Fifty things you didn't know about The Street

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7,486 episodes, 39 births, 114 deaths – life in Weatherfield is never dull. Brian Viner wishes our most enduring soap a happy 50th


1 Let's get the name straight: only fans call the show Corrie. For the actors it has always been the Street.

2 "A fascinating freemasonry, a volume of unwritten rules. These are the driving forces behind life in a working-class street in the North of England. The purpose of Florizel Street is to examine a community of this nature, and to entertain." This was the memo sent to Granada chief Cecil Bernstein suggesting a new drama serial.

3 Florizel Street was ditched as the possible name when someone said they thought Florizel sounded like a disinfectant.

4 Tony Warren, who dreamt up the serial, has said that only a gay man could have created Coronation Street. As an effeminate child, confused by his sexuality, he had intently studied the way men and women ticked.

5 Ena Sharples was modelled on Warren's grandmother.

6 Warren later fell out with ITV. In his words he became "persona non Granada" and his name was removed from the credits. It's back now.

7 Deaths outnumber births by almost three-to-one: 114 to 39.

8 Only seven episodes had passed before the first death – May Hardman, who lived at No 13.

9 There have been twice as many murders (14) as suicides.

10 The first Coronation Street baby was Elsie Tanner's grandson Paul Cheveski, born in June 1961.

11 There have been about two weddings a year: 88 in all.

12 Gail McIntyre (Helen Worth) has been the bride at five of them.

13 Gail lost her virginity in the stockroom at Sylvia's Separates.

14 Only Ken Barlow (Bill Roache) survives from the very first episode. The actor is 78, seven years older than his character.

15 Ken uttered the show's first expletive, saying "bloody" in 1961. ITV received 83 complaints.

16 Ken's son Peter has been played by more actors than any other character: seven. One of them was Roache's own son Linus.

17 Another was my old schoolfriend David Lonsdale, better known as Heartbeat's village idiot, David Stockwell.

18 There have been 51 barmaids at the Rovers Return. The most enduring is Betty Williams, previously Turpin, played by 90-year-old Betty Driver.

19 Betty's hotpot is justly famous, but in real life Driver can't cook.

20 After Roache, Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Bishop) is the longest-serving cast member. She made her debut in January 1961.

21 Emily lost her virginity to a Hungarian demolition expert.

22 Tonight's live episode will be the 7,487th.

23 The most-watched episode, by 26.6 million of us, was the one on Christmas Day 1987 in which Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) left.

24 The show has been exported to more than 40 countries, among them Morocco, Estonia and Taiwan.

25 Some actors contribute their own props. Roy Cropper's shopping bag used to belong to actor David Neilson's mum.

26 Celebrity fans included Sir John Betjeman, who likened it to Dickens's The Pickwick Papers.

27 For Cheryl Cole it is part of what "makes me tick" along with her family and her dogs.

28 Cilla Black recalls watching the inaugural episode. Her dad was in the front room mending a puncture on his bike at the time.

29 Cliff Richard gave up lunch for ever in 1964 after he was shocked to hear Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) referring to him as "chubby".

30 Including Minnie's beloved cat, Bobby, there have been 50 pets.

31 Joanna Lumley played Ken Barlow's girlfriend Elaine Perkins, in 1973.

32 Rob James-Collier, who played Liam Connor (murdered in 2008), is now more celebrated as Downton Abbey's scheming footman, Thomas.

33 The former Hear'Say singer Kym Marsh, who plays Michelle Connor, forms part of a surprisingly long tradition. In the 1960s Davy Jones, later of The Monkees, played Ena Sharples's grandson Colin Lomax, and Len Fairclough's son Stanley was played by Peter Noone, later Herman of Herman's Hermits.

34 The famous theme tune was written by Eric Spear, who died in 1966. He was paid £6.

35 November 3, 1969, was a momentous day: the first colour episode.

36 Alfred Hitchcock visited the set once. So did Dustin Hoffman.

37 No fewer than five couples have married each other twice. They are Brian and Gail Tilsley, Jim and Liz McDonald, Kevin and Sally Webster, Steve and Karen McDonald, and Ken and Deirdre Barlow.

38 Originally, the serial aired twice a week. A third weekly episode was added in 1989, a fourth in 1996 and a fifth in 2002.

39 Notable writers have included Jack "Bar Mitzvah Boy" Rosenthal, Paul "Shameless" Abbot, and Jimmy "Cracker" McGovern.

40 Notable directors have included Mike "Harry Potter'"Newell.

41 Twice there have been episodes featuring just two characters: Curly and Raquel Watts, in 2000, and Tracy and Deirdre Barlow, in 2007.

42 The late father of Sue Nicholls, who plays Audrey Roberts, was Lord Harmar-Nicholls, Tory MP for Peterborough between 1950 and 1974.

43 Her partner is Mark Eden, who played villainous Alan Bradley until the character met a sorry end on Blackpool promenade in what, until this week, was Coronation Street's most famous instance of death by tram.

44 Jack and Vera Duckworth enjoyed, sometimes endured, The Street's longest marriage, celebrating their golden wedding anniversary shortly before Vera's death in January 2008.

45 The shortest marriage – between Mike Baldwin and Jackie Ingram – lasted just seven days, in 1991.

46 Tony Blair cashed in on the interest in a 1998 storyline involving the wrongful conviction of Deirdre Rachid, the so-called Weatherfield One. He said he'd ask Home Secretary Jack Straw to look into the case.

47 Almost £1m was spent on staging Monday's tram disaster.

48 There have been seven overseas shoots. The first was in Majorca in 1974.

49 The last live episode was in December 2000 to mark the 40th anniversary. It featured a pre-recorded cameo by the Prince of Wales.

50 Coronation Street was conceived because 23-year-old Warren was fed up writing Biggles scripts. He climbed on to his boss's filing cabinet, refusing to come down until he was allowed to write about a subject closer to his heart!

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