The Barnes were the first owners of 6 Coronation Street after it was built in 1990, getting it at cost from Steph's father who was the builder behind the redevelopment. They were a modern couple who shared chores equally and fell out constantly. After less than two years of marriage, Steph left Des for architect Simon Beatty and in 1994 they were divorced. When she last saw Des, Steph was heavily pregnant with her ex-boyfriend Chris Fox's baby.
1965-1990: Early life
When she was twenty-four in 1989, Steph met her future husband Desmond Barnes at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. Steph was in the Oval Bar with her parents when Des came in with two of his drinking buddies and bumped into her, causing Steph to spill her cocktail down her dress. Des tried using his natural charm to diffuse the situation and offered Steph a replacement drink, which she accepted, requesting a pint of lager which she promptly emptied over his head.
The two left an indelible impression on each other, and two months later they were married. As a wedding present, Maurice sold the newly built 6 Coronation Street to the couple at cost price. The house was part of Jones's Coronation Street development and the Barnes were the first of the new residents to move in. When they arrived in the Street on 12th February 1990, their wedding night, the newlyweds were already arguing over the fact that they were beholden to Steph's father, who Des considered a toerag. When Des carried Steph over the threshold, he banged her head against the door, leading Steph to lock it behind her leaving her new husband out in the cold.
1990-1991: A modern marriage
The Barnes spent their honeymoon in Majorca after which they began settling into the Street. Steph worked at the perfume counter at Ashcroft Department Store, and Des as a bookie's clerk at Franklins Bookmakers. They had a give-and-take marriage and didn't live out of each other's pockets, with both doing an equal share of the cooking and cleaning. They also shared a devilish sense of humour; when Steph flirted with Kevin Webster for a laugh, making him scared of her, Des bet her that she couldn't shave off his moustache. Steph won the bet by throwing a house-warming party and luring Kevin upstairs and going at him with scissors. Des then had to keep up his end of the bargain by going into the Rovers Return without his trousers on.
Later that year, Steph and Jenny Bradley got evening jobs as Newton & Ridley promotions girls for £20 a night, touring local hotels and pubs promoting Pomme de Lite, the brewery's new cider. One of the venues on the tour was the Rovers, Des filled the pub with mates to embarrass Steph, who hit back by flirting with the customers and doing a strip tease. Steph was prepared to give up the job for Des, but when the brewery's promotions manager Clive Parnell was sacked for groping the girls, she filled the vacancy for a few months before packing it in.
In February 1991, Des went to the boat show and purchased an old white cabin cruiser for £500, planning to do it up in the back garden. He spent all of his spare time working on the boat, neglecting the housework and Steph, who refused to do his share. To make him see that he was obsessed, Steph booked a skiing holiday in Italy for herself and spent £500 on skiwear and equipment, but stubborn Des played along by pretending that going on holiday alone was a good idea. A power struggle emerged with both of them digging their heels in. During one argument, Steph threw the clean crockery to Des for him to dry, only for Des to let it all fall and smash. Des was confident that Steph wouldn't get on the plane, particularly after she fell off the boat and broke her ankle, but determined not to let him win Steph did just that.
At the resort, Steph encountered her old boss Clive Parnell, who was holidaying at the same location. As Steph was on her own, Clive fancied his chances with her and Steph spent most of the holiday fending him off, with little success. Although nothing happened between them, Clive was all over Steph's holiday photos and wrote his phone number on her flight ticket as well as a message on her plaster reading “Rome was not built in a day. But Steph was laid flat in two nights. None shall sleep.” When Des translated the Italian back home, he suspected that Steph had cheated on him, which became a certainty after he had Steph's photos developed behind her back and recognised Clive in them. However, Steph was able to convince him that he was mistaken. Using the number on the ticket, Des set up a meeting with Clive at The Gallery to thump him, which Steph heard about from Jack Duckworth in time to save Des from Clive, who was a skilled fighter.
To resolve their spat about the chores, Des hired Phyllis Pearce to clean No.6, an arrangement which Steph made permanent upon her return from holiday.
In July, architect Simon Beatty commenced work on a warehouse next door to Steph's work. He would often come into the store to flirt with Steph, which she enjoyed; the mature professional made Des and his boat seem like child's play. Eventually Simon asked her out, to which she said "no", but when Des went gambling instead of taking her out, Steph called Simon and arranged a date. An affair began and Steph drifted away from Des, finding Simon more stimulating company.
While on a date, Steph and Simon were seen kissing by her next-door neighbour Derek Wilton. Steph wasn't ready for Des to know the truth and asked Derek to keep what he'd seen to himself. Although he and Mavis didn't tell Des, they made such nuisances of themselves lecturing Steph on her infidelity that Des warned Derek to stop pestering his wife, leading Mavis to blow Steph's secret in Derek's defence. Steph had already made up her mind to leave Des, wanting a full relationship with Simon, but had to postpone her plans when Simon was sent to Swansea for a week for work.
By August, the boat was ready for its maiden voyage and Des planned an outing to the Bridgewater Canal with Steph, Martin Platt, Gail Tilsley, Sarah Louise and David to launch the vessel. Steph tried to feign enthusiasm but Des's obsession with the boat got on her nerves and they ended up sniping at each other. Des had given his wife the benefit of the doubt and ignored Mavis's accusation, but her hostile attitude exacerbated his doubts, leading him to confront and demand the truth. Glad not to have to pretend any more, Steph admitted that she was having an affair and was leaving him. Their very public row embarrassed the Tilsleys, who immediately ordered a taxi home. Steph hitched a ride with the family, leaving Des alone with his boat.
Steph was all set to move into Simon's flat, but when Des didn't return home from the canal voyage, she stayed on until she knew that he was okay. Eventually a despondent Des phoned Steph and asked her to meet him at the boat, giving her his location. When she arrived, Des made her confirm that they were definitely finished before dousing the boat in petrol and setting it alight. Steph thought for a minute that Des had killed himself, but in fact it was a symbolic gesture marking the demise of their marriage.
Des made one last attempt to stop Steph from leaving him by slashing her suitcases, but Steph moved out regardless, meeting Simon at Piccadilly Station as his train came in from Swansea. She returned a week later to pick up her clothes. When Phyllis saw her, she raced to inform Des, who made it home in time to catch her. Accepting that Steph couldn't be talked round, Des told his wife that she was welcome to come back anytime.
1992-1995: Reunions with Des
Over time, Simon grew jealous and possessive and in April 1992 Steph left him for another man. In order to avoid a messy break-up, she told Simon that there was nobody else and the relationship had just run its course. To throw Simon off the scent, Steph turned up at Des's door, asking if she could stay in the spare room for a few nights. Staying with Des made sense as Simon knew that Steph would never reconcile with him so she could use it as a refuge until the dust settled. However, her arrival sent out the wrong message to Des, who was eager for a reconciliation and let his current girlfriend Raquel Wolstenhulme walk out on him after he sided with Steph against her in an argument. When Steph saw that Des was getting his hopes up, she confessed that she had a new boyfriend, breaking his heart again.
A year later, the Barnes initiated divorce proceedings and they received their decree nisis in December 1993. Nearly two years after this, while taking his late girlfriend Lisa's son Tommy out on Tommy's birthday, Des bumped into Steph who was working at a fast food outlet. Steph was also heavily pregnant but she and the father Chris Fox were no longer in a relationship and she was living in a grotty bedsit, much to Des's horror. Des helped Steph find a flat and paid £500 as a deposit for her. Steph asked Des if he wanted to start again but Des didn't love her any more and wanted to leave her in the past.
Steph was a vivacious young woman who was just setting out on married life when she moved to Coronation Street in 1990. Unlike the other women in the Street, Steph shared the cooking and cleaning equally with her husband and refused to be dependent on him. She treated their arguments like battles, and if Des tried to take liberties, surrender wasn't an option; in 1991, what started out as Des ducking out of his household chores escalated into a full-blown marriage crisis because of both parties' stubbornness.
Rows were the Barnes' bread-and-butter, with the couple perpetually falling out or making up. On the flip side, they had the same sense of humour and both liked practical jokes. When she saw Vera Duckworth smash No.4's window with a piece of stone cladding, Steph hired a strip-o-gram dressed as a policeman to sing a telegram to Vera on the Duckworths wedding anniversary. She also shaved off Kevin Webster's moustache to win a bet with Des soon after moving into the Street.
Steph was briefly the recipient of young Steve McDonald's affections. When Steve fell out with Jim and Liz, as a thank-you for helping out with the boat Steph put him up in No.6's spare room. She regretted this when she realised that Steve had a crush on her and was accused by Liz of egging Steve on for a laugh. Not wanting to hurt Steve's feelings, Steph invented a reason for him to have to leave and stamped out Phyllis Pearce's gossipmongering when she let it be known that Steve had stolen Steph's silk scarf as a love token.
When Coronation Street started going out three times a week in October 1989, the cast grew accordingly and new houses and shop units were built on the south side of the Street to accommodate this expansion. The arrival of Des and Steph Barnes in February 1990 ushered in the modern side of the street.
The Barnes were conceived by producer Mervyn Watson as a young, upwardly mobile couple who would bring something new to the programme, as he explained in The Coronation Street Story (Daran Little, 1995): "We wanted something that would catch the eye of the audience. A couple with loads of money and values that had grown out of the Thatcher years. We wanted them to make an immediate impact as soon as they arrived and we talked up this couple - young, flashy, exciting, lively characters."
Steph was initially credited under her full name of "Stephanie Barnes". The change to "Steph Barnes" was made with Episode 3237 on 10th June 1991. In her second month in the programme, Steph shaved off Kevin Webster's moustache, resulting in a viewer backlash. Amelia Bullmore: "At that point, nobody had any reason to like me. I came in an impostor, taking up time from other characters. Nobody had any loyalty to Steph because she'd only been in the programme five minutes, and then she defaces one of its institutions. I got a terrible response" (The Coronation Street Story). About the Barnes' contribution to the programme: "They're a great couple. They really stir things up and they certainly know how to have a good time!" (Life in the Street, Graeme Kay, 1991)
First and last lines
"Yer smashed that door. Yer out of yer box!" (first line, to husband Des)
"Did you love her?" (Final line, to Des about Lisa Duckworth)
List of addresses
|6 Coronation Street||12th February 1990 to 23rd August 1991|
|Simon Beatty's flat||23rd August 1991 to April 1992|
|Bedsit||Unknown date to 4th October 1995|
|Flat||4th October 1995 onwards|
|Perfume counter assistant||Ashcroft Department Store||Unknown|
|Promotions girl||Newton & Ridley||28th November to 17th December 1990|
|Promotions manager||Newton & Ridley||17th December 1990 to unknown date in 1991|
|Waitress||Fast food restaurant||Unknown|