Martha Longhurst (née Hartley) was a resident of Mawdsley Street from 1919 to 1964 and worked as a cleaner at the Rovers Return Inn in Coronation Street. A widow by 1960, Martha spent most of her evenings gossiping with friends Ena Sharples and Minnie Caldwell in the Rovers' snug. Unlike Ena and Minnie, Martha was open to finding love again and rekindled a fifty-year romance with Ted Ashley in 1964, always hoping for something to enjoy in her retirement. Just as Martha finally got a chance to go abroad for the first time, she died of a heart attack in the Rovers snug on 13th May 1964.
Martha Hartley was born in 1899. In her youth, she enjoyed a flirtation with Handel Gartside and she was also involved with Ted Ashley before he left to make his fortune in Australia. Martha eventually married Percy Longhurst on 18th May 1919, and went on to have a daughter, Lily, and a son, Harold. Martha was especially proud of Lily and her son-in-law Wilf, and often spoke of them to her friends. Constantly referring to the conspicuous success of her son-in-law, Martha was cut down to size when Ena Sharples said Wilf earned so much by working nights.
Martha was a fellow denizen of the snug of the Rovers Return Inn along with Ena Sharples and Minnie Caldwell. She lived at 7 Mawdsley Street and was employed as a cleaner at the Rovers, and also briefly as caretaker at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall. More likely to speak her mind openly to Ena than Minnie, she was often criticised for her continuous references to Lily.
During the Blitz, Martha's home was bombed. Percy and Ena feared she was dead. The panic was destroyed when Martha walked over and in her usual tone questioned.. "What, you cryin' bout..here, where's me house?". Martha and Percy moved into 13 Coronation Street until the house was rebuilt.
Martha fell out with her friend Ena, when in late 1960 she was asked to temporarily take over Ena's job as caretaker at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall. Ena thought that Martha was taking the opportunity provided by Ena's hospitalisation to steal her job. Her friendship with Ena was often fractious, and when Ena moved in with Martha after being sacked from the mission and subsequently evicted from her home in the Vestry, Martha was driven to write to an Agony Aunt seeking advice. Discussing the situation with Minnie she was shocked to find that Minnie had deliberately let Martha take Ena in so that Minnie wouldn't have to cope with her twenty-four hours a day.
Martha collected the pensions of Ena and Minnie for them on a regular basis and this was to lead to trouble when, in 1963, she lost Ena's pension book. In 1963 she became cleaner of the Rovers Return, and also worked in a similar capacity at the Viaduct Street Social Club.
In 1964, romance entered Martha's life when Ted Ashley returned from Australia for the first time in fifty years. Hoping to continue the romance of her youth, Martha followed Ted to London, hoping that he would propose. Unfortunately she had misread Ted's intentions and came back to Weatherfield disappointed.
Martha spent her last days daydreaming of a holiday in the sun. When invited to go on holiday abroad to help look after her grandchildren, Martha bought her first passport and proudly showed it off to anyone who showed the slightest interest. It was during a singsong at a party in the Rovers thrown by Frank Barlow that she became ill, un-noticed by anyone else. Dying of a heart attack alone in the snug, she was eventually spotted by Myra Booth who thought she had fallen asleep. Her friends were stunned to discover that she was dead.
- Martha was often critical of the ways of the younger generation and was responsible for Len Fairclough getting the sack from his job at Birtwistles. She had complained about him spending too much time with Elsie Tanner, despite him being a married man.
- As Ena and Minnie went on living in Coronation Street for several more years, Martha was referred to on several occasions. In 1969, when many Street residents went on a coach trip to the Lakes, Minnie wept as she told Ena how much Martha would have loved to have been there. In 1970, Handel Gartside returned to Weatherfield and was saddened to discover that Martha had passed away. In 1979, Ena spoke of Martha on the anniversary of her death. Martha was mentioned again by Jed Stone in 2008 when he returned to Weatherfield.
- In 1975, the Rovers was assumed to be haunted when barmaid Betty Turpin believed she had seen Martha's ghost, as well as heard her voice in the snug. Betty and Annie Walker were shocked when what appeared to be Martha's glasses were found on the bar, but the mystery was solved when a customer claimed them. This was referenced again almost forty years later, on 2nd September 2011, when Dennis Tanner joked that a mysterious voice Roy Cropper could hear was "Martha Longhurst's ghost". The noise was actually caused by Leon Southam who was locked in the butchers fridge next door.
- The trio of Ena, Minnie and Martha were very popular with viewers, and Producer Tim Aspinall's decision to kill off Martha was controversial. Actress Violet Carson (Ena) almost refused to participate in her final scenes and after the episode was transmitted, mourning viewers sent flowers to the Granada Television studios and writer H.V. Kershaw later wrote condemning the decision as ratings ploy.
- In the 1998 video The Women of Coronation Street, Betty Turpin and Hilda Ogden reminisce about Martha Longhurst even though both characters joined after Martha left. Hilda was Martha's successor as cleaner at the Rovers.
"Evenin'. 'Ave you got a packet of crisps?" (First line, to Annie Walker)
"Can I 'ave a large sherry?" (Final line, to Concepta Hewitt)
|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|