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. Though Anne thought they could do better, they took over the tenancy of the Rovers Return Inn and ran it together until Jack's death in 1970, after which Anne took over as licensee.
Annie (or Mrs. Walker as she preferred to be called) saw herself as the First Lady of the Rovers Return, with an almost regal dignity acquired through many years of tending to the working classes. She regarded herself as an intellectual and her social 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.
Annie made her last screen appearance in late 1983. In 1984, her son Billy arrived at the Rovers to announce his mother was "bowing out". Annie retired and went to live with her daughter Joan in Derby.
1909-1945: Early life
Anne Beaumont was born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, on 11th August 1909, the only daughter of Edward and Florence Beaumont. In later years, Annie would speak highly of her family and upbringing, though she was known to romanticise her background.
During the Depression, Annie moved to Weatherfield to look for work. She had high hopes but to her disappoinment could only find labouring jobs. In 1937, while Annie was employed in a weaving shed, she met Jack Walker, an Accrington-born publican who was now based in Weatherfield. The two fell in love and got married on 23rd October of that year. The newlyweds bought the tenancy of the Rovers Return Inn in Coronation Street and ran the pub together.Though satisfied with her job, Annie was not entirely keen on the location; the punters in the Rovers consisted of mainly the working class street neighbours and the workers at Elliston's Raincoat Factory across the street. As she and Jack had the first child, Billy, in 1938 and a daughter Joan in 1940, they decided to stay in the street rather than move to the country, which Annie would have preferred.
In 1939 Jack was called away to serve in the army shortly after the outbreak of World War II. As the war continued, Annie ran the pub herself, at times with great difficulty - in 1944, Annie was almost killed when a burglar at the Rovers held a knife to her throat, and potman Ned Narkin was stabbed protecting her. However, she also made many friends among the street's residents, including Esther Hayes, Ena Sharples and Albert Tatlock. Jack occasionally visited on leave (Joan was conceived on one such visit), 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.
Jack returned permanently after the war and over time, Annie resigned herself to a life at the Rovers. She decided to put her heart and soul into the place, implementing changes where she could to improve it.
1945-1964: Marital ups and downs
Annie expected a lot from her children, and she sent them to private schools, although she came to regret it as Billy was expelled and had to finish his education at Bessie Street, and Joan grew into a woman who did not associate herself with her parents. After completing his National Service, Billy moved to London, while Joan started college where she met and married Gordon Davies. Annie was heartbroken to see her family leave her, especially as she came to realise Joan thought she was above the Rovers and very rarely visited after marrying, though the Walkers often visited Joan and Gordon in Derby.
Having spoiled him from a young age, Annie wanted the best for Billy, and was disappointed in 1962 when she discovered he was briefly engaged to Philippa Scopes, a beauty queen, though she changed her mind about Philippa and approved of her after getting to know her.
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, only thinking highly of a select few, the presence of Jack, who was much less discriminating and generally more mindful of the punters' needs than his own, kept Annie from going too far. This didn't stop Annie from being perceived as snobbish by the residents, with her true feelings thinly-veiled beneath her friendly landlady persona.
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 againLater that year, the Walkers took in 15-year-old Lucille Hewitt when her father and stepmother moved to Ireland. Lucille did not want to move away from her friends and at such a crucial time, as she was studying for her O-Levels. Annie's abilities were stretched in meeting Lucille's needs, and the pair frequently clashed over Lucille's antics, partly because of Annie's somewhat dated view of parenting and of girls Lucille's age. Annie made minimal effort to modernise her approach and Lucille generally found it easier to talk to Jack, finding Annie uncompromising and distant in comparison.
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 independant 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 as 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, which was a worry as Elsie had a reputation of being a tart. Jack couldn't believe Annie could think something so far-fetched but reassured her that he loved her and they 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, but she mainly objected to Maggie's attempts to stop them seeing each other on the grounds that Lucille wasn't good enough for Gordon. The Walkers were angry when Lucille and Gordon ran away to get married but Annie was put out when Ken Barlow reminded her that as an adult Lucille could do what she wanted. The pair returned, having changed their minds, and Annie's attitude towards Gordon softened 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 against 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 in 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.
Lucille's future continued to be a concern for Annie. Lucille was often too fond of lazing around rather than working, and whenever she did get a job, it tended to be somewhere Annie disapproved of, such as when Lucille worked at the Aquarius disco club, which Annie had to grudgingly give her approval of as it was owned by the brewery. She later offered to buy the Corner Shop for Lucille, but Lucille wasn't interested. Lucille eventually left for good in 1974, to stay with her stepmother Concepta Regan in Ireland.
Annie's big moment finally came in 1973 when incoming Mayor of Weatherfield Alf Roberts - a friend of Annie's - asked her to be his Mayoress. Annie was honoured and accepted the invitation - attending social events and meeting important people appealed to her greatly, although to her embarrassment when meeting the former Mayoress Ethel Bostock she mistook her for a cleaner.
In the Rovers, things were going less well. With mounting debts and a growing drink problem, Billy was starting to gamble using the pub's takings. When this was discovered, Annie made barmaid Betty Turpin manager and tried to cut off Billy's access to the Rovers' money. Billy decided to leave to rebuild his life in Jersey. Annie, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly unhappy with the Rovers and decided there was now nothing to keep her there, so decided to retire, though she changed her mind when 47 people signed a petition for her to stay.Billy returned again in 1974 and began a relationship with Deirdre Hunt. They got engaged in 1975 but Annie objected to the fact that Billy was going to pay for the wedding himself, and she didn't get along with Deirdre's mother Blanche Hunt. Billy pressed ahead with the wedding plans as Annie had already ruined so many of his relationships, but he called it off at the last minute, believing Deirdre was having doubts, and returned to Jersey.
Later in the year, two thugs, Les Grimes and Neil Foxall, broke into the Rovers in the night in search of valuables and money. Annie was the only person there and despite being unable to defend herself she refused to be intimidated and defiantly told them her money was in the bank. The thugs left after searching the place and finding nothing of value, and despite claiming she was fine Annie collapsed the next day. It wasn't until Annie was admitted to hospital that the brewery bosses realised that Billy was no longer living at the Rovers, and Warren Coates was sent there to persuade Annie to accept the tenancy at a quieter pub in Cheshire. Even though he wasn't giving her any choice in the matter, Annie remained in full control of the situation and contacted Coates's boss Douglas Cresswell, who she knew personally, and was able to once again hold onto the Rovers. However, she did agree to take on a live-in cellarman - Fred Gee, who started work at the Rovers in 1976.
1976-1983: Queen of the Rovers
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Annie was a respected figure in the community and her strict rule of the Rovers kept her staff in line. She was furious when Corner Shop owner Renee Bradshaw applied for an off-licence, which would allow her to sell alcohol in the shop. Annie did everything she could to prevent it, but the matter was settled in court in favour of Renee.
At 67, Annie decided to learn to drive, though her first lesson ended with her hitting a lamp post. She was determined to pass her test in fewer than 86 lessons, as her friend and rival Nellie Harvey had taken that many. Surprisingly, she passed her test first time and bought a second-hand Rover 2000, but just after getting the car she was stopped by the police while doing a turn in the road, and breathalysed. She was thought to be over the limit but a blood test proved otherwise.
Annie sometimes had difficult relations with her staff because of her tendency to jump to conclusions. In 1977, she insinuated to Betty Turpin that she thought she had been stealing from her, when in fact decorator Gary Hawkins had copied her key. Betty threatened to sue Annie for the accusation, though Annie backtracked, saying she hadn't actually accused her.
Billy made several visits in the late 1970s. In 1977, he was a special guest at a brewery party in the Rovers celebrating Annie's 40 years as landlady. The following year, Billy arrived in Weatherfield because of a possible take-over at the brewery which could have meant Annie being replaced, especially as she had recently been responsible for after-hours drinking in the bar. Billy applied for the licence but the take-over fell through and things stayed as they were. In 1979, Billy showed up again to ask Annie for a loan to buy a wine bar. Annie was willing to give him the money but retracted her offer when Billy asked Deirdre to come with him, as Annie didn't approve of Billy's dalliance with a woman who was still married and had a child. Annie only handed the money over when Deirdre changed her mind.
As the 1980s arrived, Annie decided to increase the menu at the Rovers to include soup. Fred installed an electronic buzzer so that Annie could summon her staff and Betty was horrified: "She'll be drunk with power!"
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 replaced her staff. After relieving Gordon, she had to earn back the respect of Betty and Bet Lynch, who were angry that Annie hadn't trusted them.
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.
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.
- "Cut glass on the outside and broken glass inside". - Albert Tatlock
Annie Walker was greatly concerned with social status - her own, and that of those she dealt with; she regarded some of the "common" working class with contempt, tolerated the usual riffraff, and admired the upper classes, the lifestyle of whom she strived for. As a pub landlady in a backstreet, she did not receive many wealthy customers, but liked to distance herself from the punters by dressing elegantly, speaking eloquently and, when she believe it was called for, asserting her believed superiority with a dismissive look or a scowl. It was an attitude the regulars knew well and Annie was often regarded as being a snob.
As the years went on, Annie got worse in this regard rather than mellowing, partly because the select few people she showed a more vulnerable side to - notably Jack and Billy Walker - were absent in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She knew she could rely on her staff - barmaids Betty Turpin and Bet Lynch and potman Fred Gee - to support her but refused to depend on anyone, and thus remained a solitary but respected figure in the community. Likewise, her staff knew not to treat her as an invalid, because Annie was still very much in charge and in full control of her faculties.
Annie referred to herself as the last of the Lancashire Beaumonts, and her esteemed family tree was a frequent point of reference she used to assert the fact that she was of good breeding. During her time in the Rovers, only one member of the Beaumont family visited Weatherfield - Annie's cousin Charles Beaumont, although during his brief stay he conned and borrowed from the neighbours, and to Annie's horror he had also conned money from his own family. Annie sent him back home but made sure he paid his debts.
Although not the obvious choice of partner for the idealistic Annie, Jack was very at home in the Rovers and Coronation Street in a way that Annie wasn't, and although she frequently clashed with customers such as Hilda Ogden, only Jack's disapproval made her feel the need to explain herself, which occasionally led to her regretting her actions. The long-suffering Jack had to endure Annie's obsession with improving herself and the decorum of the pub, even if it would not meet with the approval of the punters, as well as her frequent tirades at Jack over very minor issues. Fortunately, Jack's genial, easygoing manner meant he didn't take offence at anything Annie said, knowing her brief obsessions would quickly pass and she would come to her senses. This was occasionally a frustration for Annie as she believed Jack did not take her seriously.
Sometimes, during minor spats Annie would put getting back at Jack over making up with him. In 1962, she went on holiday without him, and the following year went to the theatre with her friend Arthur Forsythe-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 had close relationships with her children, though she was something of a domineering mother and did not hesitate to interfere when she saw fit. She expected a lot from Billy and tended to push him into jobs and relationships he didn't want, and object to those he did, and Billy usually let her. Further, Billy hated working at the Rovers and only did so for Annie's sake. He struggled to make a life for himself doing things he wanted to do while taking care of Annie and living up to her expectations, which was rather a difficult combination to manage, and which was met with little success. Still, he and Annie managed to sustain a good relationship even through the most difficult times.
Joan, or 'Joanie', married Gordon Davies in 1961 and moved to Derby, making only a handful of subsequent visits to Weatherfield between 1961 and 1983. Joan thought she was a cut above even Annie, though her home in Derby provided a respite from the Rovers whenever Annie needed a break. 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.
Lucille HewittLucille Hewitt was born in Coronation Street and lived at No.7. Harry Hewitt propped up the bar for many years and her stepmother Concepta Riley, who married Harry in 1961, was a barmaid in the Rovers in the early 1960s, so Annie had heard a lot about Lucille even though she didn't see much of her. Annie offered to let Lucille live at the Rovers when the Hewitts moved to Ireland and Lucille refused to go with them.
Annie found Lucille somewhat rebellious, an example of modern youth which Annie was not accustomed to. She didn't like Lucille's tendency to make impulsive decisions, such as leaving a promising job for 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. Most of the time, however, 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 was her own daughter. She offered to let Lucille and boyfriend Danny Burrows live at the Rovers when she saw the state of their bedsit, but Lucille refused. When Lucille fled to Ireland to avoid seeing Gordon Clegg in 1974, she never returned.
Nellie Harvey was a close friend of the Walkers. A fellow publican, Nellie was landlady of The Laughing Donkey and first met the Walkers when she was a dancing partner of Jack. Ostensibly she and Annie were close friends; they had similar jobs and lifestyles, both were prominent members of the Licenced Victuallers Association, and both were obsessed with their own social standing. However, this only created a rivalry between the pair, and seemingly friendly visits were more a means of keeping tabs on the other, with Annie always keen to get one over on Nellie (and vice-versa).
On most occasions this was harmless but in 1975 their 'friendship' was almost ruined when Nellie's husband Arthur Harvey declared his love for Annie, and Nellie threatened to cite Annie in her divorce from Arthur, despite Annie doing nothing to encourage him. It was only resolved when Annie convinced Arthur to return to Nellie, and she graciously took him back.
Role in the community
Annie was landlady of the Rovers Return Inn from 1937 to 1984. She ran a tight ship and expected nothing less than the best from her employees. Although she would have preferred to take to a more supervisory role in the running of the pub, from where she could better see what was working and what wasn't and thus better plan improvements, she continued to work behind the bar serving drinks until her retirement.
Annie was also a respected figure among the staff of brewery Newton & Ridley, largely due to her being close friends with high authority figures there such as Douglas Cresswell, who were able to silence any concerns about Annie being unfit to manage the Rovers due to her age. Annie's relationship with the brewery was of great concern to her; in 1962 she was caught selling alcohol not brewed by Newton & Ridley and she expected her and Jack to be sacked, though she was worrying about nothing.
Annie's uncompromising nature led her to clash with the neighbours frequently. In 1962, she wrongly accused Dennis Tanner of stealing £20 from the Rovers till, and rowed with Elsie Tanner over the issue, resulting in the Tanner family withdrawing their custom. Annie was shocked when she realised the £20 had got stuck in the till drawer. She also barred Stan Ogden from the Rovers in 1980 when he tried to draw the customers away to the Labour Club by posting its price list on the Rovers wall to alert them to its better prices. Annie was forced to allow Stan to drink at the Rovers again when the neighbours sided with him.
Despite these events, the neighbours held her in high regard and it was Annie who was the subject of a 'This is Your Life' organised by Dennis Tanner on Christmas Day 1963, an event which even managed to bring Joan to Weatherfield.
Annie's interest in climbing the social ladder also saw her join several clubs and societies. She was chairperson of the Licenced Victuallers Association, and took Corner Shop owner Lionel Petty to an LV ball in 1965.
Hobbies and interestsAnnie's interests were geared towards self-improvement. She thought herself both a capable actress and singer, and occasionally expressed an interest in musical theatre. She was a regular participant in the plays performed by the street residents, and usually made sure to get 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. It was to her horror in 1963 when the street residents found out that she had also played Lady Godiva in her youth, and that Ena Sharples had held onto a relevant newspaper article.
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 and accordingly won the prize for best dressed female, which was nothing less than she expected.
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 was horrified when she discovered a painting she had recently purchased that she thought was wonderful was actually painted by Hilda Ogden, who she had a less than flattering opinion of. Annie got her own back however by selling the painting for a profit.
- In 1966, Annie considered changing the Rovers' name to The Masked Lady.
- Annie initially didn't take to Betty Turpin, who was hired by Jack. Annie tried to sack her on the grounds that she didn't fit in, but was persuaded to give her a chance. She also objected to Bet Lynch, thinking she lowered the standard of the pub.
- In 1972, Annie had her stomach pumped when she collapsed after taking four sleeping tablets; it was feared she had taken the whole bottle.
- At a 1971 flower show in the Community Centre, Annie judged the cakes.
- Although not a football fan, Annie decided to go to a game in 1967. 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.
- In 1979, Annie was horrified to discover that a senior medical consultant Mr. Garfield, who has been handling her, was actually a hospital porter.
- Annie held a party for the LV club members in 1977 to show off a new carpet with an AW pattern on it. It was only during the party that she found out it was a cut-off from a bingo hall with the same initials.
- Annie was written out for most of winter 1983 when actress Doris Speed fell ill. She later decided that she would not be returning to the show after her sickness and in 1984 it was announced that Annie was retiring from the Rovers.
- Doris Speed appeared again in the Rovers on the 1988 ITV Telethon.
- It is not known what else happened to Annie and it still remains an unresolved mystery of the street. However, most post-1994 (the same year Doris died) mentions of Annie have been worded as if she has died. In March 2012, Emily said that Annie Walker would turn in her grave if she could see the new big-screen television in the Rover's Return.
- 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.
- The character was used in 2012 for a storyline following the death of Betty Williams (after the real life passing of Betty Driver). It was stated that Annie had left the Rovers to Betty in her will in 1984 after leaving the area, although Betty apparently never accepted the bequest. This caused some continuity errors in the history of the show, as Annie Walker never owned the Rovers and therefore could never have left it to Betty.
"Could you give me three tins of anything so I can discharge my duty and go. Anything." (Final line)
|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|