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Ena Sharples was one of the original characters of the long-running British soap opera, Coronation Streetmarker and her name became a byword for a "battle axe" woman. This has caused battle axe personalities to appear more in soaps, such as Hilda Ogden, Blanche Hunt, Vera Duckworth, Lou Beale, Pauline Fowler and Annie Sugden

Sharples (Violet Carson), who appeared in the series between 1960 and 1980, was the caretaker of the mission hall, and spent much of her time criticising the activities of the street's other inhabitants. She was one of the main characters during the 1960s, she was featured less regularly in the 1970s, and was written out in 1980. Almost always wearing a double-breasted coat and hairnet, she spent much of her free time in the series' early years with her two cronies, Martha Longhurst and Minnie Caldwell, in the snug bar of the Rovers Return Inn, drinking milk stout.

When the final episode featuring Sharples was screened, it attracted little media or public attention as the producers intended her to continue in the series, as the character was merely leaving her house in the street and moving to care for an ill friend: Henry Foster. Unfortunately, all subsequent storylines involving Ena Sharples had to be scrapped owing to Carson's ill health. Violet Carson died in December 1983 at the age of 85.

Character Timeline

9 December 1960: Ena introduces herself to the new shopkeeper Florrie Lindley and warns her about Elsie Tanner.

1961: Ena argues with Elsie Tanner in the street after she is accused of writing a poisoned pen letter to her.

1963: After returning home to the vestry, Ena is shocked to discover someone has wrecked it.

1964: Martha dies in the snug leaving Ena and Minnie distraught at the loss of a close friend.

1965: Ena inherits No. 11 and threatens to evict the Tanners, she and Elsie row in the street.

1966: Ena is accused of shoplifting and goes to court but admits to not intentionally stealing.

1967: Vera Lomax, Ena's daughter, goes to visit Ena and falling out with her husband. Ena later finds that Vera has died in bed.

1968: The mission is demolished and Ena moves out and into one of the masionettes.

1969: After Minnie goes missing, Ena searches for her and finds her in hospital.

1971: Ena becomes caretaker of the community centre and moves into a flat in the Street.

1973: Ena's nephew Tom Schofield and his wife arrive from America and inform her that her brother died in his sleep.

1974: Ena returns from St. Anne's after looking after Henry Foster, she joins Minnie and Eddie Yeates for Christmas.

1976: Handel Gartside informs Ena and Albert that Minnie will not be returning, Ena and Albert get drunk and reminisce.

1977: Councillor Tattersall tries to force Ena out of the Community centre after she has some ill health, Alf foils his plans and Ena remains at the centre.

1978: When Ena complains of a bad back, Len, Ray and Eddie break into her flat and change her mattress after Ena claims she doesn't want charity.

1979: Ena and Albert are among the guests that attend Gail and Brian Tilsley's wedding.

1980: Ena stays with Elsie Tanner after her flat undergoes refurbishment, she later goes to stay with Albert after Ken and Alf say that the decorations are still under way.

2 April 1980: Ena announces to Albert and Ken that she will be staying with Henry Foster in St. Anne's and is unsure whether she will return.

Character's background

Ena had known rough times, having been seen to work on a loom at Palmerstone's Mill at the age of 11. Her husband Alfred had died young, and her son Ian drowned. She had two daughters, Madge Sharples and Vera Lomax. Vera considered herself too good for Ena, and visited her rarely. Over the years, her friends left her one by one (Martha Longhurst died in the snug of a heart attack, and Minnie Caldwell left to live in Whaley Bridgemarker with Handel Gartside), until acquaintance Albert Tatlock was the only one left to keep her company. When Minnie left the street in 1976, Albert and Ena got drunk in the snug of the Rover's Return and reminisced about the past. Ena was probably the character whose history on the show dates back the furthest (along with Albert Tatlock), Ena's presence at the Rovers Return has been dated back since before Christmas 1914. Ena had been friends with Minnie Caldwell since they were young children and described to Annie Walker in 1979 a young 10 year-old Martha Longhurst when it was the fifteenth anniversary of Martha's death.

For almost 20 years in the show, Ena had a rivalry with Elsie Tanner, the so-called "tart with a heart". Ena disapproved of Elsie's affairs with various men and the two often clashed–almost always in the street, on full view. One particular example of Ena's dislike for Elsie is contained in the first episode of the programme, in an exchange with Florrie Lindley, the new owner of the Corner Shop:

After Ena left, Florrie laughed about the episode to her new friend, Elsie Lappin, who was helping her get used to the running of the Corner Shop. Florrie thought Ena to be somewhat morbid. That same day, Ena was the recipient of a confrontation by Christine Hardman upon hearing that her mother, who had a nervous breakdown and went into the hospital, had been insulted by the pensioner. Christine threatened her with a solicitor's letter and Ena threatened to take her business to another shop after neither Florrie or Elsie stood up for her.

In November 1961, Elsie Tanner received a poison-pen letter from someone claiming to know all about Elsie's affairs (she was not yet legally divorced from her husband, Arnold). Elsie accused landlady of the Rovers Return, Annie Walker, of writing the letter, but she strongly denied it. Afterwards, she accused Ena. In a showdown outside Elsie's house, the two fought. Elsie finally realised it was not Ena who had written the letter; Ena told her that if she had written it, she would have had the decency to sign her name "at the bottom of it, and well you know it!"

1967 did not turn out to be a good year for Ena. As well as losing her daughter Vera to a brain tumour, Ena became trapped unconscious underneath a wrecked train to the south of Coronation Street. A goods train had collapsed from the viaduct, which also buried a police officer and his girlfriend. David Barlow struggled to find Ena through the wreckage, but rescued her. This was Ena's biggest storyline in the show and is remembered still today by fans although it was more than 40 years ago. Elsie Tanner was the first to ask after her: "If that woman were dropped off Blackpool Tower I swear she'd bounce! Cuts, bruises and a broken arm!". Although the two seemed "mortal enemies", Elsie and Ena most probably held a slight affection for each other. This is demonstrated in several episodes throughout the 1970s, when the characters had mellowed considerably — one such example is in an episode from 1973, when Elsie was about to take an overdose. Ena let herself into No 11 and talked her out of it:

In 1973, Violet Carson suffered a breakdown through overwork and took an extended break. Carson's health began to fail throughout the 1970s, and this, with her hatred of her character, meant Ena appeared less and less. In 1974, she returned to Coronation Street and appeared sporadically the next year. Carson often commented to the British press: "Violet Carson was destroyed the day Ena Sharples first appeared in Coronation Street."

In 1980, Carson became ill with a serious bout of anaemia and could not return to the show; her last filmed scene was telling Albert Tatlock that she wanted to leave Coronation Street for good. Granada Television was disappointed that Carson could not return to the cast in 1982 to watch Queen Elizabeth II open the new exterior set in the Granada backlot.

Carson died in her sleep in 1983, aged 85. As a tribute to her, an episode of Coronation Street from January 1967 featuring Ena was screened on ITV.

Ena Sharples died in 1983, but her death was never announced in the programme, and was only revealed to viewers in 1985 when a video special entitled The Jubilee Years was released, with all references made in the series proper to Ena have been worded as if she has died. In 1989, street resident Deirdre Barlow mentioned due recent events, Ena Sharples was probally turning in her grave, thus confirming Ena had indeed died.


  • Ena did not wear her famous hairnet in early episodes of the programme (see image); Violet Carson added it to her costume because she refused to let the make-up department touch her elegantly-styled silver hair.

  • Violet, a native of Blackpool (a coastal resort in the North West of England), switched on the Blackpool illuminations in 1961, then considered a real honour.

  • When she received the insignia to her OBE in 1965, the Queen told Violet that she was "an ardent fan".

  • In the programme, Ena Sharples and Elsie Tanner were mortal enemies; in reality, Violet Carson and Patricia Phoenix were the best of friends.

  • Ena's hairnet was put up for auction in 2005, and was sold for £65. It was bought by a Dutch gentleman, who had bought it for his mother, a lifelong fan of the programme.

  • Ena's distinctive overcoat still exists, preserved by Granada TV. When Granadamarker operated the tour of their studios, it was the main exhibit in the costume museum section.

  • Future Monkees member and TV/stage actor Davy Jones appeared in a 1963 episode as Sharples' grandson.

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