For 50 years it has been a fictional landmark and a fixture on television. Now Coronation Street will be dug up and shipped, cobble-by-cobble (there are 11,101 well-worn bricks, in case you wondered) across the Manchester Ship Canal to a new location.
ITV confirmed yesterday that it will move the soap's production – and its famous set, which bears the footprints of actors including Joanna Lumley, Ian McKellen and Anna Friel – from the central Manchester Studios to the new MediaCityUK development site in Salford by 2012.
For many years filmed on stages that were originally intended for indoor bowling and boxing, Corrie has struggled to keep up in an era of high-definition TV.
The soap, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last week with a ratings-winning tram disaster shown in live episodes, has already had to make changes to its external set, which was opened by the Queen almost 30 years ago. Plastic bricks were replaced with the real thing, the chimney stacks were rebuilt using fibre glass and sets were re-painted. In preparation for the first episode filmed in HD, last May, the production team dutifully replaced artificial food served in Roy's Rolls with real fare, toned down the cast's jewellery and even produced their own gossip magazine, Chit-Chat, in case titles were spotted by eagle-eyed viewers, thanks to the increased resolution.
For the show's executive producer, Kieran Roberts, the Street's move is an essential step in ensuring that the institution of Coronation Street remains up-to-date.
"It is really important we don't get overly nostalgic and keep looking backwards, because if do that then we might as well say bye to Coronation Street," he said. "Studio space is getting very cramped and we have moved from broadcasting two episodes a week, when the show started, to the five that air now."
In some ways Coronation Street is coming home. The show's original title sequence was filmed on Archie Street in Salford and Salford Quays is to be the base for a new BBC development which will house the Corporation's sports operation, as well as Radio 5 Live and children's programming.
The director of BBC North, Peter Salmon, who oversaw the production of Coronation Street in the 1990s for Granada, said: "We would like to offer a warm BBC welcome to our colleagues at ITV. Their decision to move adds greater momentum as we prepare to open our doors for business next year at our new home at Salford."
ITV said it had not yet decided what to do with the Quay Street base in Manchester, which should be emptied by 2013. The move still has to be agreed by Trafford Council planners.