Ken Barlow

Full name: Kenneth Barlow
Parents: Frank and Ida Barlow
9 October 1939, No3 Coronation Street, Weatherfield, Lancashire

  1. Valerie Tatlock (4 August 1962)
  2. Janet Reid (29 October 1973)
  3. Deirdre Langton (née Hunt) (27 July 1981) (8 April 2005)


  1. Lawrence Cunningham (m: Susan Cunningham) b: August 1961
  2. Susan Ida (m: Valerie Barlow) b: 15 April 1965
  3. Peter (m: Valerie Barlow) b: 15 April 1965
  4. Daniel Osbourne (m: Denise Osbourne) b: 4 January 1995

Adopted child: Tracy Lynette (formerly Langton); (b:24 January 1977; m: Deirdre Langton; f: Ray Langton). Adopted 1986.


  1. James Cunningham
  2. Adam Barlow
  3. Simon Barlow
  4. Amy Barlow
Played by: Bill Roache
First appeared:
9 December 1960

Ken Barlow is the only surviving member of the characters that appeared in the very first episode of the Street. Slightly improbably, Ken has become the Street's lothario - racking up a total of 21 screen lovers; and more improbably he still lives on the street where he was born, having lived in a total of 8 different addresses in that one street.

After attending Bessie Street School, Ken continued to live in No3 Coronation Street with his parents whilst he was a student at Manchester University (where he gained a 2nd class honours degree in History and English). It was at university he met Susan Cunningham. In 1961, Ken's mother died, and he turned down a teaching post down south to support his father and started working as a personnel officer at Amalgamated Steels (and had an affair with librarian Marion Lund).

In August 1961, Valerie Tatlock moved into No1 to live with her Uncle Albert as her family had moved to Glasgow. By the time she left in October, she had become another of Ken's women. She returned to Uncle Albert's in July 1962, and became the first Mrs Kenneth Barlow the next month. Ken and Valerie then moved into No9 Coronation Street. By now, Ken was teaching. In 1964 Ken had a fling with exotic dancer Pip Mistral. Twins Peter and Susan were born 15 April 1965. In January 1966 Ken had an affair with newspaper reporter Jackie Marsh. Valerie found out and packed her bags and left - but returned later. In March 1967, Ken spent 7 days in jail after being arrested on a student march. In June 1968, the Barlows sold No9 and moved into one of the newly-built maisonettes - No14 Coronation Street.

In January 1971, Ken was set to move far away from the Street to a teaching post in Jamaica, but on their last night Valerie was famously electrocuted by a faulty hairdryer which burned down the maisonette.

Ken rented No3 Coronation Street (previously his parents house), but the twins proved more than he could manage, and were sent to live with their grandparents in Glasgow. Leading the batchelor life again, Ken went out with hotel receptionist Yvonne Chappell; Ken proposed to her, but she realised he was only looking for a replacement for Valerie.

In April 1972, Ken moved into No1 to live with Valerie's Uncle Albert. In the January, he had started teaching at Bessie Street School, and soon started got friendly with a pupil's mother - Rita Bates, common-law wife of Harry Bates. Norma Ford started work as assistant in the corner shop in May 1972 (living in the flat above), and started to make a play for Ken. He held out for an incredible 13 months as he was chasing Elaine Perkins - his headmaster's daughter, and only took up with Norma on the rebund from Elaine. Soon afterwards he again met up with Rita Bates - now using her maiden name of Rita Littlewood - who was on the rebound from Len Fairclough, and they spent the night together.

In October, Ken visited the twins in Glasgow, and came back with a wife (and prospective stepmother for the twins) - Janet Reid. However, Janet Barlow didn't want the twins, and the marriage quickly degenerated. The Barlows rented No11 Coronation Street from Elsie Howard in the new year of 1974. By May 1974, Janet Barlow had packed her bags and left. Ken gave up teaching and became an executive at the Mark Brittain warehouse - and had an affair with shop steward Peggy Barton.

1975 was a quiet year for Ken (apart from playing the hero in a fire that gutted the warehouse) - but he does need a rest sometime !

In May 1976, Ken was at it again. He had lost his job at the warehouse after the fire, worked as a taxi driver for a while, but soon got a post as Community Development Officer, in charge of the Community Centre, and when Wendy Nightingale came to the centre to conduct a survey on reading habits, she fell for him. As Daran Little succinctly puts it: "it only took two home-cooked meals at No11 to seduce Wendy". Wendy was married, but left her husband for 5 weeks to live with Ken. Wendy's husband Roger laid Ken out when he was spurned - but Wendy went back to him when she found Coronation Street far too claustrophobic. At the same time, Elsie arrived back on The Street, demanded her house back, and in the June, Ken was forced to move back into No1 with Uncle Albert.

In February 1977, Janet Barlow re-appeared. She had been thrown out by her lover, and begged Ken to take her back. He refused, but let her stay the night.The next morning Ken found her dead in bed - she had taken an overdose. Initially the police suspected Ken of murdering her, but the truth came out; Ken was wracked with remorse over Janet's death.

By 1978, Ken had recovered sufficiently to take out Uncle Albert's chiropodist Sally Robson on a few dates (including rugby league matches !), and in December togues started wagging (though without cause) as he started to teach illiterate Karen Barnes to read and write until he was stopped by her jealous husband.

In November 1978, Ray Langton left his wife Deirdre for a new life in Holland. Ken and her became friendly the next year, and despite the offer of marriage and a new life in Jersey from Billy Walker, Deirdre stayed in Weatherfield. By January 1980 their friendship had deepened sufficiently that she strongly hinted to Ken that if he asked her to marry him she wouldn't say no. This only scared Ken away - saying he was too old for her and would be unsuitable as he was twice-married. However, you were left with the sneeking suspicion that Annie Walker's warning to Ken that marriage to Deirdre would be a marriage to a social and intellectual inferior was far closer to the real reason than Ken would care to admit.

Ken however was still drawn to Deirdre, and in January 1981 he asked her out again, and the romance briefly blossomed, only to be brought to halt by the arrival of Dirk van der Stek, a work collegue of Ray's from Holland. He had called with a birthday present for Tracy from her father, but Dirk and Deirdre were obviously attracted to each other. After they had been out on a few dates and Deirdre had agreed to visit Dirk in Amsterdam and stay in his flat, Ken realised that he would have to fight very hard for the woman he would like to love.

However, it was Deirdre who, once Dirk had left, hinted to Ken that she was still available. They both went out for a meal and agreed to see more of each other without getting tied down. The next month a seemingly innocuous event was to have profound consequences for the rest of Ken's life. Returning from a conference in Huddersfield, his Volkswagen Beetle broke down on the moors and Deirdre was left standing alone in the Rovers, waiting for Ken. Mike Baldwin took pity on her and took her out for a meal. A romance soon blossomed. Ken confronted Deirdre, but she reminded him of their "no strings" agreement. He admitted to her he was jealous and offered her marriage, but she turned him down.

Just a couple of weeks later beautician Sonia Price started teaching at the Community Centre and Ken wasted no time in asking her out. A fortnight later she accompanied Ken to Mike Baldwin's flatwarming party, where Deirdre was hostess. However, it was Sonia that Mike took to a nightclub at the end of the evening, leaving Ken and Deirdre to clear up. Deirdre realised she wouldn't be contented with Mike's casual, fast-paced lifestyle and her romance with Ken was re-kindled. They went away to Glasgow together at Easter 1981 to see Ken's twins, and after a couple of weeks of thought agreed to marry, and on 27 July 1981 Deirdre finally became the third Mrs Kenneth Barlow. Although they planned to buy a house elsewhere, the state of Albert Tatlock's health meant that Deirdre and her four-year-old daughter Tracy moved into No1 with Ken and Uncle Albert.

On their return from honeymoon in Corfu, Ken had his first major run-in with Mike Baldwin after Mike got Susan Barlow a job in a friend's London wine bar. Ken virtually accused Mike of selling Susuan to the white slave trade; Mike retorted that she was old enough to make up her own mind.

Settled in a mudane relationship, in February 1982 Deirdre broached the possibilty of them having a child - which Ken very firmly refused, saying he didn't want the responsibility of another child. In the following May there was a spate of muggings and DS Bell asked youth club organiser Ken if he had seen anything suspicious. Deirdre was immediately suspicious of local lad Ray Attwood, sporting his new expensive Walkman. Ken refused to contact the police, priggishly citing his position with the youth club and lack of firm evidence. After Betty Turpin was mugged, Deirdre went behind Ken's back and reported Ray, who was indeed responsible for the muggings. Ken felt Deirdre had betrayed him, and also had to awkwardly apologise to Betty, realising if he had reported the matter earlier, she would not have been mugged. In the same month Ken relented and agreed that they should try for a child.

By the start of 1983, Deirdre had become bored of Ken, and started an affair with Mike Baldwin. After two months and a doorstep row with all three of them, Ken and Deirdre kissed and made up. In August 1983, faced with the possible closure of the youth club, Ken gave a confidential council document to Weatherfield Recorder reporter Pam Mitchell. Ken was disciplined over the matter, but refused to give assurances it wouldn't happen again, and so he was sacked. The next month Pam Mitchell left the Recorder to work as Assistant editor on a Nottingham paper, and Ken took the chance to buy a 33% share in the Recorder and land himself a new job. He ploughed all his redundancy and all his and Deirdre's savings into the purchase. In November 1983 Ken was faced with the realities of running a free newspaper. There had been a series of incidents around Mike Baldwin's Graffiti Club and Ken proposed to write a damning article about it, but as the Graffiti Club was a major advertiser, especially around Christmas time, Ken was forced to eat humble pie and write a grovelling article about the club, much to the annoyance of local residents.

1984 was another traumatic year for Ken - Albert Tatlock died on 14 May 1984, but the Barlows continued to live in No1. Ken gave up his Community Centre job and became editor of his own paper, the Weatherfield Recorder. Here he was tempted, but didn't have an affair with secretary Sally Waterman - who was also having an affair with Billy Walker at the time.

In November 1985, Ken's daughter Susan came to live with them at No1. To Ken's great annoyance, Susan became infatuated with Mike Baldwin. Ken refused to give his blessing to their marriage, and even went as far as thumping Mike in his factory. On the actual morning of their wedding - 14 May 1986, Ken came to his senses and gave Susan away. Ken still retained a daughter though, for in the same year he adopted Tracy.

Ken now has the quietest period of his life. It isn't until October 1989 that he starts an affair with his secretary, Wendy Crozier. When Deirdre found out, she shocked Ken by saying she wanted a divorce (Ken had planned to use the Baldwin affair as an excuse), and early on New Year's Day 1990, Ken found himself kicked out of Coronation Street. He went to live with Wendy, but things didn't work out, and worse, he had to sell the newspaper to pay off No1's mortgage. He ended up living in a little bedsit at 6 Chepstow Road. By August he returned to the Street, living in the shop flat (much to Deirdre's consternation) and teaching again, this time at Weatherfield Comprehensive. Ken was devastated when Deirdre went to Paris with Phil Jennings to see in 1991, as he hoped for a reconciliation, and New Year's Eve saw a replay of 1977, with Ken letting himself into No1, arranging some pills into a large triangle and preparing to take an overdose - only the timely intervention of Bet Gilroy saved him.

In 1991, two lost souls met up. Alma Sedgewick had been dumped by Mike Baldwin in favour of future wife Jackie Ingram, and Alma started an affair with Ken. However, Mike's marriage only lasted a week, and on Christmas Day, Mike lured Alma back into his bed - but only to get back at Ken. Sadly, honesty got the better of Alma, and she confessed to Ken on New Year's Eve at a posh hotel they were staying at. Instead of sympathising, Ken walked out and saw in his second consecutive New Year alone.

1992 saw Ken fall for another of his pupil's mothers - Maggie Redman. The Baldwin/Barlow fued erupted again, as unbeknown to Ken, the father of Maggie's son, Mark was Mike (are you still following ?). Mike hated the thought of Ken spending Christmas Day with his son, but in the end Ken found his pride got the better of him, he could not handle the situation and he and Maggie split up.

By late 1993, Ken and Deirdre had again become close, but Deirdre had to leave and nurse her mother who had had a stroke, leaving Ken unsure of his feelings. Ken then took up with hairdresser Denise Osbourne in a rather on-off relationship. When Deirdre returned in late spring 1994, she was keen to try and rebuild a relationship with Ken, but instead was stunned to hear that Denise was pregnant with twins and Ken was the father ! Denise would not let Ken move in with her at No2, so in July 1994, he moved to Reg Holdsworth's flat across the street at No12 Coronation Street. Baby Daniel was born on 4 January 1995, but Denise found the situation too much and fled to her sister's in Macclesfield.

In April 1995, Ken let Deirdre and Samir stay in No12 whilst Tracy was in hospital, and he temporarily lodged at The Rovers. Denise returned in May 1995, more sure of her and Ken, and they moved back into No1, which Ken had improbably bought from Mike Baldwin (who else !) in July 1995. Things went well for a time, until Brian Dunkley, Denise's accountant brother-in-law turned up. It transpired that Brian had been doing more than Denise's books, and they had been conducting a 2-year long affair. In January 1996, guilt-stricken, Denise asked Ken if he still wanted to get married (he had offered to marry her when she was pregnant, but she refused). He agreed, but then found out about the affair, and rejected Denise. In February 1996 she left for a new life "down south" with Brian, but left baby Daniel with his father.

Ken's happiness of being a single dad was shortlived when in November 1996, Denise came back to snatch Daniel - rather complicated by the fact that Ken had become friendly with Deirdre again, and they were in bed together when she called ! Ken had been hoping that he, Deirdre and Daniel could play happy families together, but Deirdre wasn`t having none of it. It was a double blow for Ken when Kelly Thomson, Daniel's nanny, decided to move in with Denise and Brian. Kelly felt she was doing the best for daniel, but Ken saw it as a betrayal. Poor Ken's hopes of keeping Daniel were dashed again when he was forced into early retirement from his job as teacher at Weatherfield comprehensive.

Ken soon bounced back and helped Deirdre when she was imprisoned for fraud after becoming involved with con man  Jon Lindsay in February 1998. He put aside his past differences with old enemy Mike Baldwin and togther, they were successful in getting Deirdre freed from prison. Ken was hoping for a(nother) reconciliation with Deirdre, but it didn`t materialise. So Ken was once again on his own.

Christmas 1998 took an unexpected turn when Deirdre's mother Blanche Hunt came to visit. Blanche decided she didn`t want to see Deirdre on her own so she tried to manipulate Ken into telling him that Deirdre still had feelings for him. She said the same thing to Deirdre about Ken. At the Valentine's dance in February, Ken took the opportunity to have a few dances with Deirdre, much to the amusement of the party goers. As they were dancing, Ken realised he still had strong feelings for his ex-wife, and admitted to her he still loved her. Deirdre was unsure, and Ken backed off for a little while. In March, Ken and Deirdre had a visit from their Tracy on Mothers' Day. Deirdre and Ken were dismayed to find that Tracy had left her husband Robert Preston after a misunderstanding. Ken and Deirdre joined forces into helping Tracy and Robert reconcile. They told Tracy they did't want her to make the same mistakes they did with their marriage. At last they both convinced Tracy and Robert to get back together, and they both left Weatherfield happily reconciled again.
Seing how happy Tracy and Robert were, Ken persuaded Deirdre to give their relationship another try, and Deirdre finally relented much to Ken's joy...

In autumn 2002, Ken's teaching career is ruined by pupil-from-hell character Aidan Critchley (Dean Ashton), who mocks and terrorises Ken, resulting in the class being disrespectful to him. Aidan had also seriously injured his girlfriend Sarah Platt (Tina O'Brien) in a car crash while joyriding, and it is only shortly before being charged with this offence that he goads a furious Ken into punching him, and he promptly resigns. On the day of his court appearance a spiteful Tracy (Kate Ford) reveals to him that Deirdre had slept with her boss Dev Alahan (Jimmi Harkishin) little over a year previously. Ken is devastated but in the end, decides to stay with Deirdre. In the meantime, he pleads guilty to assaulting Aidan and receives a conditional discharge in court. In January 2003, Aidan is accused of murdering resident Maxine Peacock (Tracy Shaw). Ken does not believe Aidan has committed the crime as he had seen him heavily drunk on the same night. When Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls) claims that her own son in law Richard Hillman (Brian Capron) has committed the crime, Ken is the only person who believes her. Ken even goes to talk to Aidan's father who eventually reconciles with Aidan after Richard Hillman is discovered to be the real killer.

Ken and Deirdre eventually remarry on 8 April 2005. However, their wedding day is overshadowed by the death of Deirdre's first husband Ray Langton (Neville Bushwell), who has returned, wanting to develop a relationship with his estranged daughter Tracy. He dies in the Rovers during the wedding reception.

Early 2006 sees Deirdre become a lot closer to old flame Mike Baldwin when it transpires that he was suffering from Alzheimer's. On 7 April 2006, Mike dies in Ken's arms outside Underworld. Ken and Deirdre's marriage suffers a little when Ken becomes annoyed by what he considers excessive grief on Deirdre's part. Their marriage suffers further when Tracy is convicted of murdering her boyfriend Charlie Stubbs (Bill Ward) in April 2007. After a blazing row, Ken leaves and begins rebuilding a relationship with his son Daniel (Dominic Holmes), and the boy's mother Denise Osbourne. Ken and Denise grow closer during his separation from Deirdre.

Convinced that Ken wants to rekindle their passion, Denise makes a blatant attempt to win him over but when she leans in for a kiss, he rejects her advances. After this embarrassing encounter, Ken decides to return to Coronation Street. He and Deirdre apologise for their treatment of one another. The couple forgive each other and reconcile. Deirdre realises that Ken wants to keep in touch with Daniel and suggests he continue his contact with the boy. We have never seen that happen on screen.

Ken worked part-time in Roy's Rolls for a time. We met Gail's biological father, Ted Paige (Michael Byrne) who found he had a lot in common with Ken and the two men struck up a friendship. As Ted is gay, this gives Blanche plenty of ammunition to tease Ken. Ken's son Peter returns with his son Simon in tow, Simon's mother Lucy having died of cancer. Peter developed a drinking problem which caused more contention between father and son but Ken has always tried to support Peter in his sobriety.

On 26 January 2009, Ken meets Martha Fraser (Stephanie Beacham) who was living on a canal boat. They first meet when Eccles (the Border Terrier) falls into the canal, and Martha deftly scoops her out with a net. Ken doesn't tell her about his marriage to Deirdre, and likewise doesn't mention Martha to Deirdre. Martha would seem to be Ken's intellectual soul mate and he finds peace and contentment aboart her boat. He confesses to Ted Page that he has fallen for Martha and the pair finally kiss in March 2009 and one thing leads to another. However, following a fire at Peter's flat when he and Simon are almost killed, Ken realises his priorities have been very wrong and he finally admits to Martha that he is married and she angrily orders him to leave. He keeps begging her to take him back, telling her that he loves her, but she doesn't believe this and thinks he is lying. Their secret is also opened to Ted's former girlfriend Audrey Roberts, who tells Peter that Ken is having an affair.

On 1 May 2009, Ken plans to leave with Martha; however, he bottles it and returns home, finding that the goodbye letter he had left fo Deirdre has been removed by Peter, who had anticipated Ken's change of heart. Even though he got away with the affair, Ken still feels guilty and eventually he admits to the infidelity. Although Deirdre is very angry with him, she agrees to forgive him as he had forgiven her fling with Dev.

In late 2009, Peter wants to set up a wine bar at the end of the Street with girlfriend Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson), but Ken is against it, as Peter is a recovering alcoholic. Things aren't helped with the arrival of Simon's other grandfather, George Wilson (Anthony Valentine), whom Ken doesn't trust, believing that he has been trying to buy Simon's affection with expensive gifts. Ken resorts to drastic measures to stop the bar from happening, getting a journalist to investigate it and also selling the story of the Barlow family's chequered history, to the indignation of Peter and Deirdre.

After feuding over the bar for a number of months, Ken and Peter finally settle their differences for Simon's sake in January 2010. However, Ken and his family are left reeling when Peter destroys the grand opening of Leanne's bar when he starts drinking again. After Peter realises that he needs help with his problem, Ken, George and Leanne agree that he should spend sometime in rehab so that he can stop his addiction. The bar is closed and given up as a lost cause. Just as Peter gets sober again, George decides he is going to take Simon away but Simon runs off during a day in Blackpool with George and Eve. Ken and Deirdre race to Blackpool to help look for the lad who makes his way back to Weatherfield all on his own, safely. George is banished from the Barlows' lives.

Deirdre cheats on Ken once again when she succumbs to the charms of gigolo Lewis Archer (Nigel Havers) and is seen kissing him in the betting shop on CCTV. Peter discovers that Lewis has swindled money out of the shop, using Deirdre as a pawn in his deception and plays the recording for the family and the Platt/Roberts clan, humiliating Audrey who thought she would be running away to Greece with Lewis. Relations are once again strained between Ken and Deirdre, with Ken's tryst with Martha still fresh in Deirdre's mind. The couple acknowledge their mutual unhappiness with their marriage but remain together.

In late August 2010, Norris Cole (Malcolm Hebden) discovers an unopened letter behind the skirting board at No. 3, addressed to Ken, dating back to the Sixties. The letter is written by Ken's first girlfriend Susan Cunningham. He then discovers that Susan has a son named Lawrence (played by William Roache's real-life son Linus Roache). Ken gets in contact with Lawrence and immediately gets on well with him, as they have similar literary interests, with Lawrence being an English lecturer. Deirdre is stunned by the uncanny resemblance between the two men and is adament that Lawrence must be Ken's son, as he has never known his father. When Lawrence tells Ken that he was born in August 1961, Ken instinctively knows that he is his father.

Wanting to get to know his new-found family members, Ken invites Lawrence's son James (played by Roache's real-life youngest son James Roache) to the Rovers. It is clear that animousity lies between father and son as Lawrence and James bicker in front of Ken. He is stunned to discover that James is gay and Lawrence is not supportive of his sexuality.

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