annie went on a cruise and left temporary manager Gordon Lewis in charge of the Rovers as she didn't have faith in Fred to run it. She was shocked when she returned to find Gordon had accused Fred of stealing with Betty and Bet Lynch walking out and getting replaced. Admitting she had made a mistake not trusting her staff, Annie relieved Gordon from his post then worked on earning back the respect of Betty and Bet Lynch, who were angry that Annie had put someone in over their heads. Annie eventually persuaded them to return promising that in the future Betty would be trusted to run the pub.
Annie appeared to have especially low regard for Fred Gee. When he married Eunice Nuttall in 1981, Annie offered to let them live at the Rovers while they looked for a pub of their own. When they were turned down by the brewery because Eunice had been accused of stealing, Annie still wanted them out as she had found a new cellarman who was ready to start work. Fred later split from Eunice and Annie let him keep his job.
1984 onwards: Retirement
In late 1983, Annie took a break from the Rovers to stay with Joan, and in early 1984 her son Billy arrived to declare that his mother was "bowing out" (retiring). Annie had decided to retire without returning to tell her staff and friends personally. She convinced Billy to run the pub though his stay was very brief, as he had to sell the tenancy of the Rovers to pay his debts. Annie later passed away at an unknown point in time, bequeathing several friends and work colleagues (including Betty Williams) items in her will.
- "Cut glass on the outside and broken glass inside". - Albert Tatlock
Florence Beaumont was a pretentious woman and a snob, who enjoyed the benefits of her family's wealth. Annie inherited many of her mother's personality traits but as she grew up, her family's circumstances changed for the worse and her mother's privileged lifestyle was denied to her. Annie went out to work in a weaving shed and spent the remaining years prior to her marriage to Jack in factories. Having "survived" this chapter of her life, Annie emerged stronger; a woman who placed responsibility and standards above all else, and with a better understanding of the working class, but otherwise she was still her mother's daughter, her airs and graces and cut-glass accent refined rather than tarnished by those difficult times.
As landlady of the Rovers Return, Annie tried to bring some of the Beaumont excellence to the backstreets of Weatherfield. Staff and customers became accustomed, with some amusement, to her fanciful ideas and delusions of grandeur. However, not all customers were welcome, and the more common element of the riffraff could expect service with a scowl, Annie barely disguising her disdain. Neighbours and even staff were frequently offended by Annie's attitude, and her rush to judgement resulted in several boycotts of the Rovers in favour of The Flying Horse.
After Jack's death, Annie continued to run the Rovers with her usual high standards. A select few people saw a more vulnerable side to Annie - notably Billy and Lucille - as Annie contemplated retirement, but she always continued on as Jack would have wanted her to do. If age and the strain of her job was taking their toll, it never showed as Annie remained in full control of her faculties until she stepped down from her role, and her staff knew not to treat her like an invalid as Annie could (and did) crack the whip when required.
Annie was obsessed with social status and judged people according to their education and position in the community. Authority figures could expect a personal welcome at the Rovers, or even an invitation through to the back for a sherry. Among her own kind at the Weatherfield Ladies Licenced Victuallers, the domain of insecure women and bitter rivalries dressed up as friendships, Annie would take any opportunity to show off. Annie had charm and a way with words and could usually find a way to get what she wanted from people, but when the outcome wasn't in her favour (in those situations, of course, Annie was entirely blameless), a "migraine" would come on, forcing Annie to retire to bed.
Politically, Annie was very right-wing and believed in bringing back hanging.
Although her airs and graces came from her mother, it was the Beaumonts who could do no wrong in Annie's eyes. They had continental roots, and a long history in Clitheroe as one of its elite, at least according to Annie. Her overly romantic references to her family history were humoured - though scarcely believed - by staff and customers alike. Annie's delusions of grandeur were aided by the fact that, with one exception, none of her family ever appeared in Weatherfield to shatter her illusions.
In 1977, Annie received a visit from a mystery guest, who she recognised as her cousin Charles Beaumont. They hadn't seen each other since Clitheroe, and each had an entire life story to tell the other. Although Charles gave the impression of being wealthy, he borrowed money without the intention of paying it back, and news quickly reached Annie that he was doing the same in Coronation Street, using his connection to her to borrow from her staff and friends. Annie made sure he paid his debts and then told him to leave.
Born in 1901, Jack Walker was eight years older than Annie. During the Depression, he took what work he could, but he was most at home behind the bar of his brother Arthur's locale, The Nag's Head. They first met when Jack "saved" Annie from jumping off a bridge, only to find she'd been admiring the water below. Annie had always screened her potential suitors, and a working man like Jack would normally be dismissed out of hand, but she couldn't help herself in wanting to see more of this tall, kind stranger.
Unlike Annie, there was nothing pretentious about Jack - he was a kindly man, with a genial but firm manner, and he was completely down to earth. Behind the bar, they were a couple much loved and respected by the neighbours, and their stewardship passed without any major scandals. On a smaller scale, however, their marriage was a battle of personalities, in particular Annie's whims against Jack's salt-of-the-earth pragmatism. Jack knew that Annie's flash-in-the-pan ideas were only that, and so he would usually humour her - however, Annie could easily pick up on this and she enjoyed leading her brow-beaten husband a merry dance, leaving him unsure if she was serious or not. On the other hand, Jack was the only person who made Annie feel the need to justify herself and one look from him was often enough to knock her off her high horse. This was not the case for the customers, and it usually fell to Jack to smooth relations with whoever Annie had offended.
Sometimes, during minor spats, Annie's pride would prevent her from making up with him. In 1962, she went on holiday without him, and the following year went to the theatre with her friend Arthur Forsyth-Jones to make Jack jealous. In 1967, however, Annie was distraught when she thought Jack had died in a viaduct crash, and was overcome with relief when he entered the Rovers having just heard about the incident.
After Jack's death, Annie never re-married. She kept a photograph of Jack on the mantelpiece in the Rovers living room, a reminder of the husband she loved so dearly.
Billy and Joan
Annie tried to give her children the best possible start in life. Initially, her efforts were concentrated on Joan, or 'Joanie'. With a grammar school education, and a teaching qualification, Joan was the apple of her mother's eye, and Annie beamed with pride when she married Gordon Davies in 1961, however once the Davies settled in Derby, Joan put in only two appearances in Weatherfield. Annie's plan had worked too well; she considered Annie part and parcel of Weatherfield, no different than the riffraff she served. Joan's home did however serve as a place of respite for Annie whenever she needed a break from the tiring routine of tending bar. Annie had occasionally considered retiring to Derby but didn't think the Davies' wanted her, however that was where she ultimately did retire in 1983.
Billy was a bad penny; he never settled long in one place or job, returning to Weatherfield more for the security of his home turf than to visit Annie. He never wanted to follow in his parents' footsteps, and ducked out of working at the Rovers, but circumstances - mainly Jack's death and his sense of responsibility towards Annie - kept putting him back behind the bar. Annie held out hope that he'd make something of himself, and did her best to push him in the right direction, but wasn't as honest or hardworking as his father, preferring the simple pleasures such as women and gambling. Still, he and Annie managed to sustain a good relationship even through the most difficult times.
Later in life, Annie sometimes regretted the fact that her children had flown the nest. At Christmas 1980, she reminisced with Bet about the large family Christmases they enjoyed when the children were young with her parents and Jack's sisters and dwelled on the fact that they were all now gone.
Lucille Hewitt was born in Coronation Street and lived at No.7 with her father Harry and stepmother Concepta until 1964. The Walkers were close friends of the Hewitts, with Concepta being a former live-in barmaid at the establishment and Harry a frequent patron. When Lucille refused to move with her parents to Ireland in 1964, Annie offered to let her live at the Rovers and all parties agreed.
Annie found Lucille somewhat rebellious; an example of modern youth which Annie knew little about. She didn't like Lucille's tendency to make impulsive decisions, such as leaving a promising job for better paid factory work at the local PVC factory, and getting engaged to Alistair Bradshaw despite only just meeting him. Annie occasionally extended an olive branch to Lucille, and gave her elocution lessons when she didn't get a secretarial job in 1965. For the most part, Lucille found Annie cold and difficult to talk to, finding more sympathy and understanding from Jack. Most of the time, Lucille didn't tell Annie what she was up to as she knew she would try to put a stop to it. In 1968, Lucille left the Rovers to squat at a hippie commune, which Annie sorted out by contacting the landlord who evicted them. Sometimes Annie went too far, such as when she read Lucille's post when Lucille wouldn't tell her the contents.
Despite their rows, Annie cared a great deal for Lucille and when Lucille moved out of the Rovers for good, Annie looked out for her as she would if she were her own daughter. When she saw the state of the bedsit Lucille was sharing with her boyfriend Danny Burrows, Annie offered to let them live at the Rovers, despite her disapproval of them living together, but Lucille refused. When Lucille fled to Ireland to avoid seeing Gordon Clegg in 1974, she never returned.
Nellie Harvey was Annie's counterpart from the Laughing Donkey. In 1965, Nellie paved the way for Annie to become a chairperson within the Weatherfield Ladies Licenced Victuallers, thus beginning a friendship of sorts. Essentially, Nellie was Annie's social nemesis, although their relationship was dressed up as a friendship.
In November 1971, when Nellie recognised Annie's ward Lucille Hewitt go-go-dancing on the bar of her friend Kitty Stonely's pub, the Aquarius, she delighted in luring Annie there to see the shock on her face when she saw what her ward was up to. A few weeks later, Nellie and Kitty organised a large fund-raising ball in aid of the RNLI at the Windermere Rooms. Determined not to let Annie know about it, they were annoyed when she did find out and invited herself, and were livid when the eligible Lt Commander Gerald Prince monopolised Annie for the night.
In 1972, Annie and Nellie fell over each other to impress the national President of the Lady Victuallers, Ethne Willoughby. When Ethne asked about the Preston Guild, Nellie promised her a ticket to an LV VIP luncheon at the event. Though she was unable to get one, Nellie told Ethne confidently that if she couldn't get her a ticket, no one could, however Annie then interjected to suggest that one of them give up their ticket, deciding by coin toss. Nellie concurred, but little did Annie know - and Nellie was only too happy to tell her - that as Nellie was due to give a speech at the luncheon, it would have to be Annie who gave up her ticket.
On occasion, Nellie dropped the mask of friendship. In 1971, when Annie beat Nellie to the punch when the Lady Victuallers asked for someone to open the Brookside Motel, Nellie told her 'friend' disdainfully: "You should be put out - every night - like the bloody cat you are!" In January 1974, Nellie's husband Arthur left his wife for Annie, telling Annie that she was a "real lady" - unlike Nellie. After catching Arthur at the Rovers in his pyjamas, Nellie announced she was going to divorce Arthur and sue Annie for enticement. Annie did nothing to encourage Arthur, and forced him to return to Nellie by threatening never to speak to him again. Nellie then took him back, and the state of affairs returned to much the same as before.
The Mayor to Annie's Mayoress - after being let down by his first choice Maggie Clegg, Alf Roberts turned to the Rovers landlady. Annie had already convinced herself she'd be the perfect Mayoress, and did not need asking twice.
After their year in office, Alf remained a friend to his former Mayoress and he was one of the few people permitted to call her by her first name. Annie sometimes confided in him, such as in 1981 when she told him she was installing a temporary manager at the Rovers while she was on a winter cruise as she didn't trust her staff. She also acted as his friend, such as later in the same year when she warned Alf that people were talking about him and Audrey Potter.
Betty Turpin was hired as bar staff by Jack in 1969 while Annie was in Majorca. On her return, Annie took a dislike to Betty and tried to sack her on the grounds of incompatibility, but Betty stayed at her post with Jack's support and eventually Annie was won round.
Betty was Annie's longest-serving employee, but they were never friends as Annie didn't believe in fraternizing with staff. Likewise, Betty's length of service did not change Annie's untrusting nature; when in-house brewery decorator Gary Hankins copied Annie's key and stole from her, Annie insinuated to Betty that she thought she was the thief, and complained about her to Nellie Harvey. Betty hit back by threatening to sue Annie for defamation of character. Annie infuriated her further by, after grudgingly apologising, expecting her to leave her new job at the Corner Shop and take her place behind the bar, though she did eventually return.
Annie and Betty did share many warmer moments. When Cyril Turpin died, Annie took charge of Betty and offered her some words of comfort, having been through the death of a husband herself. The women also shared jokes on occasion, and Annie confided private feelings in Betty, which she never did with Bet Lynch. In 2000, with many more years of service at the Rovers behind her, Betty counted Annie as her favourite landlady.
Good staff were hard to find, but Annie would give up the Rovers before she let standards slip. When Billy took on the task of hiring a new barmaid in 1970, he drafted in Bet Lynch. The young blonde bombshell went down well with the men, but Annie thought she lowered the tone and told Billy to get rid of her. Billy managed to sweet-talk Annie into giving Bet a week's trial, and when profits went up, Annie decided that perhaps Bet was tolerable after all but insisted that she dress "a little warmer" in future.
Annie continued to think of Bet as cheap and tarty, and Annie was quick to believe the worst of her. In 1975, she rowed with Bet and accused her spreading lies about Sean Regan, husband of Concepta, who was staying at the Rovers temporarily and had tried to get Bet into bed with him. Once again, Annie had to eat humble pie when Len Fairclough corroborated Bet's story.
Initially showing deference to Annie, Bet didn't take long to wise up to her delusions of grandeur, and couldn't resist any opportunity to burst her bubble. When Annie held a party for the LV club members to show off her new monogrammed carpet in 1977, Bet persuaded the other staff not to tell that it was actually a cut-off from a bingo hall with the same initials, and didn't warn Annie until it was too late to cancel the party. The following year, Bet found out from Ena Sharples that a "senior medical consultant" Mr. Garfield, who had been handling Annie to help with a back complaint, was actually a hospital porter, but didn't warn her at all and enjoyed Annie's horrified reaction when Emily Bishop let it slip.
Although they were chalk and cheese, Bet had respect for Annie and, when she took over the Rovers as landlady in 1985, Bet felt she had Annie's high standards to live up to. A framed photograph of Annie was placed on the mantlepiece in the back room throughout Bet's stewardship.
Fred Gee was Annie's put-upon potman, who was hired by Annie in 1976. Annie was sympathetic over his recent bereavement, namely the death of his wife Edna in the Mark Brittain Warehouse fire. Annie had been instructed by the brewery to take in a resident cellarman after various problems, the most recent of which being Stan Ogden and Albert Tatlock being locked in the cellar overnight and helping themselves to the drink.
Unlike Bet, Fred didn't have the measure of Annie, and she treated him like a drudge. As well as handling all of the heavy work at the Rovers, Fred was Annie's personal chauffeur, a position which he inadvertently gave Annie the idea for when he came to collect her in her Rover 2000 dressed in a driver's outfit and hat - to make a point - only for her to love the idea and make it permanent.
Annie found Fred crude and petty and he often showed her up. In February 1982, a last-minute cancellation left Annie with no choice but to have Fred accompany her to the brewery dance. By the end of the night, Fred had got extremely drunk, monopolized a bored Sarah Ridley, lost the Rover, and ordered a space invader machine for the Rovers and a Rover Limo. However, he was useful enough to Annie to keep his job.
Role in the community
Annie was a popular landlady and neighbour. For all her air and graces, she acknowledged that the Rovers was merely a backstreet pub. Occasionally, Annie would be so taken up with an idea that she would drive the customers away to The Flying Horse, such as in 1970 when she decided only to serve drinkers if they were smartly dressed. Eventually, Annie had to accept the Rovers for what it was, but even then she was protective its pride of place in the community and opposed Renee Bradshaw's application to turn the Corner Shop into an off-licence in 1976.
Annie's stubbornness and rush to judgement also affected her abilities as landlady on occasion. In 1962, she wrongly accused Dennis Tanner of stealing £20 from the till, and rowed with Elsie Tanner resulting in the family withdrawing their custom (Annie comforted herself with the thought that it was custom they could well do without). To her embarrassment, the £20 was found stuck in the till drawer. However, at least by the end of the following year, all was forgiven as when Dennis organised a 'This is Your Life' for a mystery Coronation Street, Annie was revealed as his victim.
Within wider circles, Annie was a chairperson of the Weatherfield Ladies Licenced Victuallers. Annie often held soirees for her socialite friends, although the Lady Vics was more of a consortium of bitter rivals and Annie's relationships with its members, including Kitty Stonely, was much the same as that with Nellie Harvey.
Hobbies and interests
Annie's interests were geared towards self-improvement. She considered herself a capable actress and singer, beginning her "career" playing Queen Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the age of eight, and going on to be a member of the St Agnes Amateur Operatic Society. She was a regular participant in the plays performed by the street residents, and always snapped up the best roles, including the Duchess of Bannock in Lady Lawson Loses, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, Empress Ming in Aladdin and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. She also sang There Will Always Be An England in the Rovers 40s show in 1972, but her most famous performance - despite her best efforts to bury it - was as Lady Godiva in the Pageant of the Ages.
At the Silver Jubilee street party in 1977, Annie played Queen Elizabeth I on the Coronation Street float. She had previously dressed up as Elizabeth in a fancy dress party held in the Glad Tidings Mission Hall in 1966, where she won the prize for best dressed female.
Annie was also interested in culture. After a visit to Paris, she had serious thoughts about putting tables and chairs outside the Rovers to create a Parisian atmosphere in Coronation Street but she was talked out of it. In 1979, she bought a painting from Eddie Yeats which turned out to be the work of Hilda Ogden. Hilda greatly enjoyed hearing Annie waxing lyrical about the painting, but Annie had the last laugh as, on discovering the identity of the artist, she sold it for a profit.
Although not a football fan, Annie decided to go to a game in 1967 for the experience. After the game, she was accosted by football hooligans and eventually threw one of their rattles at a chip shop window, smashing it. She was let off the hook by the police but had to pay for the window.
Annie was one of the first characters created for Coronation Street. According to later producers H.V. Kershaw and Bill Podmore, she was based on a woman called Josephine Paterson, who was the landlady of Tony Warren's favourite watering hole, The Lantern Pike, where he wrote the first scripts for the Street. Paterson is described by Podmore as a "formidable, chain-smoking woman ... who was known to friends and foes alike as 'Mrs Pat'" (Coronation Street: The Inside Story, Macdonald & Co, 1990)
The role was written especially for Doris Speed, who Warren had long admired as an actress: “I first saw her when I was a little boy in the audience when I was ten years old. I saw her in Noel Coward's Hay Fever, and she wore a purple dress with a silver stripe down the middle. By the time I was twelve, I was working in radio Children's Hour, and I was working with her, and I mentioned this dress and she said, “Yes... French!” She said it, I knew that this was a remarkable actress who'd never quite had the right thing to do, and it was this combination of very down-to-earth and very grand-dame, and I was going round thirteen, fourteen saying one day I'm going to write a great big part for Doris Speed. And I did.” (Coronation Street Remembers Doris Speed, ITV, 1994)
Doris Speed came from a theatrical background; her parents were music hall artists and she made her debut in the family act at age four. After a long career in repertory theatre and radio, she made her first television appearance as the tea lady in Skyport for Granada. When Coronation Street started, she had recently returned to acting after retiring from a job as an office worker. She was appearing in a play in Bristol when the call came: “A telegram arrived asking me to go for an audition. I replied, saying it was quite impossible. They called me by telephone. Again I refused. That night an actress friend tipped me off that it might be something special. I turned up in a bad temper, and read a scene. For the first time in my life I knew I'd get the part.” (The Coronation Street Story, Boxtree Limited, 1995) Kershaw, then script editor, on her audition: “When Doris Speed bestowed her gracious smile on the hard-eyed panel and began to create a flesh and blood Annie Walker, we knew that the end of that particular trail was in sight.” (The Street Where I Live, Book Club Associates, 1981)
Speed's on-screen performance of Annie did not disappoint Warren: “Doris's performance of Annie was so exactly what I intended that it would frighten me, I could sit down at a typewriter, write it, and I would look at it on the screen and it would be exactly what I was expecting except she'd bring something else to it, she'd bring magic, and the magic would be in a raised eyebrow, or in one finger to a curl, or just to a very far away expression, and of course some of those “eyes to heaven” like that.” (Coronation Street Remembers Doris Speed)
Doris Speed made her TV debut as Annie in Episode 1 on 9th December 1960 and she appeared in all seven episodes transmitted that year. She remained prolific in terms of episodes throughout her time in the programme, appearing in more episodes than any other actor in 1964, 1967, 1968, 1970 (tied with Patricia Phoenix), and 1971.
Although her character's snobbishness was established from the get-go, Speed's initial portrayal of Annie was slightly rougher and more working class. Annie's airs and graces (described in Coronation Street: Celebrating 30 Years [Boxtree Limited, 1990]) as "the withering look and Lady Bracknell manner" were based on her Auntie Bessie, "who used to lead family charades at Christmas - and woe betide those who didn't take them seriously." Speed touched on this in a 1972 interview: “When it started she was just a very stuffy north country publican, and really one dimensional, and I think over the years the scriptwriters... they have to look for inspiration, haven't they? And I think they look at the person who is playing the part and that gives them ideas, so there's probably a lot of Doris Speed whether that's bad or good in the Annie now.”
In a 1994 interview, William Roache - one of only two actors present throughout Speed's time on Coronation Street - offered his thoughts on the character and actress: “In the early episodes she was more of the local girl. As time went on, Doris's own personality which was quite sort of regal and autocratic in its own way, she loved to build this little world around her, everybody running around, which people were happy to do. That gradually pervaded into the character and she became more regal, like when we had the fancy dress party on the street she came as Queen Elizabeth I, that was no accident, there's a lot of Doris there.” On her partnership with screen husband Arthur Leslie: “The lovely relationship with Arthur Leslie who played Jack, Annie would be going on about this, that, and the other, and wanting to do this, a whole scene would go on about what Annie wanted, and Jack would just say, “Ee, Annie,” at the end and it just seemed to put it right. He was a lovely balance to Annie Walker.” (Coronation Street Remembers Doris Speed)
On 30th June 1970, Arthur Leslie passed away while holidaying in Wales. Speed had played opposite Leslie for ten years and the actress was so devastated by his death that she contemplated quitting, but "...Arthur always said the show must go on...and so it will." The character of Annie moved seamlessly from being one half of a bedrock couple to empress of her own kingdom, in which her staff knew to toe the line.
Doris Speed's exit
On 7th October 1983, while Speed was in hospital with a stomach complaint, the Daily Mirror printed a story that she was, at 84, fifteen years older than she claimed (although, contrary to popular belief, her birth certificate was not printed to accompany the piece). The actress returned to the programme only to have a relapse while filming a scene, and she was written out for the time being. A short time later, Speed's home was broken into, and her home was ransacked while she hid upstairs waiting for the police. Then-executive producer Bill Podmore: “No one really knew quite how old Doris was, and we were as surprised as she was deeply hurt when a newspaper revealed her age, and shamefully published a copy of her birth certificate to authenticate the intrusion. Unknown to anyone at Granada, she had actually retired and was drawing her pension when Annie Walker, with all her towering social pretensions, first held court behind the bar of the Rovers back in 1960. No one dreamt she was in her eighties when she finally succumbed to a stomach illness and never again felt well enough to return to the pub she made so famous.” (Coronation Street: The Inside Story)
Within the programme, Annie's last appearance was in Episode 2351 on 12th October 1983. Her exit was dealt with in Episode 2384 on 6th February 1984, with Annie deciding to retire and remain with her daughter Joan in Derby, her retreat which had so often served to explain Annie's whereabouts during Doris Speed's absences from the programme in the past. It is not known what else happened to Annie, although most post-1994 (the same year Doris died) mentions of Annie have been worded as if she has died. In March 2012, Emily Bishop said that Annie Walker would turn in her grave if she could see the new big-screen television in the Rovers Return.
Nearly thirty years after Doris Speed last played Annie, the character was referenced in a 2012 storyline which saw the death of Betty Williams (after the real life passing of Betty Driver, who had acted alongside Speed for fourteen years). It was stated that Annie had left the Rovers to Betty in her will in 1984, although Betty apparently never accepted the bequest. This is not included in Annie's character biography as Newton & Ridley was the owner of the Rovers until 1995, and hence Annie could never have left it to Betty. Reconciling the 2012 storyline with established Coronation Street history is therefore open to interpretation.
Doris Speed also played Annie in the linking scenes in the video The Magic of Coronation Street, recorded in 1982, alongside Patricia Phoenix and Peter Adamson. In Coronation Street - The Epic Novel, which changes some details from the actual series, Annie mentioned going to stay with her sister in Derby, instead of her daughter Joan. She also reveals her retirement plans to Ken Barlow, something that does not occur as Doris Speed did not film exit scenes for Annie.
On the significance and uniqueness of the character, writer John Stevenson said in a 2010 interview: "She was possibly the only character the show has ever had who was just about irreplaceable. No doubt just from a backstreet in Clitheroe, but she gave herself tremendous airs and graces and [was] always trying to up her prestige in terms of class, and it doesn't quite work today. You could do it then, but you couldn't do that equivalent of a character now.” 50 Years of Coronation Street: The (very) Unofficial Story
Additional information on Annie from 1939-1945 was found in Coronation Street at War by Daran Little and The Way to Victory by Christine Green.
First and last lines
"Could you give me three tins of anything so I can discharge my duty and go? Anything." (Final line)
List of addresses
|Clitheroe||11th August 1909 to c.1927|
|16 Alderley Street, Northwesterly Clitheroe||c.1927 to c.1930|
|Weatherfield||c.1930 to 1937|
|Ashdale Road||c.October to November 1937|
|Rovers Return Inn||Late 1937 to late 1983 or early 1984|
|Derby||Late 1983 or early 1984 onwards|
|Loom operator||Weaving shed||c.1927|
|Unknown||Ice cream factory||c.1930|
|Landlady||Rovers Return Inn||1937-1984|
|Ken Barlow | Frank Barlow | Ida Barlow | David Barlow | Jack Walker | Annie Walker | Elsie Tanner | Dennis Tanner | Linda Cheveski | Ivan Cheveski | Harry Hewitt | Lucille Hewitt | Concepta Riley | Ena Sharples | Minnie Caldwell | Martha Longhurst | Albert Tatlock | Christine Hardman | Florrie Lindley | Esther Hayes | Leonard Swindley|