William Roache: who is Ken Barlow actor from Coronation Street, how old is he, and who are his children?

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A documentary celebrating Bill Roache’s 90th birthday will air on ITV

William Roache has played Ken Barlow, one of Coronation Street’s patriarchs since the very first episode of the soap aired in December 1960.

Roach is the only remaining actor who has been in the show since the beginning and is the longest serving actor in a UK TV soap.

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Having starred as Ken in more than 4,000 episodes the character has had his fair share of major storylines - starting with the death of his mother when she was hit by a bus in 1961.

But who is William Roache, what else has he been in, and why did he leave Coronation Street temporarily in 2013? Here is everything you need to know.

William Roache (back, left of centre) with the cast of Coronatoin Street in the 1970sWilliam Roache (back, left of centre) with the cast of Coronatoin Street in the 1970s
William Roache (back, left of centre) with the cast of Coronatoin Street in the 1970s | Getty Images

Who is William Roache?

Roache was born in Nottingham in 1932 but grew up in Derbyshire where he was educated at a Steiner school set up by his grandfather who was a freemason.

Roache joined the army and served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, leaving in 1956 with the rank of captain.

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During his military service a mortar round exploded nearby, causing him to suffer from tinnitus.

He has been married twice, first to the actress Anna Cropper, whom he divorced in 1974, and then to actress Sara McEwan Mottram from 1978 until her death in 2009.

Roache had two children from his first marriage - a son named Linus who is a famous actor, and a daughter named Vanya who died in 2018.

From his second marriage, Roache had three children, a daughter named Verity, a son named James, and another daughter, Edwina who died at 18 months old.

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Roache is a vegetarian and has said that he doesn’t like the idea of animals being killed for him.

What were Ken Barlow’s major Coronation Street storylines?

With more than 4,000 appearances on the show, there are too many plot lines to count, and Roache himself will be unlikely to remember all of them.

But one notable thread which ran through much of the character’s history was Ken’s relationship with his third wife, Deidre.

Their relationship featured a constant string of affairs, break ups and reconciliations, with the pair divorcing in the ‘90s before remarrying in 2005 - their second marriage was watched by four million more people than the real life wedding of Charles and Camilla which aired the following day.

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Another of Corrie’s most famous characters was Ken’s third Wife DeirdreAnother of Corrie’s most famous characters was Ken’s third Wife Deirdre
Another of Corrie’s most famous characters was Ken’s third Wife Deirdre | Getty Images

Another interesting storyline involved Roache’s real children playing Ken’s son and grandson in the soap.

When Ken meets the family he didn’t know he had he was shocked to discover that his son Lawrence (played by Linus) did not support his son, and Ken’s grandson (played by James) because he was gay.

A recent plotline saw Ken move from his home at 1 Coronation Street into a retirement home away from the street, but returned after a change of heart.

Why did William Roache leave Coronation Street in 2013?

In 2013 the actor was arrested on suspicion of the rape of a 15-year-old girl in 1967 and was eventually charged with two counts of rape and five counts of indecent assault against girls aged 12-16 years old.

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During the legal proceedings Roache did not film any scenes for Coronation Street and was absent from the show for several months.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges, one charge was dismissed outright by the judge during the trial on the basis of lack of evidence and flaws in two witnesses’ accounts.

In February 2014, Roache was found not guilty on all charges and in June he had resumed filming for Coronation Street.

What else has William Roache been in?

Roache has not acted as a character other than himself or Ken Barlow since 1961, when he played an uncredited field radio operator in the film The Queen’s Guards.

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The actor has appeared on several panel shows and chat shows including Celebrity Juice, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, and Loose Women.

When is Happy Birthday Bill on TV?

The hour-long documentary will air at 8pm on ITV on 19 April.

It will be available to watch on the ITV Hub shortly after it is first broadcast.

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