Esther Hayes was born in Weatherfield on 10th May 1924, the daughter of GPO clerk and lay preacher Sidney Hayes and wife Alice. Her family had already seen a lot of action in Coronation Street since they moved into No.5 in 1910; Sid was a conscientious objector during the war and spent most of its duration in prison, causing the family to be ostracized by the community for years afterwards. Esther had two older siblings: Ada, who left full-time work to train as a teacher and later taught Esther, and Fred, who tragically died of diphtheria in 1916 aged one. She also had a little brother, Tom, who was born in 1926.
In 1939, Esther left school and got a job as a waitress at the Galaxy restaurant and the following year started at the Town Hall as a clerk. When Ada went to Blackpool to help care for children evacuated due to Britain entering the Second World War. The war was another trying time for the family as Sid was killed in an air raid, and Tom was jailed for looting a jeweller's. Alice first became dependent on tranquilizers, and then took to her bed, with Esther waiting on her. Esther was intimidated by Tom and banished him from the home after he attempted to suffocate Alice in her sleep.
In 1942 Esther met a soldier named John Brown, and they planned to marry. She spent months gathering materials for the perfect wedding dress, but the day before the wedding, John's father told her his plane had been shot down. Esther could not bear to let her family see her grieving, and was comforted by Ena Sharples. A few months later, Esther gave her dress to Sally Todd, who could not afford one. Esther and Ada attended the reception at the Rovers; the first time either had stepped into the public house, as their father had encouraged them not to drink.
Ada returned after the war and together the sisters tried to get Alice out of bed. The doctor couldn't find anything wrong with her but Alice insisted that she was ill and refused to get up. Esther and Ada looked after her together, but they got no thanks for it and when Tom returned home, Alice got out of bed to greet him. When he re-offended and went back to prison, Alice's "weak legs" gave in and she returned to bed. In 1949, Ada married Matt Harvey and moved to Australia, and although pleased for her sister, Esther resented the fact that she had married and escaped first. When Alice finally died in her sleep on 16th February 1952, Esther's feelings were more of relief than of sorrow.
While looking after her mother, Esther had kept on her job at the Town Hall where she was promoted to head of the library division. in Coronation Street, she was a welcome face in most of the houses and was always on hand to help out with odd jobs, including helping Christine Hardman look after her mother May when May returned home from a mental hospital, putting up Lucille Hewitt when she ran away from her orphanage, preparing No.9 for Linda and Ivan Cheveski and their newborn son Paul, and looking in on Christine after her mother's death.
In January 1961, Esther got a new job at Hunter and Bowen, a mail-order company. That May, Tom turned up at Esther's door having been released from prison. Esther was obligated to take him in but was dubious about his claim to be on the straight and narrow. He soon showed his true colours by harrassing Esther and the neighbours about investing in his schemes. Esther confided her troubles in her boss Brian Foley, who told Tom over tea that he was driving Esther to a nervous breakdown. Tom said he wasn't staying around anyway and left shortly thereafter.
In May 1962, Esther was offered a job as head clerk at Mason's Department Store, which came with a flat in Moor Lane. Esther jumped at the chance and left the Street although she still visited, attending Ken Barlow and Valerie Tatlock's wedding and taking in Christine Appleby after Christine was made to leave No.11 by the landlord. The following year, Esther announced that she was moving to Glasgow but she made two more appearances in Weatherfield: Val's funeral in 1971 and Ernie Bishop and Emily Nugent's wedding in 1972.
- Unlike her character who was born and bred in the north, Daphne Oxenford was from London. Oxenford talks about her casting in The Coronation Street Story (Boxtree, 1995): "My agent called and said Granada wanted to see me for this new series. And I said don't be silly, I couldn't do a Manchester accent. No, she said, they're seeing everybody who lives roundabout. So I came in and was asked to read the part of the landlady Annie Walker, which I read very badly." Doris Speed was cast as Annie, but with casting deadlines fast approaching, Oxenford was approached for a supporting role: "Somebody got in touch and said would you do this part of Esther Hayes in Coronation Street, and we start rehearsals on Monday. I mean, I was the bottom of the barrel."
- Oxenford used an RP accent for Esther, having been told that it wouldn't matter: "They said, don't worry, Esther is better educated than some other people so we can get away with it like that." One person who disagreed with this was series creator Tony Warren, who had wanted an entirely Mancunian cast: (Warren) "She was the only one who was played by someone who wasn't northern, and that camera is a great finder of truth." (The Coronation Street Story p16)
- A veteran of television and radio, Oxenford was accustomed to live broadcasting: "You see, one was used to live television, so you knew that if anything went wrong, somehow people would get out of it. None of this being able to stop and start again and go back. That was a luxury." (p21)
- Due to the Equity actors' strike which began on 1st November 1961, Daphne Oxenford left the programme, along with five other actors on similar contracts, with Episode 103. It was intended that Esther would re-appear when the strike was over and so she was written to still be living in the Street, unseen, during the five-month period of the strike (for example, she was mentioned at Christmas 1961 as cooking dinner for the Barlows and was mentioned in February 1962, as Frank Barlow stated in an episode that Ken was at Esther's). Oxenford returned with Episode 150, but she was no longer a full-time member of the cast and after Esther's on-screen departure from the Street in the following episode, she made only occasional appearances, the last of which was in Episode 1171, transmitted on 5th April 1972.
- Actress Daphne Oxenford passed away on the 21st December 2012. By this point Esther would be 88-years old and its unknown if she is still alive.
"Oh you've never got that bookcase open again." (First 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|