Coronation Street actress Maggie Jones, who played sharp-tongued Blanche Hunt, has died at the age of 75.
The much-loved star, who first appeared in the show 35 years ago, died this morning in hospital.
Jones was forced to pull out of filming on the ITV1 soap in October after being admitted to hospital for major surgery.
She won several comedy awards for playing Blanche, although she only became a regular cast member in 1999 after numerous occasional appearances.
A publicist for the show confirmed her death today and said she had died at the Salford Royal Hospital.
The spokeswoman said: "Maggie had been making a slow recovery but her condition deteriorated early Wednesday morning and she passed away peacefully in her sleep."
Long-standing Coronation Street star William Roache (Ken Barlow) led the tributes to his late colleague.
He said: "Maggie was a big part of the Barlow family and a brilliant actress.
"She was a tower of strength, physically frail but mentally strong as an ox and sharp as someone half her age.
"She had an amazing dry wit and was as funny if not funnier than Blanche. We were great crossword partners, we sat through Tracy's trial scenes doing the crossword together."
He added: "I don't think Maggie ever realised how much she was loved not only by everyone on the show but by the millions of Blanche fans out there. She will be greatly missed."
Details of the actress's funeral arrangements have yet to be made.
Jones appeared in more than 830 episodes of Coronation Street.
Programme bosses wrote her character out of the show to allow her to recover from her illness and producer Kim Crowther had recently spoken of how they were looking forward to her return.
Jones made her TV debut on the show in the early 1960s as a policewoman, and later returned as a shoplifter.
More than a decade later she was back to play Blanche, the second actress to take the role following the death of Patricia Cutts.
The soap's executive producer, Kieran Roberts, said: "Maggie was a much-loved colleague and a wonderful actress who turned Blanche into a true Coronation Street icon.
"She will be hugely missed by Coronation Street's many millions of viewers and by everyone who works on Coronation Street. Our thoughts and prayers go to Maggie's sister, Joan, at this very sad time."
The actress's agent, Katie Threlfall, said: "Maggie was a rare treasure - incredibly kind, honest and loved by so many. It has been such a privilege to work with her, and we will miss her dearly."
Jones trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (Rada), and her work outside Coronation Street saw her take roles in West End productions of The Women and Pride And Prejudice.
Her TV work also included The Barchester Chronicles, The Beiderbecke Tapes, Sharon And Elsie, We'll Think Of Something and The Nesbitts Are Coming.
Among her numerous awards were best comedy performance at the British Soap Awards in 2005 and 2008, and funniest performance at this year's Inside Soap Awards.
Jones was widowed in 1999 after 28 years of marriage, when her husband, John Oliver Stansfield, died aged 72.Reuse content