IT was 60 years ago tonight that the first episode of Coronation Street was broadcast from Granada TV in Manchester.

The show spawned many soap stars, but none as popular as sharp-tongued Hilda Ogden.

The character was played by Jean Alexander, who lived in Southport but was a regular visitor to Burn, near Selby, where her niece Sonia lives.

She was the first in a string of celebrities and VIPs to switch on the village’s Christmas lights and was honorary mayoress until her death.

Jean - who died four years ago at the age of 90 - played the pinny-wearing charlady of the Rovers Return, often complete with a set of rollers in her hair, for 23 years.

York Press:

Jean Alexander as Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street in 1977

Viewers tuned in in their millions to watch her wage a constant campaign to force an honest day’s work out of her feckless, boozy husband Stan, who was played by Bernard Youens.

The inside of their house, complete with an alpine scene painted on one wall which Hilda fondly referred to as her “muriel” and a set of flying ducks, became one of The Street’s most enduring sights.

Her nagging of the bone-idle Stan in a voice once described as sounding like “glass breaking” made her a favourite target of impressionists until she quit the show in 1987.

Almost 20 years after that, she was still so fondly remembered that she was voted the nation’s favourite soap star.

Born in Toxteth, Liverpool, she started her acting career in 1949 and made her television debut in the police series Z-Cars.

She first appeared in Coronation Street in 1961 as landlady Mrs Webb, returning three years later as Hilda, and went on to win a Royal Television Society Award in 1985 for the role.

She also played Aunty Wainwright, the money-grabbing local junk shop owner, on the long-running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine, from 1988 to 2010.

Jean announced her retirement in 2012, two years after her last television appearance, following an acting career which lasted more than 60 years.

She was a well-known figure in the village of Burn.

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Jean Alexander at Christmas celebrations in the village of Burn

After her death in October 2016, locals paid tribute to their famous visitor and a flag flew at half mast in the village.

Her niece, Sonia Hearld, of Burn, said at the time: "She was a wonderful person but very private and determined. From a young age she set her heart on being a successful actress and she succeeded. She was married to her career.

“But she never regarded herself as a star and always treated her fans with respect because she said without them she would be nobody.

“In private, she had a wicked sense of humour and we could always have a good chuckle. I remember as a very young girl watching her get ready to go out with friends and she was so glamorous with her silk stockings and rustling petticoats. And sometimes she would let me wear her high heels to totter about in."

Jean switched on the Christmas lights in Burn in 2008 and was known as the Honorary Mayoress of the village.

Following her death, Burn Parish Council's vice chairman Phil Storr said she was a big favourite in the village pub, The Wheatsheaf, where her picture was proudly displayed on the pub’s Wall of Fame.

"She will be sorely missed at our village events," he added.

York Press:

Jean Alexander at The Wheatsheaf pub in Burn

John Whiston, creative director at ITV Studios, said at the time of her death: "Everyone who loves what is special about Coronation Street will know how sad it is to hear that Jean Alexander has died.

"Hilda Ogden was the earthy heart of the show for very many years, and the brilliance of Jean as an actor was that she could shift from high comedy to deeply emotional and moving drama in a heartbeat.

"That takes real skill and real acting but also real humanity. That is what the world has lost with her passing."