Jean Alexander

Jean Mavis Hodgkinson[1] (11 October 1926 – 14 October 2016), known by the stage name Jean Alexander, was a British television actress. She was best known to television viewers for her long running role of Hilda Ogden in the soap opera Coronation Street, a role she played from 1964 until 1987, and also as Auntie Wainwright in the long-running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine from 1988 to 2010. For her role in Coronation Street, she won the 1985 Royal Television Society Award for Best Performance, and received a 1988 BAFTA TV Award nomination for Best Actress.

Jean Alexander
Jean Mavis Hodgkinson

(1926-10-11)11 October 1926
Toxteth, Liverpool, England
Died14 October 2016(2016-10-14) (aged 90)
Years active1949–2010
Known forRole of Hilda Ogden
TelevisionCoronation Street (1962, 1964–1987, 1990, 1998)
Last of the Summer Wine (1988–2010)

Early life

Alexander was born at 18 Rhiwlas Street Toxteth, Liverpool, in 1926, to Nell and Archie Hodgkinson; her father worked as an electrician and the family lived in a terraced house with no indoor lavatory. Alexander had an elder brother, Kenneth. She aspired to become an actress from an early age, and later said that she was inspired by variety acts she saw at the Pavilion theatre in her home city. She attended St Edmund's College for Girls in Princes Park, Toxteth[2] and as a teenager, she joined an amateur theatre group and took elocution lessons.[3]


Alexander spent five years as a library assistant in Liverpool before she began her acting career in 1949 at the Adelphi Guild Theatre in Macclesfield.[3][4] She first appeared as Florrie in Sheppey by Somerset Maugham.[3] She later worked in rep in Oldham, Stockport and York. Most of her parts were minor,[3] and she also worked as a wardrobe mistress and stage manager. Her television debut is variously given as in the police series Z-Cars[4] (1962) or in Deadline Midnight (1961).[3]

Coronation Street

Alexander first appeared in Coronation Street in 1962 in a minor role as a landlady.[3][4] Two years later, she returned to the programme as Hilda Ogden. She started playing the role on 8 July 1964, finally leaving on 25 December 1987. Ogden became highly popular with viewers and Alexander was often identified with her character.[3] In the 40 Years on Coronation Street special, she recounted an incident that had happened years previously: while she was shopping, a fan asked if she was Hilda. She responded in her normal accent, "I beg your pardon?" Taken aback, the fan said, "Oh, don't you talk funny!"[5]

The British League for Hilda Ogden was established in 1979 by Sir John Betjeman, Willis Hall, Russell Harty, Laurence Olivier and Michael Parkinson, among others.[3][6] In 1984, hundreds of fans sent her condolence cards after the death of her on-screen husband Stan Ogden; the actor who played him, Bernard Youens, died a few months before his character was killed off. In 1985 she received the Royal Television Society Award for her performance on Coronation Street.[4] When she decided to leave the show in 1987, fans started "Save Hilda!" campaigns; however, many were unaware she had made her own decision to depart. Her final scenes in the programme were aired on 25 December 1987, attracting nearly 27 million viewers, the highest number in the show's history.[4][6][7]

In 2005 the UK TV Times poll voted her as the "Greatest Soap Opera Star of All Time".[8] On 6 December 2010, Alexander spoke by telephone to ITV's This Morning to discuss her time on Coronation Street on the day of the drama's 50th anniversary episode.[9]

Other roles

In 1988, Alexander made a guest appearance in the long-running BBC comedy series Last of the Summer Wine as Auntie Wainwright, the money-grabbing local junk shop owner. She returned for a second guest appearance in 1989, and finally became a series regular in 1992, remaining until the end of the series in 2010.[10]

Her film credits include Scandal (1989)[3][4] and Willie's War (1994). Alexander voiced Mrs Santa in the Robbie the Reindeer film Hooves of Fire (1999),[3] and also appeared in Boon[4] and as Lily in the children's series The Phoenix and the Carpet.[11] She starred with Patricia Hodge and Lionel Jeffries in the comedy series Rich Tea and Sympathy,[4][11] and appeared in the quiz show Cluedo.[4] Later, she appeared in Barbara,[4][6] Heartbeat,[6] Where the Heart Is[6] and The Afternoon Play.

Television roles

1961Deadline Midnight Mrs. Gibson
1961 ITV Television Playhouse: Different Drum
1962–1963 Television Club Mrs. Wade
1962–1963 Z Cars Mrs. Cantrell / Amy Ford / Mrs. Hopkins
1962 Emergency Ward 10 Mrs. Nicholls
1962 Coronation Street Mrs. Webb
1964–1987 Coronation Street Hilda Ogden
1988, 1989
Last of the Summer Wine Auntie Wainwright
1991 Rich Tea and Sympathy Granny Trellis
1993–1995 Harry Irene Paterson
1993 I, Lovett Elsie Mittens
1993 Cluedo Marjory Hunt
1997 Adam's Family Tree Winifred Whisper
1997 The Phoenix and the Carpet Lily
1999 Hooves of Fire (TV short) Mrs. Santa (voice)
2000–2002 Where the Heart Is Kathleen Beresford/ Joan Cotter
2001, 2003 Heartbeat Lily Barton
2002 Barbara Queenie Liversidge
2004 The Afternoon Play: Drive Enid
2006 To the Sean Again (short film) Annie

Awards and nominations

1985RTS AwardBest Actress[4]Coronation StreetWon
1987BAFTA AwardBest Actress in a Leading Role[4]Coronation StreetNominated

Personal life

Alexander never married, stating that she put her acting career first.[3] She was a close friend of her Coronation Street husband, Bernard Youens.[3] Her autobiography, The Other Side of the Street: The Autobiography of Jean Alexander, was published in 1989. She lived for many years in Southport, Merseyside, and was a regular visitor to the Southport Flower Show.[12] In 2009 she joined with others to campaign successfully for a temporary library in the town while the central library was being refurbished.[13]

Alexander announced her retirement in 2012, two years after her last television appearance. Her acting career lasted for more than 60 years.[14] She celebrated her 90th birthday on 11 October 2016, but was taken ill and died three days later in Southport Hospital.[12][15][16]


  1. "". Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  2. Jean Alexander Obituary in The Telegraph Retrieved 17 October 2016
  3. Stuart Jeffries (15 October 2016). "Jean Alexander obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  4. "Obituary: Jean Alexander". BBC. 15 October 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  5. Paul Byrne (14 October 2016), "Jean Alexander, Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden, dies in hospital three days after 90th birthday", Manchester Evening News
  6. "Jean Alexander, Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden, dies at the age of 90". Radio Times. 15 October 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  7. Young, Ian (9 December 2010). "Coronation Street legend on playing Hilda Ogden". BBC News. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  8. Alex Tulloch (2011), The Little Book of Liverpool, The History Press, p. 102, ISBN 9780750953993
  9. Zoe Shenton (14 October 2016), "Jean Alexander admits she still tunes into Coronation Street in last interview with Holly Willoughby on This Morning", Daily Mirror
  10. Ballinger, Laura (4 May 2016). "Last of the Summer Wine: What happened to our favourite characters?". Huddlesfield Daily Examiner. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  11. "How Jean Alexander created one of the greatest soap characters in Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden". The Daily Telegraph. 15 October 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  12. Brown, Andrew (15 October 2016). "Jean Alexander – local people reveal why she was so loved in Southport". Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  13. John Pugh (17 December 2009), Jean Alexander interviewed on Granada Reports
  14. "The Street has sold its soul to sex, scandal and downright nastiness". 12 May 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  15. Byrne, Paul. "Jean Alexander dead aged 90: Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden dies in hospital three days after birthday". Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  16. "Coronation Street star Jean Alexander dies". BBC News. 14 October 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
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