Valerie moved to Coronation Street in 1961 to live with her uncle Albert Tatlock when her parents moved to Glasgow. It was then that she started dating Ken and, despite their different educational backgrounds and outlooks on life, they fell in love and got married in 1962. Peter and Susan were born three years later.
Valerie was a trained hairdresser and before the twins were born, she ran a salon in No.9's front room. She gave up work to be a full-time mother and housewife, but once the twins were a little older, took jobs at the Corner Shop and Alan Howard's salon, where she was head hairdresser. Her marriage to Ken was mostly close and loving, but whenever Ken was caught up in his intellectual interests, he would often ignore Val and the children.
In 1971, the Barlows decided to emigrate to Jamaica as Ken had accepted a teaching job there. On the night before they left, Valerie died from an electric shock when using a faulty electrical outlet in her home.
1942-1962: Early life
Valerie Tatlock was born on 26th November 1942 to Alfred and Edith Tatlock. In the early 1960s, she was close to her uncle Albert Tatlock and sometimes visited him at his home in Coronation Street in Weatherfield.
In 1961, Valerie moved into Albert's house for a few months and immediately caught the eye of Ken Barlow, who lived next door to Albert. They had a date, but Val wasn't as keen as Ken, as she felt that Ken would not be happy with her because he was university-educated and aspired to live above the working-class values which Valerie was comfortable with.
When Ken's mother Ida was killed in September 1961, Val became closer to Ken and they began a relationship. As the pair grew closer, Valerie had to choose between staying in Weatherfield or moving to Glasgow, where her parents had moved so that Alfred could take a job as Station Master. Valerie initially decided to stay in Weatherfield, but left for Glasgow in November of that year, letting Ken down.
The following year, Ken looked Valerie up while in Scotland with the school. He immediately proposed to her and she accepted, with Ken doing his best to alleviate her worry that he was looking for a mother figure to replace Ida. They got married at St. Mary's Parish Church on 4th August 1962, and took their honeymoon in London, which Ken paid for by selling his motorcycle.
1962-1967: Marriage to Ken
The Barlows bought 9 Coronation Street and moved in when they returned from their honeymoon. While Ken taught at Bessie Street School, Val, who had trained as a hairdresser, converted the front room of the house into a salon to earn extra income for the couple.
Married life was not always easy for Valerie. Ken was ambitious and politically minded. He preferred to let Val handle all household chores and their conversations together often concerned subjects which didn't interest her. While Val worried about maintaining the house and their marriage, Ken sometimes made decisions which would make things more difficult but would benefit him - later in 1962, he considered giving up teaching to focus on writing, so that the pair would rely on the money Val was bringing in from the salon. Fortunately he had a change of heart and stayed in teaching.
In 1963, one of Ken's teaching friends, Dave Robbins, became the Barlows' lodger. Ken and Dave put their careers in jeopardy by agreeing to give a TV interview arguing for a school crossing after a pupil was knocked down in Bessie Street. Dave pulled out, leaving Ken to carry the interview alone, leading to Ken losing out on a promotion at the school. Dave, who blamed himself for the child being hit, was comforted by Valerie. As Ken despaired about losing the promotion, he told Valerie that they shouldn't have got married as she didn't really understand him and how much his values meant to him. Valerie decided to leave Ken for Dave but Dave wasn't that interested in Valerie so she ended up begging Ken to take her back, which he did. To help things get back to normal, the pair went on holiday.
In July 1964, Valerie found out she was pregnant. Ken was upset, but later decided he was thrilled by the news. To prepare for the birth, Val closed down the salon and converted it into a nursery. On 5th April 1965, Valerie went into labour and was driven to hospital in Len Fairclough's van. She gave birth to twins - a girl and a boy. The babies were christened at the same church Ken and Val got married in and were named Peter and Susan. Valerie's life changed completely as all her time was spent looking after the twins, while Ken continued with his intellectual pursuits. The Barlows had many friends in the Street and could easily find babysitters, allowing Valerie to attend evening classes in Sociology. In November 1965, while Val was at a class, Ken was looking after the twins but went to the Rovers Return briefly, a piece of coal fell from the fire, filling the house with smoke. Val returned home before Ken and put the fire out, but was outraged that he had left the babies alone while he went out for cigarettes. Val told Ken she would leave him if he ever smoked again. From then on, Ken took on greater responsibility for Valerie and the kids.
1968-1971: Going back to work
In 1968, Val was keen to get a job and thought about reopening the salon, now that the twins were older. Instead, she started working in the Corner Shop for Maggie Clegg. That year also saw a change of address for the Barlows; the Glad Tidings Mission Hall and Elliston's Raincoat Factory across the Street were demolished to make way for a block of Maisonettes. After seeing an artist's impression of the Maisonettes, Valerie told Ken she wanted to move into one, as it had modern conveniences the 66-year-old Number 9 lacked. Ken didn't want to move, and when Valerie responded by making his life a little less comfortable, he accused her of having an affair with builder Ray Langton. Val was innocent, and made him feel guilty by reminding him of an affair he had with Jackie Marsh in 1966. Ken relented and the Barlows moved into No.14, a two-storey flat.
Shortly after the family moved in, convict Frank Riley held Val at gunpoint while Ken was away. Valerie called for help by tapping an SOS on the pipes under the sink in the kitchen, with it fortunately being overheard by Ena Sharples, who found help. Riley, a convicted rapist, had demanded money and sex from Valerie, but was caught by the police before he got the chance. After it was over, Valerie told the police and Ken that Riley hadn't touched her, but Ken refused to believe her. The couple almost separated over it.
In 1969, Val's mother Edith stayed with the Barlows, and tried to convince them to leave Weatherfield. When Edith took the twins out to the fair, she lost them, but they were found by an elderly woman who had taken them in and not contacted the family.
Later that year, Alan Howard offered Valerie a job as head hairdresser at a new salon, at £14 a week. Ken was against Valerie working full-time as he earned enough money for them but he didn't stand in the way of her accepting the job.
At the salon, Val fought for superiority with manageress Elsie Tanner, but their working relationship was eased by the fact that they were friends. In 1970, the salon was bought by Dave Smith, who initiated a wave of changes at the salon, offering Valerie a pay rise but sacking other staff. Val walked out along with the remaining staff members, convincing Smith to reinstate everybody
Later that year, Ray Langton taught Valerie to drive while Ken was away on holiday. When he returned, he received a letter warning him about Val and Ray. It transpired that Emily Nugent had written it, but she realised she was wrong and apologised.
In the new year, Ken was offered a teaching position in Jamaica and Val agreed to emigrate. The residents of Coronation Street threw the pair a going-away party in the Rovers. Val was late getting ready, so while the party went on in the Rovers, Valerie tried to hurriedly get her hair dried. She tried to fix the plug to her hairdryer by tightening it with a screwdriver. Knowing it was still shoddy, she attempted to use it anyway. Val plugged it in and was given a severe electric shock which killed her instantly. As she fell to the floor, she knocked a portable heater into a packing crate and started a blaze. By the time rescue came, it was too late for Valerie. The street watched in horror as the maisonette burned.
Valerie was a popular member of the community; she was friendly, reliable, caring, and unlike some of her neighbours, respectful of other people's privacy and didn't engage in gossiping. After marrying, Valerie settled into a housewife role but while she had dreams and ambitions she always considered the practicalities first, even though it usually meant ruling out whatever she had in mind as the task of bringing up two children was massive.
In her relationships, Valerie was patient and slow to anger, usually lashing out only when hurt. Most of the time, the limit of Val's anger was a sarcastic comment to bring her opponent down to size.
- Main article: Tatlock family
Valerie was an only child. Her parents, Alfred and Edith Tatlock, did not visit Weatherfield often even though Alfred used to live there with his brother Albert. When Ken and Val married in 1962, Val's parents didn't attend as Edith was ill. In 1969, Edith paid an extended visit to the town and stayed with the Barlows. Val found it difficult to cope with Edith's interference with the house and the twins - Edith thought they were too misbehaved and tried to convince Ken and Val to move. After Val's death in 1971, Edith seriously considered applying for custody of Peter and Susan but decided not to for Ken's sake. Eventually, Ken sent them to live with Edith in Scotland anyway, and Edith and Alfred were most responsible for raising them.
A more regular presence in Val's life was her uncle Albert Tatlock. Although Val bore the brunt of Albert's grumbling, he had a soft spot for her and enjoyed being part of a close-knit family. When he stayed with the Barlows in 1967, Valerie grew exhausted tending to the twins and Albert, and was on the verge of telling Albert to leave when she discovered that he'd already left of his own free will and bought her flowers - a massive gesture from the old curmudgeon. After Val's death, Albert took an interest in Ken's love life, although Ken ended up accusing him of screening his girlfriends as only "another Valerie Tatlock" would be good enough for him, an accusation Albert didn't deny. Albert was such a fixture in the Barlows' lives that even Ken started referring to him as "Uncle Albert" after a while.
Val met Ken when he was a recent University graduate. At that time, his future in Coronation Street was uncertain; on the day he met Val, Ken had applied for for a teaching job in Surrey, which he was subsequently offered, but he turned it down to remain with his dad after his mother Ida's death. He was immediately drawn to Val, and took her on their first date to a Tchaikovsky concert.
Although Val wasn't academic like Ken's previous girlfriends, she was intelligent, practical, and - essential for a successful relationship with Ken - a good listener. In fact, she possessed these qualities more than Ken, who, once they were married, was forever pondering intellectual and political issues while being ignorant of troubles closer to home. Val always soldiered on, waiting for Ken to come off his high horse, although there were occasions where things became too much for her, such as when she left Ken for Dave Robbins in 1964. In 1966, Ken had a fling with reporter Jackie Marsh and was ready to leave Val for her, until he realised how lucky he was to have a stay-at-home mother and housewife who afforded him so much independence. Val briefly left him and returned to Glasgow with the kids, but returned when he phoned her and convinced her to return, intending to be a more devoted husband from then on.
The following year, Ken was arrested for attending an anti-Vietnam demonstration and chose to go to prison rather than admitting he was wrong by paying a £5 fine. Ken's principles were very important to him, but Valerie was disappointed that he chose his principles over his family, leaving Val to take care of the kids herself for a week. Valerie had considered paying the fine behind Ken's back, but couldn't bring herself to betray him.
However, these incidents were the exception and most of the time Ken and Val were a very close and loving young couple. After Val's death, Ken couldn't cope with raising Peter and Susan by himself and for a short time tried to find a new mother for them. Less than a year later, he sent them to live with Val's parents in Glasgow.
Valerie's closest friend on the Street was Elsie Tanner, who she would often go to vent her frustrations with Ken. Elsie was more worldly than Val, and more clued up on how "fellas" behaved, so they got on well.
In 1963, Elsie thought Val had reported her for taking in Christine Hardman as a lodger, but Valerie was innocent (in fact it was Christine herself who had made the inquiry). When Elsie was getting married to Steve Tanner in 1967, Valerie warned him about messing Elsie about. When Steve was murdered the following year, Elsie used Val as her alibi - the police found out she had lied, and Elsie apologised for using Valerie. When Val died in 1971, Elsie was ill with the flu and had to miss the funeral.
Valerie was also friends with Irma Barlow, Ken's brother David's wife. Being married to the Barlow brothers gave them a sort of kindship, even though they weren't very alike. In 1967, they swapped places for a week, with Irma looking after the children and Valerie tending to the Corner Shop. Both were annoyed that their husbands had been unusually helpful that week while they were away.
- When the locals elected a local councillor in 1966, Valerie voted for Annie Walker.
- When Susan was killed in a car crash in 2001, she was buried next to Valerie.
- In 1966, Ena Sharples taught Val to play the piano.
- It was Valerie's idea to have a fancy dress party in the Glad Tidings Mission Hall on Boxing Day 1966. At the party, Val dressed up as Nell Gwyn.
Anne Reid was a RADA-trained actress with a growing list of theatre and television credits when she joined the cast of Coronation Street in summer 1961. Although she had never met William Roache, Reid knew of him from their days at brother and sister schools in North Wales. She made her on-screen debut as Valerie in Episode 68 on 7th August 1961.
In October of that year, Valerie announced her intention to stay in Weatherfield rather than move with her parents to Glasgow but on 1st November Equity came out on strike against ITV, preventing any appearances by Anne Reid in Coronation Street until further notice. As she had come to the end of her contract, Reid departed immediately and scripts were rewritten with the effect that Valerie had gone to Glasgow after all. When the strike ended in April the following year, a wedding between Ken and Val was planned, and Anne Reid returned to the programme with Episode 164 on 9th July 1962, now a full-time character. Having enjoyed her previous stint, Reid was happy to return: "It was wonderful, I was just thrilled to pieces. It was security and a lovely part and Bill and I got on terribly well." (The Coronation Street Story, Boxtree Ltd, 1995)
In 1964, Ken and Val were set to emigrate to Australia, a decision taken by producer Tim Aspinall as part of his controversial cast shake-up, however they were saved when Aspinall's replacement, H.V. Kershaw, gave them a reprieve.
After nine years playing Valerie, Anne Reid quit the role in 1970, and asked that Val be killed off as she had no intention of ever returning. The end credits of Val's final episode roll are displayed against a video sequence of the flames licking at a teddy bear, but the original intention was for Val's lifeless body to be shown as flames engulfed the Maisonette. Of the change, Anne Reid recalled: "They put this newspaper round me and they set fire to it. And I lay there and kept thinking keep your eyes closed. They I got nervous and I got up as I could feel my arm getting hot. It was probably quite safe but I couldn't lay there with all those flames." (The Coronation Street Story)
First and last lines
"Look, give me about half an hour. Well, twenty minutes, I'll be fit to be seen. Yes well you're my husband so it's a bit different. That's a bit cheeky, even for you. Soon as I can, bye." (Final line, on the phone to Ken)