Hilda Alice Ogden (née Crabtree) was a resident of 13 Coronation Street from 1964 to 1987. The devoted wife of Stan, Hilda and her husband were the roughnecks of Coronation Street and had frequent clashes with their neighbours.
Hilda and Stan were life's losers. Due to Stan's drunken rages, two of their children - Tony and Sylvia - were taken into council care, and their other two children - Irma and Trevor - ran away from home. They lived on the breadline, with Hilda holding up to five cleaning jobs at once just to keep the house going, compensating for Stan who ducked out of work whenever possible to drink and laze around. No one knew Stan's flaws better than Hilda, who often had to nag him out to work, but for the most part she doted on him and defended him vehemently against his detractors.
Except for the rare social occasions, Hilda wore her hair in curlers and a headscarf. She was the Street's principal gossip and revelled in spreading it around, particularly if it could cause trouble. As a result, she had no real friends in the Street, and the neighbours treated her and Stan like a joke - a fact which greatly upset Hilda. As part of her continuing quest to gain the respect and envy of the neighbours, Hilda erected a mural on No.13's parlour wall. She also considered herself a skilled clairvoyant, and offered teacup readings for a fee.
Hilda was widowed when Stan died from a heart attack in 1984. She lived at No.13 for three more years, taking in Kevin Webster and his girlfriend Sally Seddon as lodgers. In 1987, Hilda decided to move to Derbyshire to keep house for Doctor Lowther, who offered her accommodation in a cottage attached to his home.
1924-1943: Hilda Crabtree that was
The Crabtrees never got rich from Arnold's earnings from his work as an embalmer, and Hilda spent her youth moving from one slum to another. Worst of all was Back Butler Street, although even in those circumstances Florence kept a good house and the fumigation crew never descended on the Crabtree household.
Hilda was educated at St. Joseph's Elementary School and left at fifteen, entering the working world just as war broke out in Europe. At seventeen, Hilda spent a week working in the office at Spencers, the funeral director. There, she enjoyed the company of a ginger-haired lad who fancied her and was always playing tricks. For most of the war she worked in a munitions factory, while living with her parents in Kitchener Street, but still found the time to have fun with her friends Daisy Shaw, Mollie Lancaster, and Maureen Hegerty, and even had a romance with American GI Ralph Curtis.
On one night in 1943, after helping her inebriated Army boyfriend Harry Battersby home following an evening's drinking at the Tripe Dressers Arms, the lights went out, stranding Hilda a mile from home. Racing to the nearest shelter in Crimea Street, Hilda passed the Co-op where she tripped over what she took to be a bundle of clothes - until it started moving, and Hilda found herself entangled with a beer-sodden tramp. Stanley Ogden had just left the Docker's Arms after winning the pint drinking contest for the fifth year running and was recuperating in a heap when Hilda fell over him. Though he'd taken a kick in the stomach, Stan helped the mystery woman to her feet, and Hilda reciprocated, getting a darkened glimpse of a man who had a look of Clark Gable about him. After limping along to the shelter, Hilda was thrilled to see Stan trailing her - but as the light hit him, he looked more English lout than Hollywood superstar. Even so, Hilda's head had been turned, and she spent the night in the shelter talking away to him.
Six short days later, the star-crossed lovers were married. After the ceremony, the couple headed for the Spinners' Arms, where Stan resumed his pint, and their reception took place. The event was a great success - until Joan Fairhurst walked in and announced that the groom was her fiancé. Best man Bernie Sparks saved the day by proposing to Joan himself. Their first night of married bliss was barely behind them when the military police knocked on the door to arrest Stan for over-staying his four-day leave. The Ogden marriage had begun in earnest.
1943-1964: A long-distance marriage
On marrying Stan, Hilda moved into his parents' house in Mare Street. Mary Ogden approved of her, and, when Hilda announced her pregnancy, she pampered her daughter-in-law. Hilda then found that she wasn't pregnant after all, but didn't tell Mary, who threw Hilda out when she discovered the truth. Hilda rented 17 Charles Street and waited for her Stan to come home.
While working with the Army, Stan gained an HGV licence and after being demobbed, he became a long-distance lorry driver, stopping by Weatherfield so rarely that it was as if he'd never returned from the war. Hilda became a career cleaner, supporting single-handedly a family that seemed to gain an extra member whenever Stan visited; eldest, Freda, born in 1946, was followed by Dudley, Tony, and Sylvia. Hilda's faith in her husband never wavered, but he didn't send on enough money for the family to get by, and they often had no money for rent, resulting in many a moonlight flit. Hilda coped gamely on her own with Freda and Dudley, but Tony and Sylvia were mentally retarded, and with the extra problem of Stan being drunk and violent to her and the kids whenever he was around, Hilda was relieved when their younger children were taken off them and placed in a home.
By the 1960s, Hilda was sick of having a long-distance husband and demanded that Stan give up his job or she'd leave him. Meanwhile, Freda decided she'd had enough of her parents and, at seventeen, she left their Chapel Street home to live in a flat over a pie shop with barmaid Marion Black, got a job at the Corner Shop in Coronation Street, and changed her name to Irma. Estrangement from Freda encouraged Hilda to make good on her threat to Stan, and after a brief separation he gave in and agreed to get a local job and unite the Ogdens under one roof.
1964-1968: Arrival at number thirteen
In July 1964, Stan sent word to Hilda that he'd found Irma and a house - 13 Coronation Street. Putting his £200 savings down, Stan took out a £375 mortgage on the house, and the Ogdens moved to Coronation Street - their first real home.
Hilda loved the house and quickly found a job as cleaner at the Rovers Return, but regular work eluded Stan, and Irma soon regretted giving up her independence to live with her parents again. However, it was Dudley (now called Trevor) who left the family home first; while the Street residents were evacuated to the mission cellar during a bomb scare, the fifteen-year-old stole from the houses and ran off to London. Due to their shame, Stan and Hilda took no steps to trace him, although Hilda laid into Stan for being such a poor father figure and role model. A year later, Irma married David Barlow and they bought the Corner Shop together. With a wall between them, Irma's relationship with her parents improved.
The only problem now was Stan. By turn a milkman, ice cream vendor, chauffeur, wrestler, and waste paper businessman, Stan failed in every line of work he entered. Stan was willing to try his hand at anything that promised to make him rich with little effort, but his total resistance to hard graft meant that he never lasted long. Hilda often had to nag him out to work, even if he usually only made it as far as the Rovers, which had become his second home.
With Stan's bone-idleness, and Hilda's assumed position as the Street gossip, the Ogdens were treated like a joke by the neighbours, and they struggled to make friends. After a while, Hilda began to fear she'd spend the rest of her life skivvying and, looking to the recent engagement of Elsie Tanner - a woman she disparaged in public - began to envy her eventful, exciting life, and became depressed and vague. While on a visit to her cousins', Hilda went missing. As she had the club outing money with her, Stan thought it was a pre-planned flit and that a man was involved, but after a week's absence Hilda was found on the Pier head in Liverpool in a confused state, having suffered a nervous breakdown. Doctor McKenzie diagnosed paranoid psychosis, attributed to jealousy over Elsie. Although Hilda didn't remember anything when she woke, Stan came through for her in the ensuing weeks, being the attentive husband he'd never been.
In January 1968, Hilda developed a platonic friendship with George Greenwood, keeper of Oakenshaw Park where she often went for a walk. George showed Hilda his workhut and introduced her to his budgie, Winston, and even gave her her own budgie, which she called Mabel and kept in the hut with Winston. Though there was nothing untoward about their meetings, Hilda felt that she was somehow betraying Stan, and told George she couldn't see him again. Unbeknown to Hilda, Stan had been notified that they were seeing each other by George's wife Agnes, and advised to make the most of Hilda's guilt by getting her to spoil him.
A few months later, David and Irma decided to emigrate to Australia so that David could relaunch his football career there. Hilda was so distraught at losing Irma that she proposed that she and Stan move there too, but Stan's absolute refusal to leave England caused her to back down. A small consolation came seven months later, when the Barlows announced the birth of Darren, Hilda and Stan's first grandson.
1968-1971: Irma returns
In June that year, Stan bought I-spy Dwyer's window cleaning round for £45. Hilda was so approving that she agreed to help out, taking responsibility for Stan's lady customers who might take a fancy to him. One woman in particular was Clara Regan of 19 Inkerman Street, whose affair with Stan was the worst kept secret in Weatherfield. Hilda believed Stan was faithful, and soon left his business to him, but Stan servicing 19 Inkerman Street's windows was the punchline of many a joke from the likes of Ray Langton and Billy Walker for years to come.
A few months later, Ken Barlow broke the news that Irma, David and Darren had been involved in a car crash. Irma was treated for shock but was otherwise fine, however both her husband and son died from their injuries. Hilda rushed to her daughter's side, with Stan borrowing £600 from bookie Dave Smith to pay for her flights - her first journey abroad. A week later, Hilda and Irma returned to the UK, by which time the Ogdens had received enough money from well-wishers to pay Dave back. However, in a misguided gesture of love for his daughter, Stan used the money to buy Irma into the Corner Shop. In the wake of David and Darren's deaths, Irma acted out in odd ways, and at one point dated Dave Smith. When Hilda objected, Stan informed her that as security for the loan, he'd signed their house over to Dave, and so she'd better not upset him. That, plus the prospect of having a wealthy son-in-law caused Hilda to change her tune, but in any case Irma and Dave's relationship was casual and mostly for show.
Hilda enjoyed having Irma back in the Street and she would often linger in the shop to complain about Stan or eavesdrop on conversations. Irma remained in the Street until December 1971, when she moved to Llandudno and sold her share in the shop. Irma's departure coincided with the Ogdens finally settling their debt with Dave; after Hilda won £500 on Premium Bonds, Stan insisted on on paying Dave the £370 still owed, making No.13 unequivocally theirs again. Determined to treat herself with the remaining £95, Hilda bought a coffee percolator, a tray, a table centre, a cocktail bar and an electric tooth brush on a shopping spree, and threw a cocktail party, only to discover that Stan had drunk all the miniatures and filled the bottles with cold tea!
1971-1974: Reunion with Trevor
In July that year, Hilda was reunited with her old friend George Greenwood, who was on the judging panel at the Community Centre flower show. Thinking they were bound to win, Stan stole an orchid from the park and passed it off as theirs - but George immediately recognised one from his collection, much to Hilda's shame.
Much derided by the neighbours, Hilda yearned to be envied by them. In August, she took delivery of a colour television set, and spent the next week enthusing about it to all and sundry before it was repossessed by the rental company (all the while failing to notice everyone's total disinterest). The following month, while Hilda was away, Stan made a serving hatch. It was too big and on the wrong wall, but finally No.13 was set apart from its neighbours, and so Hilda couldn't have been happier.
In April 1972, after two years working for Fairclough and Langton, Stan returned to the lorries, but after a crash put him in hospital, Hilda decided his days of lorry driving were over and made him start up his window cleaning round again. Meanwhile, with the Ogdens feeling the pinch, Hilda took on additional work - alongside her job at the Rovers, she cleaned the Betting Shop as well as Benny Lewis's flat and The Capricorn nightclub, where she also did the washing up. With Hilda doing so much, Stan felt free to retire - but Hilda wasn't going to let him off that lightly, and made him do all of the housework. Stan actually showed promise early on but within days Alan Howard sacked Hilda from the Capricorn for gossiping about him and Rita Littlewood, and normal service was resumed.
A year later, the Ogdens celebrated their pearl wedding anniversary with a party at No.13. As Hilda lorded it over the neighbours, gloating to Betty Turpin about Elsie Howard's recent family troubles, Betty snappily reminded her of her estrangement from Trevor. Betty's comments hit home; letting Trevor slip away was one of Hilda's biggest regrets. Stan still held a grudge against his son, but Hilda was determined to track him down. Using a letter sent to them by Trevor two years earlier, the Ogdens found Trevor living in a detached house - 2 Avondale Avenue, Chesterfield - having worked his way up from a wood yard to become an estate agent. Now the husband of Polly and father of Damian, Trevor was embarrassed by his parents and warned Polly that they would try to sponge off them. Hopeful of building a relationship with the family, Hilda put on a front, trying not to appear common, but Stan showed only contempt for Trevor, and when Polly let slip that Trevor had told her that his parents were dead, Hilda was so upset that she and Stan left.
Afterwards, Trevor occasionally let the Ogdens see Damian, at his and Polly's convenience. Keen to prove her worth to Trevor, Hilda got an interview for the Kabin to replace Mavis Riley as Rita's assistant. Given a trial by Len Fairclough, Hilda ordered Stan to come in as a customer, carefully planning a scene which would show Rita how efficient she was, but Stan spent the money in the Rovers instead and rolled up to the Kabin blind drunk, where he giggled and said he'd forgotten what Hilda told him to say. In the end, Lucille Hewitt got the job.
1974-1976: Getting away from it all
In desperate need of a break, Hilda took a six-week cleaning job on a cruise ship, the Monte Umber. Not long after she returned, the Ogdens were offered a caretakership at the Community Centre, a post they'd previously applied for but lost out to Gertie Robson. Thinking their luck was finally changing, Hilda quit the Rovers and sold No.13 to Jimmy Graham for £2,500, however at the last minute the Bishops told them they didn't have the jobs due to their poor record with the health inspector. The Ogdens called off the deal with Jimmy, and Hilda wept as her dreams were shattered once again - although she managed to get her Rovers job back with a pay rise.
Now in her fifties, Hilda was worn out and increasingly dissatisfied with No.13. As the 1970s wore on, the Ogdens' usual troubles were exacerbated by economic recession and Stan's failing health - which meant that Hilda had to work even more. In 1975, Stan became so ill that he went off beer and, forced out to work by Hilda who thought he was trying to skive, he collapsed in the street. While he was on the sick, the Ogdens received only £7.65 benefit for his incapacity as Stan hadn't paid his National Insurance for six months, so to make ends meet Hilda took on an extra job doing the washing up at the Mark Brittain Warehouse and did Stan's round, with the help of Eddie Yeats.
Newly released from Walton Jail, Eddie Yeats vowed never to return and kept his nose clean. Lazy and workshy, he found a kindred spirit in Stan, and frequently called at No.13 to cadge a free dinner or coax Stan out for a drink (not that he had to try very hard). In July 1976, he offered to help Hilda decorate No.13's parlour by getting her half-price wallpaper from a mate, in exchange for lodgings in the Ogdens' spare room. However, half of the wallpaper Eddie brought faded with only three walls covered. For the last wall, after a few suggestions which Hilda rejected, Eddie supplied a special wallpaper which created a mural of the Canadian Rockies. The "muriel" was everything Hilda wanted - looking at it, she could imagine herself in more picturesque surroundings, and as no one else had one, No.13 gained prestige. She immediately fell in love with it.
Towards the end of the year, Hilda fell into a slump again. In October, when swerving her car to avoid hitting a dog, Annie Walker slammed into Stan's cart, putting him out of work again until a sympathetic Len, Ray and Terry Bradshaw made him a new one. A few weeks later, Hilda's missing red mac turned up on a bonfire guy which two young boys were pushing around. When they came into the Rovers, the regulars noticed Hilda's mac and roared with laughter, humiliating her. To cheer his wife up, Stan bought the mac back from the boys for 10p, but Hilda refused to wear it and decided to treat herself to a new one. Dipping into her Christmas money, Hilda was furious to find that Stan had already taken half of it. At the end of her tether, she launched into a tirade at Stan, telling him she wished she'd never met him, and threw him out.
After a few hours, Hilda calmed down and awaited her husband's return. However, days went by with no sign of him. After a week, Hilda started to fear the worst and confided in Annie, who rang the police to report him missing. Her fears were put to rest when her brother Norman called round to complain about Stan imposing on him at the Supper Bar, his Oakhill chip shop. With Hilda refusing to beg Stan to return, and Stan being looked after by assistant Edie Blundell, Eddie decided to intervene but inadvertently made matters worse by telling Stan that Hilda wanted an apology from him; Hilda's outburst had hurt Stan deeply and he felt that he was owed an apology. After hearing about Edie, Hilda went to fetch Stan herself, and got into a slanging match with Edie and Norman, with Stan stepping up to defend his wife. Thrown out of the shop by Norman, the Ogdens realised that, for better or worse, they belonged together, and life at No.13 returned to normal.
1977-1980: Battles at the factory
In May 1977, Hilda was taken on as cleaner at the recently-opened Baldwin's Casuals, working evenings. Out of curiosity, Hilda had a go on one of the sewing machines and, discovering a knack for it, made herself denim cleaning mittens from off-cuts after finishing her cleaning duties. Thinking she was onto a winner, Eddie persuaded Hilda to go into partnership with him making curtains, with Eddie supplying the material, but Mike Baldwin soon caught her making curtains on his time and put a stop to it.
The extra wage made life a little easier for the Ogdens, and Hilda was excited at the thought that they might be able to afford to move. When the Langtons left the street, Hilda wanted to buy No.5, the most modern house in the row, but they were beaten to the punch by the Tilsleys.
In May 1978, Hilda received a letter from her American flame, Ralph Curtis, who was in the country and wanted to meet up with her. Hilda was unsure about seeing him again as it had been so long, but Renee Roberts pushed her into calling his hotel from the Corner Shop, and he arranged to visit the house. Once Ralph arrived, time fell away and Hilda enjoyed his visit immensely. With the same boundless energy and enthusiasm she remembered, Ralph was quite a contrast to Stan and Hilda couldn't help wondering what might have been.
Hilda was used to working without support or solidarity. When she asked for a new broom for her factory work, Mike accused Hilda of cutting up her broom and sacked her. Hilda was stunned when Ivy Tilsley led the girls out on strike in sympathy, a strike not backed by the union due to Hilda not being a member. Surprisingly, Hilda herself wasn't bothered by the sacking and walked into a new job cleaning the offices at the abbatoir, leaving the picket line to work. However, when Mike backed down and agreed to reinstate her, Hilda quit her new job for fear of what the girls would do if they knew.
Two years later, Hilda was the source of another factory row. Thrown out of the pools syndicate by Vera Duckworth for missing a week, Hilda got revenge by copying the winning pools numbers onto the factory girls' copy, to make Vera think she'd won a little money. However, she messed up and the factory girls celebrated a win of thousands. Hilda was too afraid to tell the girls the truth, but confessed to Mike when the girls found out they hadn't won and blamed the error on Martin Cheveski. Eager for a peaceful solution, Mike broke the news to the girls and threatened to fire anyone who touched Hilda. The girls responded by sending Hilda to Coventry, leaving Mike with no choice but to sack her. The situation upset Hilda so much that she went to stay with Trevor for a while. In her absence, Vera exacted revenge by tipping off Johnny Webb's wife Maureen Webb that Hilda was her husband's mistress (in reality, Stan was letting him lodge at No.13 while Hilda was away). Maureen had a public slanging match with Hilda, but backed down when she saw the size of Stan.
1980-1984: Stan's final years
In July, Hilda offered a homeless Eddie the Ogdens' front bedroom for £20 a week, satisfied that he could pay his way as he'd finally got a full-time job on the bins after four years on the dole.
Hilda bounced back from the factory fiasco by getting a job cleaning No.9 for Len and Rita. As a Christmas treat for herself, she hired Mrs Palin as a regular cleaner for No.13 at £1.75 an hour, but had to reluctantly let her go after a few weeks as they could no longer afford her. She carried on working for the Faircloughs until September 1981, when she got an interview for a cleaning job at a businessman's flat, which turned out to be Mike's. Mike took Hilda on, feeling that she was honest and trustworthy. On her first day, Hilda accidentally set off the burglar alarm, attracting the attention of a police officer, who questioned Hilda and sent for Mike. Hilda was relieved when Mike laughed it off.
After visiting her brother Archie's plush new home, Hilda's thirst for a change of scenery was reawakened, and she began looking at show homes. The Ogdens decided to buy a house in River Park Estate for £17,000 and put the house up for sale, but they were denied a mortgage as Stan didn't earn enough. They were tempted to accept an offer from the Bells of £7,500 cash for No.13 and try for a council house, but after a warning from Elsie that the road was in a rough area, Hilda returned the Bells' cheque and took the house off the market. Stan too fancied a change; with another harsh winter coming up, Stan put his round up for sale and decided to take early retirement, only for Hilda to answer the ad (planning to buy the round for Stan) and read him the riot act!
In October 1982, Hilda realised a long-held ambition to clean a big house when she was taken on by Doctor and Mrs Lowther at Goldenhurst, Oakfield Drive. Finding the house and the owners a delight, Hilda didn't mind the extra work.
1983 was a big year for the Ogdens. In February, moneylender Syd Kippax got onto Hilda about £185 Stan owed him, giving him 24 hours to pay up. Hilda was confused as Stan had been giving her money for housekeeping, but under questioning he admitted that he'd been borrowing money to hand in instead of working as was no longer able to climb ladders in bad weather. Fortunately Eddie came to the rescue by buying the round for £185 and getting Stan to work for him. Hilda supported Stan throughout, admiring his determination to go on working.
A few months later, Hilda was saddened when her brother Archie passed away from a heart attack. As his only surviving family, she stood to inherit Archie's chip shop, however after his death his assistant Avril Carter also put in a claim for the shop, telling Hilda that she was Archie's fiancée and that with his dying breath he had expressed his desire for her to have the shop. Hilda battled Avril for the shop and, after finding out Avril was having an affair with a married man which would be exposed in court, forced her to drop her claim. Hilda's victory came with a sting in the tail; due to Archie's debts her inheritance came to £1,583, and she had to sell the shop after the landlord, Mr Holt, put the rent up. Hilda opened a bank account for the first time and celebrated by booking an expensive French restaurant for a meal, threatening to strangle Stan if he ruined the evening for her. Not understanding the French menu, the Ogdens ordered melon and sea bass and had an enjoyable time.
The year had a happy but bittersweet ending as Eddie left No.13 to marry Marion Willis, with Hilda standing in for his mother. The Yeats moved to Bury just after the Ogdens celebrated their Ruby wedding anniversary with a party in the Rovers Select.
In 1984, Stan turned sixty-five and started drawing his pension. For health reasons, he had given up work a few months earlier, and by the latter half of the year he was permanently bed-ridden. Hilda was run ragged looking after him, collapsing at home, and later broke down at No.13 when Billy Walker called to have a go at her for failing to turn in. In November, Doctor Meakin arranged for an ambulance to take Stan into hospital for tests. He'd been there for a few days when the hospital phoned Hilda, via the Corner Shop, to tell her that Stan had died. The neighbours rallied round Hilda in the wake of Stan's death, with Trevor arriving to support her at the funeral. Although Trevor suggested a cheap cremation, Hilda insisted on a burial as she wanted a plot with room for her when she died. After being strong for Stan at the funeral, Hilda mourned for her husband privately, the grief and loss hitting her as she looked through Stan's effects from the hospital.
1985-1998: Life after Stan
Hilda returned to work immediately after the funeral, sick of moping around in the empty house.
Since moving in, she'd been against having lodgers, but the quietness plus fond memories of Eddie saw her reverse her position. Terry Duckworth stayed at No.13 for a few months in 1984, followed by railway ticket collector Henry Wakefield in January 1985. Shortly after he moved in, Hilda found out from Curly Watts that Henry was actually unemployed; Henry admitted that he couldn't get a work as he was known by the unions as a strike breaker. He offered to leave, but Hilda felt sorry for him and got Mike to give him a job as a van driver at the factory. However, the girls soon found out he was a blackleg and threatened to walk out. Mike ignored the threat but Henry took their comments to heart and resigned, leaving his lodgings at the same time. Hilda was upset to see Henry go as she'd enjoyed his company.
In July, Hilda was targetted by corrupt builder Les Pringle. When Alf Roberts decided to modernise the Corner Shop, he planned the expansion with Les, and asked Hilda if she'd be willing to sell him No.13. Hilda didn't want to go, but agreed to sell for £14,000 when Les told her the house's roof was sagging and could bring the house down. However, the guilt preyed on her mind and before the sale went through she told Alf about the roof. Inspecting it, Alf discovered the roof was fine and pulled out for Hilda's sake.
That summer, Kevin Webster left his lodgings at No.3, finding landlady Emily Bishop too strict, and moved into No.13 at Terry's recommendation. Kevin found Hilda more fun and easygoing, while Hilda found Kevin polite and respectable, so they got on well. However, they had a minor falling out when Kevin started dating Sally Seddon; Hilda knew the Seddons were a rough family and asked Terry and Curly to get Kevin away from Sally, but after a few months she accepted that Sally wasn't like her parents and even took her in when she discovered her father Eddie Seddon was abusive and took all of her earnings.
Later that year, Kevin and Sally got married and moved into the Corner Shop flat. Hilda met and started a friendship with Sally's uncle Tom Hopwood. In 1987, Tom decided to retire and asked Hilda to marry him and move to a bungalow in Formby with him. Hilda was stunned by the proposal, as she'd only ever seen Tom as a friend, and as such she told him she couldn't marry him; she was still Stan's wife, even in death.
In November, Mike sacked Hilda when she tried to advise him about his and Susan's marriage breakup. At the same time, the Lowthers decided to retire to Hartington, much to Hilda's disappointment, although Joan Lowther offered to recommend Hilda as a cleaner to the house's new owners. While they were packing, Hilda and Joan were attacked by burglars and Joan received a bump on the head. Although Hilda made a full recovery physically, Joan died from her injuries, and a stunned Hilda became withdrawn and afraid to be in her own home. The grieving Dr. Lowther decided not to change his plans to retire, and asked Hilda to keep house for him and live in a flat attached to the cottage. Hilda immediately accepted, and started planning her move away from Coronation Street after 23 years, selling No.13 to Kevin and Sally at a generously low price. Her last full day in Weatherfield was Christmas Day, which she spent with the Websters at No.13, reflecting on days gone by. Calling to say goodbye at the Rovers, she was thrilled to find a surprise party waiting for her, showing Hilda how loved she was in Coronation Street when she thought they'd be glad to see the back of her. For the first time ever, Hilda had a captive audience as she led the residents in a chorus of Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye.
Hilda's only subsequent visit to Coronation Street was in 1990, when she called in at the Rovers on her way to Stan's grave. She was disappointed when no one was around to see her arrive in style in a taxi, but milked every moment when her former neighbours listened keenly as she revealed the latest developments in her life, including a proposal of marriage by Dr. Lowther - although, of course, she left them guessing what her answer would be. Later, at Stan's grave, Hilda told her late husband that she wouldn't be marrying Dr. Lowther and she would always remain an Ogden. In 1993, Emily Bishop planned to visit Hilda in her newly purchased car. Between 1996 and 1998, Dr Lowther died, leaving his house to Hilda.
As of 1998, Hilda still lived in Derbyshire, where she occasionally received a visit from Betty Williams. On one such visit, Hilda and Betty reminisced about their old friends and neighbours in Coronation Street. As Betty reported the latest goings-on, Hilda listened eagerly; over ten years and many miles removed from her old life, she was still the same old Hilda Ogden of number thirteen.
- "They'll put that on me gravestone, won't they? 'She didn't look much, or weigh much, she didn't expect much, but she always managed.'"
Hilda was a tough working-class Northern woman. A loyal wife, she spent four decades working herself to the bone to make up for Stan's shortcomings. Hilda's life was about somehow making ends meet in a world which seemed to have it in for the Ogdens. She was a naturally boisterous woman; fun and outgoing, she spent all her spare pennies on brightening up her life. She was also wistful, talking constantly about her hopes and dreams with genuine enthusiasm - until she looked at Stan and was brought back to grim reality.
Though immensely unlucky, the Ogdens' misfortunes couldn't be wholly blamed on that; more often, it was Stan's idiocy or Hilda's gossiping that was to blame. The local busybody, Hilda knew everything about everyone, and spread the latest news with relish, particularly to those who would not enjoy hearing it. Hilda used gossip to pour scorn on people such as Elsie Tanner, reminding people of the more scandalous moments from their past at the least opportune moments in order to judge and hurt. She also delivered news like a brick; for example, when the police were about to inform Emily Bishop that her husband Ernie had been seriously injured by a shotgun blast, Hilda insensitively (but innocently) blurted out "she's the wife!"
Hilda's attempts to stir things up were always seen for what they were, earning her few friends in the Street and making her the object of ridicule. However, Hilda herself denied being a gossip and claimed to be the soul of discretion. She knew her limits, and chose her battles. When she had a beef with someone, Hilda was similarly unsubtle, hurling accusations with a voice that could shatter glass, but was always easily put in her place with a quip from her more restrained opponent. Even so, she managed to avoid being completely alienated from her neighbours, as her pettiness was seen as non-threatening and many felt sorry for her and Stan.
Hilda's judgementalism hid a deep envy of her neighbours, and she was desperate to be seen as just as good as the rest. She took any opportunity to show off, and would often fake an understanding of art or culture in a transparent attempt to earn their admiration, and in a similar vein, she often made malapropisms resulting in much hilarity. She also had an old-fashioned moral code, believing strongly that only married couples should have sex.
Hilda was a short woman with a thin, sparrow-like frame. For most of the day, she totted about Coronation Street in her old red (later blue) mackintosh, clad in the same pinny and green headscarf she worked in, with her hair in rollers. For evenings, she took her rollers out, with just a dab of lipstick.
Hilda had great affection for her family and upbringing, and would sometimes refer to herself as a Crabtree. However, references and visits to individual family members were rarer. In March 1966, Stan sold a framed photograph of Hilda's mother Florence to Jed Stone for his "Viaduct Bargain Boutique", resulting in a furious Hilda snatching it back.
As adults, Hilda and her brothers Norman and Archie lived a stone's throw from each other in Weatherfield but all led separate and very different lives. With his own chip shop in Oakhill, Norman was the most successful. His only interaction with Hilda during her time in Coronation Street was in 1976, when Stan took root in the shop after a row with Hilda. Annoyed at being involved, Norman tried to get Stan and Hilda back together - but more for his own sake than theirs.
Hilda seemed closer to Archie. His only visit to 13 Coronation Street was in May 1972, while Stan was in hospital. With his beer belly and laziness, Archie could more easily pass as Stan's brother than Hilda's, and for three weeks, Archie filled Stan's void in Hilda's life. Archie built a porch for Hilda but it was only when they were admiring the completed porch that Jerry Booth reminded them that they would need planning permission. The debacle ended with the mysterious disappearance of the porch, after Hilda was told by Councillor Warburton to take it down. When news came through that Stan was due to come home, Hilda told Archie to leave, none too impressed with his suggestion that she take on another job and look after both of them.
Hilda occasionally went to visit Archie, particularly when his circumstances improved in the early 1980s, with Archie marrying Doris and becoming the owner of A. Crabtree Fish & Chips. After his death in 1983, Hilda inherited the shop, his money, and also, sadly, his considerable debts.
- "I suppose."
- "I suppose. I suppose. That's your problem Stanley, you're too damn suppository. Now go out and insert y'self!"
Hilda's entire life with Stan was encapsulated in their first week together in 1943. In a story she would often repeat, she fell over an inebriated Stan in a blackout, and six days later he married her - but not, as she hoped, out of romantic gallantry, but because he was on the run from the military police for being AWOL.
Hilda was raised with traditional beliefs about marriage and a wife's duty to her husband. While her total responsibility for the house and children wasn't unusual, Hilda also tried to be a loyal and obedient wife to Stan, particularly in the early years of their marriage where Stan dominated Hilda with his abusiveness and drunken rages, which Hilda once told a shocked Concepta Hewitt she didn't mind. In January 1966, Hilda filled out the winning pools numbers for Stan to check against his and, thinking they were his numbers, he celebrated an estimated £75,000 win by buying drinks all round at the Rovers. When a terrified Hilda told him the truth, Stan went berserk and chased her round the house.
Stan was a man of simple pleasures, sending little money to Hilda and drinking the rest away. For the family to survive, Hilda had to become everything he wasn't: tough, resourceful, and driven. When they moved to Coronation Street, it was up to Hilda to motivate her oaf of a husband out to work, and her nagging, piercing voice was enough to drive anyone out the door. Hilda constantly criticised Stan, attributing most of their financial woes to his uselessness. However, when he showed ambition, even for something bizarre such as scrap art (September 1969) or songwriting (February 1970), Hilda beamed with pride, believing in her husband's hidden talents.
Another drawback to being married to Stan was his inattentiveness. He was incapable of making a romantic gesture off his own back; the first time he sent Hilda a Valentine's card was in 1982, when they'd been married for 38 years, and he only did so out of guilt over forgetting Hilda's birthday. Hilda was so flabbergasted that she refused to believe it was from Stan, preferring the notion that she had a secret admirer.
Stan was poor at predicting his wife's needs, particularly her need to be treated like a woman, and he often showed her up in public. His understanding of his wife was so lacking that in 1981, they came last place in a "Mr and Mrs" competition in the Rovers, with Stan giving three embarrassing (and, to the audience, hilarious) answers. To avoid bother, Stan would often risk making matters even worse, such as in May 1967 when he burned Hilda's London cup final ticket so he wouldn't have to admit he'd sold his and couldn't get it back. To keep up the pretext, he spent the day on a park bench, but of course Hilda found out anyway and made him paint the house as a penance. Their lowest moments came whenever Hilda caught him dipping into her hard-earned money; in December 1978, he put all the money in the house into a (previously empty) fruit machine, and then unthinkingly let Eddie Yeats take it the machine away with their TV plug attached. Just as the realisation set in, the house was plunged into darkness as the electricity meter ran out - all in all, a typical day at the Ogdens'.
However, Stan genuinely wanted to make Hilda happy, and his gestures which did work were all the more touching for their rarity. He scored a definite hit with the serving hatch in 1971, and in October 1969 he secretly joined Fatties Anonymous with Betty Turpin, telling the people at the meeting that he was doing it for his wife. In spite of her problems with Stan, Hilda couldn't imagine life without him and was lost whenever he wasn't around; when he vanished one night in March 1976, she scoured the streets for him before she found out he and Albert Tatlock had accidentally been locked in the Rovers cellar. After spending the night getting merry and singing war songs down in the cellar, they were found by Hilda and Annie Walker, and Hilda was furious when Stan grinned and asked if she'd missed him.
Stan had his faults but Hilda knew his limits. In August 1972, he was caught in the backing where a Peeping Tom had been seen spying on the women of the Street. A vigilante mob led by Billy Walker and Ray Langton carted him over to No.13, having made up their minds that he was the Peeping Tom, but Hilda believed in her husband's innocence, even though he was supposed to be at The Flying Horse. The mere accusation was enough to defeat Stan, but Hilda wanted to fight back and told the residents what she thought of them in the Rovers, referencing Billy's dirty magazines, and spat on the floor. The residents had to swallow their pride and apologise when the true culprit was caught.
Hilda and Stan's affection for each other was strengthened by the fact that they were both life's victims. Despite being the neighbourhood joke, for most of their time at No.13 theirs was the most successful marriage in the Street. In public, Hilda would defend Stan from the very accusations she threw at him at home. Her image of Stan was so idealised that she was paranoid about other women plotting to get their hands on him, from Freda Woods at the British Legion to Mary Bonnetti, Stan's ice-cream vendor partner. The latter got Hilda so worried that she reported Stan to the Town Hall for trading without a licence, ending the partnership. A continuing thorn in Hilda's side was Clara Regan of 19 Inkerman Street, or rather the rumours of her affair with Stan which were all over Weatherfield. Hilda didn't believe them - finding out in January 1973 that Clara was co-habiting with Tommy McAllistair was enough to satisfy her - but she hated everyone sending them up about it and refused to dignify Clara with a name, referring to her only as "19 Inkerman Street".
Hilda's happiest moment came when the Ogdens won third prize in a "Loving Cup Shandies" competition - a second honeymoon night in a five-star hotel with her winning slogan "Be a mistress as well as a wife and your husband'll still be a boyfriend". Hilda was determined to enjoy herself in luxury for once, forcing Stan to give her the romantic evening she craved, when he just wanted to watch TV and raid the drinks cabinet.
After Stan's death, all past rows were forgotten and Hilda would always remember Stan as the perfect husband.
What Irma got from her parents could be written on the back of a playing card. Irma was fun-loving, didn't take life too seriously, and even a little reckless. Where her parents were concerned, Irma couldn't wait to get away, even though she loved them. She frequently put Stan and Hilda down, often without them realising it.
Hilda liked having Irma close by as the Ogdens had so few friends in the Street. She approved of her wedding to David Barlow, and also of their decision to buy the Corner Shop - Irma allowed the Ogdens a generous amount on tick. Irma helped her parents out whenever she could, and in May 1966, when she got a job at the PVC Factory, she sent in Hilda to fill her shoes at the shop, much to David's horror. That August, the couples went on a caravan holiday, where Hilda and Irma bonded and threw water over their husbands when they stayed out all night.
When Irma and David decided to move to Australia, Hilda was so distraught that she sent drayman Vince Boyle to share his terrible experiences of the country with Irma, a move which nearly caused them to part on a sour note. Out of loyalty to Irma, Hilda took in Irma and David's foster daughter Jill Morris when she turned up at the shop looking for them as her mum was in hospital.
In September 1970, with Irma on holiday in Torquay and Maggie Clegg in Birmingham, Hilda looked after the shop. As Irma hadn't left her precise instructions for replenishing the stock, Hilda decided to try something different and ordered large quantities of specialised stock from Walter Gilfeather, surprising even him. The scheme ended in disaster, with Hilda ending up having a bargain sale to shift the new stock, and she ended up £7, 2/9 down. When she got back, Irma got Hilda to clean the shop to make it up to her.
When Irma suddenly fled to Llandudno that December, Hilda looked after her interests at the shop, although Betty Turpin opined that she had really left to get away from Stan and Hilda. Irma then gradually faded out of the Ogdens' lives, and eventually moved to Canada, where she was living when Stan passed away in 1984. Hilda excused her daughter's non-appearance at the funeral, telling Trevor that she was starting a new life abroad.
- "Come back here Elsie Tanner, I want to sort you out!"
Elsie Tanner of No.11 was Hilda and Stan's next-door neighbour. Hilda looked down on Elsie for having so many men in her life, in some ways taking up the mantle from Ena Sharples, but unlike her previous nemesis who could get Elsie really riled up with her vicious tongue, Hilda wasn't taken seriously and was treated mainly as an irritant.
In June 1968, Hilda and Elsie had a row in the Street where Hilda accused Elsie of having an affair with Stan, as they'd been AWOL for hours after Stan gave Elsie a driving lesson (the explanation being that they'd run out of petrol on the moors). Elsie laughed at Hilda's allegations, saying she'd never go for Stan as she had eyes.
On two occasions, Hilda nearly caused Elsie to lose her job by informing her employers about Elsie being in court for stealing from Miami Modes, and in 1973 Elsie's disappearance led to all kinds of rumours, most of them started by Hilda, leading to a confrontation in the Rovers in which Alan Howard punched Stan, who had stood up to defend his wife. If not their biggest, then certainly their pettiest battle occurred in 1978, when Suzie Birchall accidentally put her foot through No.13's bedroom ceiling while moving a nest of pigeons in the loft. Elsie refused to pay the repairs as the pigeons had got in through a missing slate in Hilda's roof, and so Hilda poked holes in Elsie's ceiling with her broom to get even. The households then went to war, doing everything from blaring music through the wall to dirtying their neighbours' washing. It was resolved in court, where Hilda and Elsie were ordered to pay for their own repairs - a resolution which satisfied Elsie, but not Hilda.
In July 1980, Hilda called round to No.11 to borrow a cup of sugar and found the sofa ablaze and Elsie unconscious. With Stan's help, she dragged Elsie away to safety. Proclaimed a heroine, Hilda made the most of it by getting Elsie to buy her drinks and over-dramatising her heroics. Eventually Elsie got so sick of Hilda going on about it that she told Hilda to walk past the next time her house was on fire!
Annie Walker was Hilda's pretentious employer at the Rovers. Annie was generally kind to Hilda, although she often had to remind her that she was there to clean and not to chit-chat. Hilda first discovered Annie's iron fist a month after arriving in the Street; when Annie caught Hilda and Irma shifting onions Trevor had secretly stored in the Rovers' cellar, Annie sacked them both on the spot, although Hilda managed to get her job back.
Hilda admired Annie but envied her standing in the community and greatly wanted to out-do her. In 1974, before Hilda left Weatherfield to board cruise ship the Monte Umber for a six-week cleaning job, Annie coached Hilda on etiquette, advising her to step aside to let a first class passenger past. When she got back, Hilda showed off by ordering a "Planeter's Punch" cocktail to try and catch Annie out. Annie easily made the drink but charged 98p for that and a pint for Stan, reminding Hilda that the ship was duty free and the Rovers wasn't. In 1976, when Hilda put up her beloved mural, part of its appeal was that Annie didn't have one, but when Hilda invited her over to the house to show it off, Annie barely gave it a second glance, although she couldn't help noticing that Hilda had copied her bedroom wallpaper. "Isn't it amazing how different things seem in a different room?" commented Annie sardonically.
Annie occasionally suffered the consequences of Hilda's gossip, such as in 1975 when Hilda informed Newton & Ridley about a break-in at the Rovers which Annie wanted to keep quiet as she didn't want to lose the brewery's confidence. In direct confrontations, however, Annie's way with words easily outmatched Hilda's all-guns-blazing approach.
Bet was another rival of Hilda's; in 1974, they had a catfight over a cabinet and had to be pulled apart in the street by Jerry Booth and Ray Langton. Bet also disapproved of Hilda's singing, warning her once that she was "spoiling her image". However, despite their disagreements, Bet and Hilda valued each other; Bet kept Hilda on as cleaner when she took over management of the Rovers' from Billy Walker in 1985, and Hilda told Betty Turpin and Gloria Todd several times that she thought Bet was doing a good job of running the pub, and even quit when Bet disappeared and Alec Gilroy took over - although this was mainly due to his prickly, critical nature.
Edward Yeats entered the Ogdens' lives in December 1974. On parole from Walton, he bought their Christmas tree from Stan for £2. In March 1975, when his fellow 5 Coronation Street houseguest Ena Sharples proved to be less of a soft touch than his landlady Minnie Caldwell, he partnered up with Hilda on Stan's window round. He and Hilda were a good team, bringing in more money than Stan had.
Released from Walton for the last time in July 1976, Eddie soon fell in with the Ogdens. Hilda didn't trust him because of his shady past and dodgy mates, and his laziness and flannel did nothing to endear him to her. She treated him like a bad penny whenever he darkened No.13's doors, greeting him with a resigned "oh, it's you". Over time, Eddie demonstrated that he had a good heart and an affinity for the Ogdens, who were all the 'family' he had, and Hilda became fond of him.
Both moronic and bone-idle, Eddie and Stan were kindred spirits. They would often get up to things behind Hilda's back, knowing she would not approve. In October 1978, Eddie's friend Tiny Hargreaves paid Stan for the use of his cart to shift stolen lead, but Hilda saw Tiny using the cart and took it when he wasn't looking, thinking he'd stolen it. Hilda was then stopped by the police and the cart impounded because of the stolen lead. Fearing repercussions, Eddie refused to shop Tiny, but Hilda refused to have Stan arrested and made him tell the police the truth. The following April, with Hilda away, Eddie took possession of six hens and talked Stan into letting him store them in No.13's back yard after Albert Tatlock told him he couldn't have them on his allotment. After returning home to find a chicken on her table, Hilda told Eddie to get rid of the hens, but was talked round when Eddie said they faced the slaughter. To keep Hilda on side, Eddie bought eggs from the Corner Shop and planted them in the chicken coop. Getting wind of the scheme, Suzie mischievously put some hard-boiled eggs in the coop, which Hilda gave to Ena, resulting in much embarrassment in the Rovers when Ena cut an egg open in front of Hilda. Hilda ordered Eddie to kill the hens, planning to eat one for Stan's birthday, but in the end Albert had to perform the deed as they'd all grown so attached to them, and, unable to bring himself to carve them, Eddie sold them to a butcher for £3.
From 1980 to 1983 Eddie was the Ogdens' lodger, taken in due to his full-time job on the bins. In March 1981, Eddie caused the Ogdens to lose all their washing when he accidentally took a black bag containing their laundry to the tip instead of a bag of rubbish. Determined to recover it, Hilda made Stan and Eddie help her scour the tip for the bag, but surrounded by so many identical black bags, they didn't find their washing. A guilty Eddie organised a whip-round for the Ogdens and managed to earn their forgiveness, the whole debacle treated like just another Ogden misadventure.
Hilda took a somewhat motherly role in Eddie's love life. In 1980, she approved of Lorna Ferguson and advised her to go steady with Eddie. Two years later, she made the effort to get to know Marion Willis, but nearly had a falling out with Eddie when he copied her key to Mike Baldwin's flat to court Marion there, pretending he was a businessman. Eddie left the Ogdens' lives in December 1983 when he and Marion, now a married couple, moved to Bury, but the following year Eddie phoned the Rovers to pass onto Hilda the news that Marion had had a baby girl, Dawn, and in 1987 he paid a visit to Weatherfield to see Hilda when she was hospitalised after she and Joan Lowther were attacked by burglars.
Kevin and Sally Webster
In May 1985, Kevin Webster decided he'd had enough of his landlady Emily Bishop's stuffiness and fellow lodger Curly Watts's 5am wake-up calls, and with Hilda's approval moved into No.13. Kevin found Hilda a friendly, easygoing landlady, and would refer to her affectionately as "Mrs. O". He gave Hilda no trouble in his two years at No.13, showing himself to be a respectable young man.
Hilda's relationship with Sally Seddon wasn't so smooth-sailing. Introduced to Kevin's new girlfriend early in 1986, Hilda was cold to her due to her being from the roughneck Seddon family, and decided she wasn't good enough for Kevin. In March, she warned Kevin she'd seen Sally with another man, but he didn't believe her and stayed with Sally. Two months later, after accepting that Sally wasn't like her parents, Hilda agreed to let Sally live at No.13 to get away from Eddie Seddon, Convinced that Kevin and Sally would try to sleep together against her permission, Hilda laid a trap for Sally on the stairs, only to forget about it and fall herself. While Hilda was out of work with a sprained ankle, Sally stood in for her at the Lowthers' house and the Baldwins' flat, where she did such a bad job that Susan Baldwin nearly sacked her. Hilda's derogatory comments about her work upset Sally so much that she returned to live with her parents.
Kevin and Sally were married by the end of the year. On their wedding day, Hilda gave Sally marriage advice, telling her not to blame Kevin in times of trouble. The following year, Hilda helped them get the Corner Shop flat by pretending to Alf Roberts that Sally would be leaving her job at the shop immediately and the Websters moving to Partington. As he was in the middle of a council election campaign, Alf needed Sally behind the counter and offered the Websters the flat without hesitation. When she left Weatherfield a few months later, Hilda sold No.13 to the Websters for a generously low price as a mark of affection for the young newlyweds.
Hobbies, interests and skills
Hilda frequently showed an interest in art and culture to have something to show off about. She would always exaggerate how well she knew the subject, but then give the game away with her malapropisms or basic misunderstandings, with comic results.
Her forays into art and culture were numerous and short-lived. She once wrote a play about a gas leak which led to nothing, and in February 1976, she joined an art class at the Community Centre. In January 1979, while painting the skirting boards at No.13, she found by accident that she could copy abstract art. When a painting of hers fetched £20 from Annie Walker (who had no idea as to the identity of the artist), Hilda made the most of it by getting Annie to compliment it at every opportunity, however Annie found out and got revenge by telling Hilda she sold it to an art dealer at a huge profit. That August, she taught herself to play the piano and actually showed promise, beaming with pride when Ena - a seasoned harmonium player - applauded her after a performance. Others, however, were not complimentary; walking in on Hilda practicing Beautiful Dreamer on the Rovers piano, Annie accused her of turning it into an ugly nightmare.
In June 1973, Hilda joined a ballroom dancing class at the centre, agreeing to be Ted Loftus's partner (with Stan's permission). She also partook in the 1969 football grudge match between the Rovers and The Flying Horse, where she scored an equaliser (much to her worn out team-mates's fury as they then had to play on to extra time), and at the 1984 Pub Olympics between the two pubs she won the egg-and-spoon race when she came in second behind Vera Duckworth who was disqualified due to cheating.
Hilda also took to the stage during the Street's Christmas panto productions, filling out the cast in bit parts including Wishee Washee in Aladdin in 1968 and one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella in 1975. In 1977, tricked by Bet Lynch into thinking it was fancy dress, Hilda turned up at the factory Christmas party dressed as Charlie Chaplin. She ended up having a good time, blacking up and singing an Al Jolson song to the OAPs next door at the centre when the booked act never turned up.
Hilda loved to sing, especially her old 1940s favourites. With a trilling singing voice compared to Mick Jagger stuck up the plumbing, and a piano going down a flight of stairs, Hilda could most often be heard as she went about her cleaning, hanging out the washing, or admiring her mural.
While working with Brenda Hinchcliffe as a ball bearing packer on the Lancaster Bomber during the war, Hilda took an interest in all the other planes and attempted to use her knowledge to impress some American soldiers at Elsie and Steve Tanner's wedding in 1967.
Hilda had "the gift" since before she moved to Coronation Street. In December 1964, she read the cards of several residents, including Valerie Barlow, where she correctly predicted that Val would have twins.
In early 1969, Hilda took it up again and considered reading tea leaves professionally. While he didn't believe in her gift, Stan was keen on the idea as, charging half a guinea a time, they'd be quids in if Hilda could pull it off. To encourage her, he went around trying to make her predictions come true without her knowledge, but confessed to Hilda out of fear that a reporter would find out and accuse her of fraud. To avert suspicion, Hilda publicly announced her gift had gone.
Hilda continued to believe that she had the sight, and often gave impromptu readings. In August 1977, after two predictions came true, her clairvoyancy attracted some attention. Along with Bet, Suzie, Elsie and Gail Potter, she held a seance in No.13, where she seemed to go into a trance and be possessed, although she later claimed to have no memory of the event.
In 1982, Hilda read Mike Baldwin's tea leaves and claimed that she could see a spot of trouble on the horizon as well as good news on the romantic front, pointing to tea leaves on the handle which she claimed were "lovers arms entwined". The following day, Mike invited girlfriend Maggie to move in with him after she fell out with her flatmate, Kathy.
Hilda's long-held desire to get away from everything was apparent to every visitor to No.13's back room. In 1978, her beloved mural of the Canadian Rockies was ruined when Stan left the taps running in the bathroom and flooded the house. Hilda bought a replacement herself, this time depicting a seascape.
Hilda and Stan's getaways were few and far between, and when they did plan a holiday, catastrophe would always strike. In September 1969, when Stan got a week off work, Hilda insisted on going to Llandudno, but Stan "accidentally" tripped over a roller-skate left on the street and they spent the day sat outside the Rovers under Annie's umbrellas instead.
Hilda particularly longed to visit France. In January 1972, the Ogdens got as far as booking a day trip to Paris and getting to the airport, but Stan panicked in the terminal and went to get fresh air, causing them to miss the plane. To keep up appearances, they spent the day in the airport bar and staggered into the Rovers later, pretending they'd been on the trip. Hilda finally got to go to France in 1980, when she won an exchange visit to Charleville, Weatherfield's twin town, where she went to a rave-up with Vera and Ivy Tilsley.
In August 1974, Stan bought a tandem from Billy Walker for £8.50. Hilda excitedly planned a trip to Morecambe, but when the time came, the Ogdens found the tandem too difficult to ride and left the bike with railway porter Syd Greaves, who gave it to Ray Langton. When they came back (naturally, pretending to everyone that they'd used the tandem), Ray tried to set them up by painting the tandem white and claiming it was his, but, on Hilda's instructions, Stan painted it black again, making Ray look like an idiot when he said it was his; for once, the Ogdens came out on top. Hilda would occasionally take the tandem out again but, met with Stan's disinterest, eventually sold it to Gail and Suzie for £7 - only to find out from Len Fairclough that it was worth £100. Eddie managed to buy the bike back for £15 without letting the girls in on its true worth, and went off to sell the bike with Stan, but when they abandoned it to go into a pub, the wall it was resting against was demolished, burying it - a tale so incredible that Hilda point blank refused to believe it.
In the 1970s, as the nation switched to colour television, Hilda was determined that No.13 would be the first house in Coronation Street to upgrade. Hilda saved her pennies and for nine glorious days in 1971 (after which it was repossessed), the Ogdens' back room was graced with a colour set. Hilda battled on, trying to get one on approval, but the Ogdens were turned down as they were on a credit blacklist.
Over the next few years, one-by-one the neighbours bought colour sets. In January 1978, Hilda camped outside Perkins overnight to be first in the morning queue, guaranteeing her a colour TV for £5 in the sale. After spending the night in the company of a meths-drinking tramp called Ozzie, Hilda lost her place in the queue as she was in the middle of being interviewed by a local radio reporter, Ted Thomas, when the shop opened its doors, and someone else bought the TV.
Three years later, Eddie managed to borrow a colour TV for the day so that Hilda could watch the Royal Wedding. Hilda took out her curlers for the occasion.
On one occasion, the Ogdens didn't have a TV at all. In February 1976, when a TV detector van roamed the area, Hilda bought a TV licence to be on the safe side. As she walked into the house to tell Stan, she surprised him when he was moving the TV to hide it away, causing him to drop and break it. After a tip from Betty Turpin, Stan set fire to the TV and told the rental company it had burst into flames, but rental man Sid Wilson didn't believe him and demanded £75 for the set. Meanwhile, Hilda was getting caught up in entering competitions and won a trolley dash at a delicatessen. Together with Deirdre Langton, she grabbed £107.32 worth of goods, but, missing her programmes, traded it in for the cash amount and paid the TV bill.
Creation and casting
In the spring of 1964, producer Tim Aspinall initiated Coronation Street's first major cast shake-up, axing six characters in total. To fill the void, a new family was planned around the character of Irma Ogden, a recent addition to the programme played by Sandra Gough. The family would be more vulgar than viewers were used to seeing, headed up by layabout lorry driver Stan and his nagging wife Hilda, and supported by their four children - Irma, Trevor, Tony and Sylvia.
Jean Alexander was born in Liverpool in 1926. She began her career as a library assistant before transferring her talents to repertory theatre, firstly as a wardrobe mistress and then as a stage mistress, in various places in the North West including Oldham, York, and the Adelphi Guild Theatre in Macclesfield. She then realised her ambition of becoming an actress, spending seven years with Southport rep. She had an early TV role as Mrs. Webb, landlady of baby kidnapper Joan Akers, in two episodes of Coronation Street in 1962, which paved the way for her subsequent casting as Hilda two years later. Betty Driver also auditioned for the part, but was rejected as casting directors wanted a more slender actress for Hilda.
Stan made his debut in Episode 370 but viewers had to wait to be introduced to his wife as transmission of the following episode was delayed by a week by strike action by the ACTT (Association of Cinematograph Television and Allied Technicians). An additional result of the strike was that the following week's episodes, which were at the rehearsal stage when the strike occurred, went unrecorded, with production picking up with Episode 374 the week after. The unmade episodes would have seen the Ogdens move into No.13 and Tony, played by Willie Smith, make his debut appearance. During this period, plans for the Ogdens were revised, cutting the number of children from four to two.
The rise of Stan and Hilda
Amid the controversy over Aspinall's cast cull, the Ogdens stood out as a bright spot to writer H.V. Kershaw, who returned to his role as producer when Aspinall stepped down in September. Praising the chemistry between the actors, he remarked in his 1981 book The Street Where I Live (1981): "After a few weeks of Bernard Youens and Jean Alexander as the ill-starred Stan and Hilda, it is patently obvious that they are here to stay for ever."
Initially, Hilda was characterised as a tough working class woman who stood at her uncouth husband's side, blind to his flaws. This was subtly changed as writers realised the comic potential of Hilda being more of a fishwife - all the while defending him vehemently when anyone else dared take a potshot, as remarked upon by Kershaw: "The Ogdens, Hilda and Stan, arguably one of the funniest cross-talk teams on television, are to my mind at their best when they are poignant. Hilda, thin and defiant, defending the fat, lazy Stan against an unkind world," and Jean Alexander: "They would bicker between themselves but no one else dared raise a finger or say a word against either of them or they'd both be up in arms." (Fifty Years of Coronation Street, Headline Publishing Group, 2010) On her role: "As a character she's interesting to play, and I like her because she's the opposite of me. She lets fly at people in a way I'd like to myself and never do. When I'm being Hilda, I can get it all out of my system." (The Coronation Street Story)
Their relationship was tinkered with again when Bill Podmore took over as producer in 1976, with Stan becoming more hen-pecked and Geoffrey Hughes entering the fray as Eddie Yeats, the Ogdens' prodigal son (with Irma and Trevor long having left the programme). Podmore: "Stan and Hilda were one of the great comedy couples. In my book they rivalled Morecambe and Wise." (Coronation Street: The Inside Story, 1990)
At the peak of Hilda's popularity, character and actress gained a number of accolades, including being named as the fourth most recognisable woman in the UK after the Queen, Queen Mother and Diana in a 1982 poll and, more oddly, prompting Michael Parkinson, Russell Harty and Sir John Betjeman to form the British League for Hilda Ogden, with Laurence Olivier as its president. Olivier was such a fan of the character that he requested a part in the programme. A part was written for him - a meths-drinking tramp called Ozzie who camped outside a shop next to Hilda while she queued overnight for a discounted colour TV - however a scheduling conflict resulted in Olivier being unable to take the role. Podmore: "Hilda Ogden was a legend. Universities wanted to make her their rector; a Welsh rugby team hailed her as their mascot; even the Falklands Fleet urgently called for a picture of their pin-up complete with curlers, to inspire the troops for battle."
Glad rags and that voice
Hilda's famous look - with her curlers, headscarf and pinny - was developed over time by Jean Alexander and the wardrobe department. Alexander felt that the curlers said something about the character: "I remembered seeing the women working on munitions during the war. All the girls in the factories had to have their heads covered because of the machinery. They used to wear these scarves, like pudding clothes, tied up and the curlers would be in.. I thought Hilda would have worked on munitions and would have had her hair tied up... She was always ready to go out - only she never went out. The curlers were always in, just in case she happened to be going out in the evening." (The Coronation Street Story, Boxtree Limited, 1995) About the pinny: "It was donkeys' years old, but it seemed to fascinate viewers who used to write in in droves to see where they could buy one similar." (Life in the Street, Boxtree Limited, 1991)
One bonus of Hilda sporting such a different look from Alexander's day clothes was that she wasn't recognised all that often - a fact appreciated by an actress who guarded her privacy. Podmore: "She could transform herself within seconds. A touch of lipstick, a headscarf, an old mackintosh and a curler or two, and there stood Hilda Ogden in all her pinched-mouth glory. At the end of the day the cloak of Hilda was discarded as quickly as it was created and left behind in the studio. Jean Alexander could stand on Salford station and catch her train home safe in the knowledge that none of her fellow passengers would give the elegant lady a second glance."
Another trait of Hilda's worked out early on was her famously shrill singing voice. Viewers were introduced to Hilda's "talent" soon after she arrived in the street, as Jean Alexander recalls: "I'd been in it a couple of months and the script said: 'Hilda is out of shot in the backyard pegging out washing and singing.' So I just started singing the sort of songs that Hilda would know, that were from my own era actually, and the crew fell about laughing. They all thought it was hysterical, so after that whenever they wrote in "Hilda sings". they'd never state the song and they'd just leave that to me." (Fifty Years)
When Bill Podmore became Coronation Street's producer in 1976, one of his goals was to increase the amount of comedy in the scripts. One of the first stories devised for the Ogdens was the re-decoration of No.13's parlour and the establishment of Hilda's beloved mural, or "muriel" as she called it (an example of her malapropisms which were frequently worked into scripts), and its flying ducks - one of which could never stay up.
According to Alexander, the scenes inside No.13 were recorded at the end of of Episode 1616's studio day, leaving no margin for error: "We had about six scenes, with the room in various stages of stripping and repapering, we had fifty minutes of studio time left to do these six scenes. It was so fast! We'd do one scene and then the prop men would come on and strip a bit more wallpaper off. You couldn't enjoy it because nobody dared dry." (The Coronation Street Story) On the mural itself: "(Hilda's) was a life of disappointment, so it was my idea that the middle flying duck on her famous 'muriel' should always be taking a nose-dive. Each time Hilda went past she would try to push it up straight, but it always fell down again. Which summed up her life really. They did live at Number 13 after all." (50 Years of Coronation Street: The (very) Unofficial Story, JR Books, 2010)
In 1975, Bernard Youens suffered a minor stroke, the first in a series of health problems which plagued the actor for the rest of his life. By the early 1980s, his speech and mobility were affected, and as a result Hilda and Eddie took on most of the dialogue in their scenes to ease the burden on the actor, who wished to continue on in the programme. He died aged sixty-nine on 27th August 1984, much to the sadness of the cast and crew, particularly his screen wife of twenty years. Alexander: "I miss him more than I can say. We never had to discuss a scene or go over a piece of dialogue together. He always turned up word-perfect, just as I did, and we knew exactly how we were going to play it. Working without "Bunny" was like acting without my arm." (Life in the Street)
Stan passed away peacefully in hospital in November 1984 after a lengthy absence from screens. In a famous scene, after holding back the tears for the duration of the episode, Hilda broke down alone in No.13 while unwrapping Stan's effects from the hospital. Podmore: "Coronation Street's scriptwriting team, with Jean's total approval, had decided that Hilda would never allow herself to shed a tear in public no matter how great her sadness. We all thought long and hard about how she might deal with her husband's death. The breakdown had to come some time, and we chose the moment when Hilda unwrapped the sad little parcel she brought home from the hospital, which contained Stan's few personal effects. Jean's playing of that scene was devastating; as she closed Stan's spectacle case the nation wept with her."
Alexander's performance during the scene won her the Royal Television Society's Best Performance Award the following year. Alexander: "It was the first award I had ever received, and the proudest moment of my life." (Life in the Street)
In the mid-1980s; Bill Podmore took a step back into a role as executive producer, with John G. Temple taking over as producer. For the next three years, Alexander remained with the programme, exploring Hilda's life as a widow. According to Podmore, this wasn't the original plan: "My long-term plan was for Eddie Yeats to take over as comic-relief lodger. It just might have worked, and Jean Alexander's wonderful character might still have been bottoming out the Rovers and mopping up every morsel of Coronation Street's gossip." However, Hughes quit the programme in 1983, and Hilda was instead supported by newcomers Kevin and Sally Webster.
In 1987, Alexander decided that it was time to move on, and broke the news to the producer: "It was nice and it was a secure job and all that, but suddenly I thought, I don't want to be here for the rest of my life. I'd like to do some of the things I was doing before I ever came into this show. I would like to play other parts before I fall off my perch... I went in to see Bill Podmore and said, 'I've decided I want to leave at the end of my contract - Christmas.' 'Oh,' he said, 'I've been dreading the day when you'd come in and say that. (The Coronation Street Story) Podmore: "I really did think Hilda's retirement would be one of the great watersheds, and I was dreading the inevitable moment."
Hilda's final appearance, broadcast on Christmas Day 1987, saw Hilda sing "Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye", in her trademark trilling voice, before leaving Weatherfield to keep house for her employer, Doctor Lowther - a happy ending for a character who had spent her life going from pillar to post. The episode was watched by 17.97 million viewers on Christmas Day, with 8.65 million viewers catching up via a one-off omnibus repeat, resulting in a total audience of 26.62 million viewers - Coronation Street's second-highest ever audience figure.
Reprising the role
Jean Alexander declined numerous invitations to reprise her character, with four exceptions. The first was the 1990 ITV Telethon, which featured a mini-episode showing a more prosperous Hilda visit the Street on her way to Stan's grave. Alexander was reluctant to return to the part, but on this occasion the circumstances were right: "When Granada asked me to return, I had to stop and think. I didn't really want to be Hilda again. I was worried I'd start up the old associations. But, as it was a one-off for such worthwhile charities, I couldn't really say no." On what viewers could expect: "Hilda has changed. Having sold her house, she's got a few pennies tucked away, along with her wages from the doctor, plus her own flat in his house. Now that she's better off, she's less envious. But, knowing Hilda, she might show off a bit."
Jean Alexander reprised her role again in 1996 to record the audio book 'Street Talk - Hilda Ogden: In Her Own Words', and appear in a one off advert for Granada Plus.
Alexander last played Hilda in a 1998 video special The Women of Coronation Street. The special showed Betty Williams visit Hilda in Derbyshire and reminisce (and gossip) about the women of Coronation Street past and present, segueing into archive clips.
Despite the passage of time, Hilda remained immensely popular. In 2005, she was voted the UK's favourite soap character of all time in a TV Times poll. However, she has never returned to the show proper, despite numerous invitations. Writer John Stevenson: "They've asked her to come back many times but she won't, and it's too late now." (50 Years) On her reasons for staying away, Alexander: "It'd be a complete mistake to go back. And Hilda would be a different person now because she has achieved the status she'd wanted all her life - to be the doctor's housekeeper and have her own apartment in his house. She'd have smartened herself up no end." (Fifty Years) On her character's enduring appeal: "Hilda would have loved that and I am honoured people still remember her so fondly. I suppose the viewers recognised the type, and on location on the backstreets of Manchester, I've happened upon a few Hildas myself who could've come straight off the Coronation Street set." (Fifty Years)
First and last lines
"Hey Stan look, we've got two taps" (First line)
List of addresses
|Silk Street, Weatherfield||2nd February 1924 to before 1944|
|Back Butler Street||Before 1944|
|Kitchener Street||Before 1944|
|Mare Street||1943 to 1944 or 1945|
|17 Charles Street||1944 or 1945|
|Chapel Street||Until the early 1960s|
|13 Coronation Street||8th July 1964 to 25th December 1987|
|Hartington||December 1987 onwards|
|Typist||Spencers (Funeral director)||A week c.1941|
|Unknown||Munitions factory||During World War II|
|Cleaner||Rovers Return Inn||29th July to 5th August 1964|
|Cleaner||Rovers Return Inn||12th August 1964 to July 1972|
|Assistant||Corner Shop||6th June to summer 1966|
|Clairvoyant||Self-employed||3rd to 12th February 1969|
|Cleaner||Alan Howard's Salon||January 1970 to unknown date|
|Cleaner||Benny Lewis's Betting Shop||July 1972 to unknown date|
|Cleaner||Benny Lewis's flat||July 1972 to unknown date|
|Cleaner||The Capricorn||November to 18th December 1972|
|Cleaner||Rovers Return Inn||December 1972 to December 1987|
|Dishwasher||The Capricorn||December 1972|
|Cleaner||The Monte Umber||May to June 1974|
|Window cleaner (covering for Stan)||Stan Ogden's window round||March to April 1975|
|Dishwasher||Mark Brittain Warehouse canteen||March 1975 to unknown date|
|Cleaner||Baldwin's Casuals||9th May 1977 to 12th June 1978|
|Cleaner||Abbatoir||28th June to 5th July 1978|
|Cleaner||Baldwin's Casuals||5th July 1978 to 8th September 1980|
|Cleaner||9 Coronation Street||12th November 1980 to 14th September 1981|
|Cleaner||46b, St. Mary's Place||14th September 1981 to 16th November 1987|
|Cleaner||Goldenhurst, Oakfield Drive||20th October 1982 to November 1987|
|Housekeeper||Unknown address||December 1987 onwards|