Des and Steph moved in on their wedding day in 1990. They broke up the following year when Steph left Des for Simon Beatty, blaming Des for being more interested in his boat than her. After their split, he lived as a bachelor at No.6 and bedded many of the Street's women, including Angie Freeman, Lisa Duckworth, Tanya Pooley and Maxine Heavey. He was the great love of Raquel Wolstenhulme's life; although Des cared about her, she brought out the worst in him as he preferred smarter women and treated her as a rebound girlfriend.
In 1998, Des ended a relationship with Samantha Failsworth, who had strung him along by claiming to be pregnant with his baby and then aborting it to hurt him. He then fell for and married Natalie Horrocks. Two weeks after the wedding, Des was fatally injured while defending his stepson Tony Horrocks from drug dealers.
Des was a bookie's clerk and liked a good prank. His favourite targets were Derek and Mavis Wilton, his next door neighbours. His friends in the Street were Curly Watts, Martin Platt and Kevin Webster.
1965-1990: Early life and marriage
Desmond Barnes was born in Hartlepool on 24th April 1965. His parents were Bob and Pat and he had a younger brother, Colin. He first encountered Stephanie Jones when he was out drinking with two mates at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. Des bumped into Steph, causing her to spill her drink over her dress. He used this opportunity to try to impress Steph and ordered her a replacement drink - which she promptly emptied over his head. Two months later they were married.
Steph's dad Maurice Jones owned the newly built side of Coronation Street and he kept one of the new houses for the newlyweds, selling them No.6 at cost price. They moved in on 13th February 1990 - their wedding night. As their taxi pulled into the Street they were already rowing; Des ended up being left out in the cold when he bumped Steph's head against the door frame while carrying her over the threshold.
1990-1991: The yuppies of Coronation Street
The Barnes had a week-long honeymoon in Majorca after which they began settling into the Street. Des worked as a bookie's clerk at Franklins Bookmakers and Steph at the make-up counter at Ashcroft Department Store. They agreed to do an equal share of the housekeeping as they both worked, although this didn't always work out and there was a competitiveness in their arguments.
In February 1991, Des went to a boat show and bought an old boat for £500, installing it in his back garden while he made it seaworthy. Suddenly there were three in the Barnes marriage and his obsession led Steph to make a point to Des by booking a skiiing holiday for one. Des tried to make amends and looked after Steph when she fell off the boat and hurt her ankle, but to his amazement she went on the holiday anyway. Des needed to know that Steph loved him and when he discovered she'd spent a lot of time with Clive Parnell on the holiday he accused her of cheating on him; however Des believed her when she said Clive had pestered her, so Des tracked him down to warn him off. Des came off worse as Clive was skilled in martial arts but it seemed to settle his problems with Steph.
Some months later Des was warned by Mavis Wilton that Steph had a lover. With the boat finished Des planned its maiden voyage and organised an outing to the canal with Steph, Martin, Gail and the kids. Steph's possible infidelity preyed on his mind and during an argument with Des, Steph admitted she was seeing Simon Beatty, blaming Des for his selfishness and obsession with the boat. Des wanted to talk things through but Steph wanted to finish and go with Simon. Depressed, Des stayed out all night, worrying Steph. He eventually contacted her to ask her to meet him at the boat. When she showed up she found him dousing it in petrol. He wanted to make her think he was going to kill himself but when he set it alight Steph found him sat on the grass with a drink in his hand, flippantly lamenting the end of his marriage.
Steph had agreed to move in with Simon. Urged by Martin to fight for his marriage Des slashed her suitcases, but this was to no avail.
Des's next challenge was a legal one - his "symbolic gesture" had got him arrested and charged with polluting a public waterway with noxious matter. He was given a conditional discharge for twelve months and told to remove the wreck. He thanked his solicitor Lynette Campion by going out with her but the attraction wore off when he saw his legal bill!
1992-1993: Romeo Des
Des's next girlfriend was Angie Freeman. It wasn't a serious relationship so when Raquel Wolstenhulme was looking for lodgings Des - undeniably attracted to her - volunteered to put her up in his spare room. Angie got fed up with Des giving her the brush-off and poured a pint over his head after overhearing him boasting about women falling at his feet. While laughing about it Raquel and Des shared a kiss, but it wasn't until Raquel was about to leave to live with her friend Lorraine Kinsey and Des asked her to stay that they started sharing a bed.
In April 1992, during a party Raquel threw Des for his 27th birthday, Simon showed up looking for Steph. Steph herself appeared at the house a few days later asking Des if she could stay in the spare room for a few nights as she'd left Simon. Des was pleased that Steph had sought him out in her time of need, thinking she must still have feelings for him. Raquel was extremely put out by Steph staying and moved out, with Des making little effort to stop her. It wasn't until a few days later that Steph admitted to Des that he was just a decoy as she'd left Simon for another man and when Simon got suspicious she told him she was seeing Des, knowing that Simon didn't think there was any chance of them reconciling. Des was angry at Steph but couldn't bring himself to lash out at her as she left his life again.
Later that year, Des became friendly with Lisa Duckworth and let her play with baby Tommy in his garden. The perfectly innocent friendship was put under Vera Duckworth's microscope, as Vera was protecting Terry's interests while he was in prison. Convinced there was more to it than friendship, Vera told Terry. He had Des beaten up and warned to stay away from Lisa. Horrified, Lisa moved back in with her parents in Blackpool.
Lisa pervaded Des's thoughts and on Christmas Day he went to see her. Des told Lisa he wanted to be with her all the time and agreed to put No.6 up for sale and move so that they could live together without being opposite the Duckworths. They found a terrace in Withington and put an offer on it, however not long after this Lisa was hit by a car driven by John Hargreaves outside the Rovers and died in hospital.
As he grieved for Lisa, Des was treated coldly by the Duckworths - especially Vera - and the Hortons and fell into a depression, blaming himself for her death. Raquel tried to break him out of it by sleeping with him but this only made him feel worse as he felt he'd used her. Des refused to help the Duckworths' compensation claim by committing perjury by claiming Hargreaves had been driving dangerously, but he made amends with them when, after Terry sold Tommy to the Hortons, Des helped the Duckworths by advising them on coming to an agreement with the Hortons over access. The Duckworths then let Des see Tommy whenever he was in Weatherfield and he was as close to a son as Des ever had.
1993-1994: Affair with Tanya Pooley
Later in the year, Tanya Pooley started at the Rovers as a barmaid. Des asked her out but she wasn't interested until she found out that her colleague Raquel had a history with him. Tanya disliked Raquel and played a prank on the aspiring model by sending her to a photoshoot which didn't exist and then bragging about it to Des. Des felt sorry for Raquel and collected her, ending up spending the night with her. Des wanted Raquel to be his girlfriend again but it wasn't until he badgered her and promised never to use her again that Raquel agreed to dump her boyfriend Erik Mikaelson for him.
Almost as soon as he and Raquel got back together Des cooled over their relationship. He let Raquel move back into No.6 to keep her sweet but he was bored with her and slept with Tanya, whom he found more stimulating. Unbeknown to Des, Tanya was his boss Alex Christie's kept woman and Tanya was hoping Christie would leave his wife. Despite his guilt Des had an affair with Tanya. He found out about Tanya and Alex when he and Raquel ran into them at a take-away. Alex made Des agree not to tell his wife Val. Des and Tanya agreed to finish with their partners so they could be together but when Alex left Val Tanya decided to dump Des instead. Unaware of this, Des interrupted the pair in bed in Tanya's flat and told Alex to clear off. The row was witnessed by Raquel who had followed Des when he left the house. She ran off in tears when she realised what was going on. Alex told Des he was welcome to Tanya and sacked him from the bookies, but Des offered nothing to Tanya now and she dumped him.
Des fought to save his job and his reputation. To save her own job Tanya bruised her face and told everyone that Des had been abusive. Des was offered a job managing Sean Skinner's new betting shop on Rosamund Street - Sean admired him for thumping Alex, his rival - and was in the process of suing Alex for unfair dismissal when he accepted Alex's offer of £1,500 as an out of court settlement. Des offered the money to Raquel but she didn't want to have anything to do with him.
1995-1997: Soul searching
In September 1995 while taking Tommy out on Tommy's birthday Des ran into a heavily pregnant Steph working at a fast food outlet. Des was pleased when she visited him at No.6 but he was uncomfortable with the fact that she would be raising a child alone and was living in a grotty bedsit. He helped Steph find a flat and paid the £500 deposit for her. Steph asked Des if he wanted to start again with her but Des hadn't meant for the gesture to lead to anything and admitted he was no longer in love with her.
Des's girlfriend then was Maxine Heavey but he dumped her as she was too clingy. At the end of the year he tried to pressure Liz McDonald, his assistant at the bookies, into having an affair with him but she fought off his advances.
In 1996 Des started dating young widow Claire Palmer. Des was the first man Claire had been with since the death of her husband Jeff so she took things slowly with Des to give her daughter Becky a chance to get used to him being around. Des was patient with Claire but didn't like meeting up secretly as it made him feel like he had something to hide. Still keen on boating he organised a barge trip for himself and Claire to bring them closer together but Becky went too, spoiling the romantic mood. Becky had been hostile to Des thus far and caused trouble by throwing his camera in the water but he won her round by telling her about Lisa's death, showing her that he understood what it meant to lose someone.
Shortly afterwards, Claire and Becky turned up at No.6 asking to move in. Des had misgivings as she would lose her widow's pension of £16,000 from the RAF. At his suggestion, Claire pretended to rent the bookies flat but when Des bought a canal cruiser Jeff's disapproving father Charlie accused Claire of spending Jeff's money on Des's boat and shopped her to the RAF.
In February 1997, Des was cajoled into taking part in a charity parachute jump with Samantha Failsworth when Sean Skinner dropped out due to a sprained ankle. Exhilarated after the jump Des tried to get Sam into bed but when she led him up to her bedroom she threw his trousers out of the window. He was spotted retrieving them by Claire who took Becky and walked out on him. Des made no effort to patch things up instead deciding to take a break from everything and go on a boat trip, getting Angie to look after the house.
1997-1998: Second marriage and death
On his return in June, Des began pursuing Sam. She confided in him about her sexual abuse by a family friend when she was sixteen and her subsequent estrangement from her parents. Des helped her to face her family and the two subsequently began dating.
Some months later Sam decided she ready to have sex with Des, who had been careful not to rush her thus far. It was then that Sam's estranged husband Ritchie Fitzgerald turned up intent on taking his wife back. Their two-day marriage had ended the year before when Sam walked out on Ritchie and he'd been trying to track her down ever since. When Sam refused to return to him Ritchie terrorised her and Des by smashing Des's car windows and spray painting his house. This had no effect as Des thought Les Battersby had done it to get back at him for warning him about harassing Sam. Les ended up rescuing Des when Ritchie jumped him.
In January 1998 Des proposed to Sam. Sam accepted but realised quickly that she didn't want to be married and asked Ritchie to halt their divorce. Des meanwhile pushed ahead with preparations and gave Sam an engagement ring publicly in the Rovers. When he found out Ritchie was blocking their divorce Des went to confront him but Ritchie told him he was doing it on Sam's instructions and played an answer machine message which proved it. Des was livid and threw Sam out but Natalie Horrocks, with whom he had become friends, made him see that he had rushed Sam into marriage and a reconciliation between them followed.
A short time later Kevin Webster warned Des that Sam was having an affair with Chris Collins. Des confronted them in bed together and threw Sam out again. Deciding he'd had enough of relationships Des started seeing Natalie but just as friends. They had feelings for each other but before they could act on them Sam told Des she was pregnant with his baby and that she was going to abort it. Des did everything to stop her including searching the clinics on the day of her abortion but he couldn't find her. When Judy Mallett told him she saw Sam shopping on the day of the abortion Sam told Des she was never pregnant. Sam continued to stand in the way of Des and Natalie getting together by stalking Natalie and kidnapping her cat. When her lies were exposed Sam left the Street but just before leaving she told Des she was actually pregnant and didn't have an abortion. Not knowing what to believe, Des let her go.
Des and Natalie were now free to get together and Natalie moved in with Des soon afterwards. Natalie was intending to rent her house out but Des asked her to sell it and marry him. She accepted and a registry office wedding followed. Les Battersby was best man: Des had asked him as a joke which Les took seriously.
Just after the wedding Natalie's son Tony Horrocks showed up, asking Natalie for money to pay off drug dealers. Des refused to have drugs in his house and flushed Tony's powder down the sink. He told Tony to clear off but Natalie stopped him from phoning the police. When Des then interrupted Tony being beaten up by gangsters in the house he tried to intervene but was knocked against a table, sustaining serious head injuries. He was rushed to hospital and made it through an operation but just after coming round long enough to tell Natalie he loved her he had a massive heart attack and died.
Des was a cheeky but decent bloke who liked a beer and a good laugh. His laddish optimistic charm was popular with women but none of his relationships ever seemed to last. Partly this was due to his preference for complex women who challenged him; once their lives settled into a mundane daily routine he tended to get bored and begin looking elsewhere for stimulation, if the women themselves hadn't already done so. He was roguish but not in a threatening way; his pranks were more playful or childish than nasty and always meant in good humour.
His ugly side consisted of his roving eye, jealousy, self-pity and tendency to put himself first in a relationship, but however badly he messed up when the dust settled he always knew when he was in the wrong and did his best to put things right.
Des and Steph met only two months before they got married so they were still getting to know each other when they moved to Coronation Street in 1990. As they both worked and shared the chores neither supported the other. They were similar personalities, both competitive and mischievous, although Des was more childish and they were always trying to get the better of each other in arguments.
A typical example of their tiffs was when Steph got an evening job promoting Pomme de Lite, Newton & Ridley's new cider. As one of the promo nights was at the Rovers Des filled the pub with mates to embarrass her but Steph got revenge by flirting with the customers and doing a strip tease on the bar top.
In 1990, Des decided he wanted children but Steph wanted to keep things as they were. The following year the void in Des's life was taken up by the boat, much to Steph's consternation. The couple started drifting apart and Des's childishness eventually resulted in Steph looking elsewhere for a man.
Des was dating Raquel Wolstenhulme when Steph re-entered his life in 1992. Although fond of Raquel he chose to try and patch up his marriage but instead of being straight with Raquel he let her slowly realise this herself and walk out on him.
Des remained interested in Raquel and occasionally made digs at her boyfriends. In 1992 he told Raquel that Wayne Farrell's Own Goal meant that he did it all by himself. Raquel excitedly told everyone who would listen about it and phoned Wayne to congratulate him!
After working hard to win Raquel over Des was a lousy boyfriend who feigned interest in her ideas. Tanya Pooley had a grudge with Raquel and, being a tease, she knew which buttons to push to get Des into bed and split them up. On the rebound from Des Raquel got engaged to Curly Watts but she broke it off. Des showed up at the engagement party and made her see that she didn't really love Curly. He proposed to Raquel himself but she was too emotional to take it seriously.
Des turned to Raquel again in December 1995 when he was feeling low after Liz McDonald spurned his advances. After seducing Raquel into bed Des made it clear to her that she was just a one-night stand, breaking her heart once again.
Derek and Mavis Wilton
In 1991, when Des and Kevin Webster were testing the boat's motor, the boat fell over and crashed into the Wiltons' sun lounger, bringing the fence down with it. Des paid for the damage but Derek had made such a big deal out of it that when he was told by the courts to dispose of the charred remains of the boat, he paid the driver to take a detour down Coronation Street to make the Wiltons think he was going to put it back in the garden. As usual, the Wiltons were completely taken in by the prank.
Two years later Des took in Doug Murray as a lodger and with him came his eyesore dormobile (camper van), which Des had crane-lifted into the Wiltons garden as Derek had been annoying him in recent weeks. Derek got revenge by throwing bits of the dormobile into Des's garden while a buyer was viewing No.6 (although Derek didn't know this). The buyer pulled out as he thought Des's neighbour must be a madman. Des and Derek wound each other up so much that both of them refused to have the van removed so when it disappeared, they thanked each other, not realising Mavis had arranged it.
Des's other pranks were sending Derek an anonymous Valentine's card and giving Mavis a cannabis plant. He was such a frequent prankster that when he arranged a meeting between Derek and Mavis and Tim Hedges regarding the Wiltons getting an allotment, Derek assumed from Tim's name that Des was playing a joke on them and didn't take Tim seriously - only for it to turn out that Hedges was actually Tim's surname.
In 1997 Des went on a spur-of-the-moment long-term break on his boat after being told by Derek that he was like him - steady and reliable. On his return Des posted a sex book through the Wiltons' letterbox as a joke, only to discover afterwards that Derek had died while he was away. Emily Bishop let him sweat for while before letting him retrieve it.
Des hired Phyllis Pearce as a housekeeper in 1991 as a peace gesture to Steph while she was away on a skiing holiday, as cleaning up had caused a few recent arguments. Phyllis went on to be the one constant in Des's life and she often advised him against getting involved with certain women, particularly Steph when she came back in 1992. Phyllis initiated Des's relationship with Lisa Duckworth by letting Lisa and Tom play in his garden. After Lisa's death Des disappeared with his car and went to Phyllis's house, whereupon Phyllis comforted him by telling him how she felt guilty over the death of her daughter Margaret from cancer as Phyllis had told her not to worry over a lump she had found.
In 1995 Des upset Phyllis by cleaning the house as he thought she might not be able to cope with the work anymore. She admitted she was finding it harder but as she enjoyed it he agreed to pay her to do his ironing.
Des's friends in Coronation Street were Kevin Webster, Curly Watts and Martin Platt. Soon after they arrived in the Street Steph bet Des that she could shave off Kevin's moustache at their house-warming party. Steph won the bet and so Des had to keep up his end of the bargain by going into the Rovers without his trousers on.
Des and Curly usually got along, except when women were involved. After Steph left Des dated Angie Freeman and Raquel, two of Curly's ex-loves. After Des's affair with Tanya Curly fell out with Des in support of Raquel although they soon made up. In 1994, after Curly was sacked from Bettabuy, Des gave him a job at the betting shop but it was a disaster as his slowness lost them custom. Des was told to sack him but Curly resigned first, telling Des he couldn't cope with the rude customers and the smoke.
When Coronation Street started going out three times a week in October 1989, one of the keys parts of the show's expansion was the building of the new houses and shop units on the other side of the Street. Des and Steph Barnes were created by Producer Mervyn Watson as a young couple who would bring something new to the programme: "We wanted something that would catch the eye of the audience. A couple with loads of money and values that had grown out of the Thatcher years. We wanted them to make an immediate impact as soon as they arrived and we talked up this couple - young, flashy, exciting, lively characters." (The Coronation Street Story, Boxtree Ltd, 1995)
Actor Philip Middlemiss played Des, credited in his first few appearances by his full name of "Desmond Barnes". About his casting: "The idea of creating a new character from scratch really appealed to me, and it's interesting having a screen wife. Fortunately, Amelia (Bullmore) and I hit it off from day one." (Life in the Street, Boxtree Ltd, 1991) About the viewer response to the Barnes: "We were terrible disruptive influences. We had interfered with Kevin and Sally and that was a huge step towards disaster. Then, after six months, it all turned round, and the viewers took to us" (The Coronation Street Story)
When Bullmore left the role of Steph in 1991, Des stayed on as a solitary character. About Des setting fire to the boat, Middlemiss says: "I suppose I've really got to have more faith in the writers. The boat incident seemed to me to be a bit over the top, simply because I wouldn't do that sort of thing. But people have done sillier things. You've got to go with it I think and if you go with it you've got to go with it 100 percent" (The Coronation Street Story)
Des's affair with Tanya Pooley was a big story in 1994. On Des's philandering, Middlemiss: "He's got a very short attention span. He needs something to keep that attention span as lengthy as possible, and someone like Tanya could do that because she was intelligent and was a domineering partner which is what he wants really". On the public reaction to the story: "From a pat on the back from the men who say "Well done," which is typical I suppose, to people calling me a bastard in Sainsbury's. The women are all right. They blame it on Tanya rather than Des. It seems to be that my character has had so much sympathy over the last three years, they know that he's not a bad bloke" (The Coronation Street Story)
Middlemiss quit the role after eight years in 1998. Middlemiss: "If I had my choice, Des would get involved in a couple of blonde Swedish exchange students then win the lottery." (The Mirror) "I've enjoyed every minute playing Des Barnes, but it's time to move on. I'll be leaving with fond memories. After all, Des has had more women than Bill Clinton." (Daily Star) Des's final episode attracted 20,300,000 viewers for ITV and was the most-watched episode of the year (combined figure, including repeat).
A compilation of Des's main storylines was released on VHS in 1995 by Time Life, as one in a series of twenty videos centred around different Coronation Street characters. See VHS and DVD releases of Coronation Street for more information.
First and last lines
"I might be, but 'e's still a toerag." (First line, about father-in-law Maurice Jones)
"Promise? I'll take you up the tower." (Final line, to wife Natalie)
List of addresses
|6 Coronation Street||12th February 1990 to 18th November 1998|
|Clerk/manager||Franklins Bookmakers||Until 1st July 1994|
|Manager||Skinner's Bookies||5th August 1994 to 18th November 1998|