Valerie Barlow

Full name:
Valerie Barlow (née Tatlock)
Alfred and Edith Tatlock
26 November 1942

Ken Barlow (4 August 1962)
Died: 27 January 1971

  1. Susan Ida (f: Ken Barlow) b: 15 April 1965
  2. Peter (f: Ken Barlow) b: 15 April 1965

Played by: Anne Reid
7 August 1961 - 27 January 1971

Hairdresser Valerie Tatlock first came to Coronation Street in 1961 to visit her Uncle Albert. She caught young Ken Barlow's eye and he pursued her for several months. Valerie was nervous about Ken, she felt that Ken would not be happy with her because he was university-educated and aspired to live above the working-class values which Valerie was comfortable with. She felt for Ken when his mother Ida was killed. When Ken proposed to her, she balked because she was unsure of Ken's motives and thought that he might be seeking a mother figure to replace Ida. Ken persuaded her that this was not the case, and they were married on 4 August 1962 at St. Mary's Parish Church. Ken sold his motor scooter to raise funds, and the newlyweds moved into No 9 Coronation Street when they returned from their honeymoon in London.

The Barlows had the front room of No 9 converted to a hairdressing salon and Valerie took in customers while Ken went out to teach. She even took Dennis Tanner from No 11 on as an apprentice. When she wasn't hairdressing, Valerie was a devoted housewife. Ken, however, left more than a little to be desired as a husband. He paid little attention to Valerie, leaving her to run the house while he pondered more intellectual issues and was always chasing other women.

In 1963, one of Ken's teaching friends, Dave Robbins, moved into No 9 as a lodger. He was personable and down-to-earth, and Valerie grew very attached to him. After a short time, Dave moved into his own flat. In 1964, when one of Dave's pupils was killed in a street accident, Valerie comforted Dave while Ken took the opportunity to start a crusade for a crosswalk. Valerie decided that she had married the wrong man, told Ken that she was leaving him, and went to Dave's flat. Ken followed her and Valerie asked Dave to see him off. Dave wasn't interested enough in Valerie to fight Ken for her, and a depressed Valerie returned to Ken.

In late 1964, Valerie became pregnant. In early 1965 she closed down the salon in No 9, and on 15 April gave birth to twins: Susan Ida and Peter. From then on her life was completely wrapped up in the twins. Ken generally left all the work around the house and with the children to her while he sauntered around living his intellectual lifestyle, which included a fling with reporter Jackie Marsh. Ken nearly left Valerie for Jackie until he realized what a good thing he had in a wife who was willing to assume all the domestic responsibilities and wait on him hand and foot.

When Ken was arrested for taking part in an anti-Vietnam demonstration and opted, on principle, to go to prison for a week rather than pay a five-pound fine, Valerie was astonished. She pleaded with Ken to put the family above his principles, and that she would never be able to cope on her own with the twins for a week. Ken wouldn't give in, however. He went to prison, and when he came back, the subject was never talked about again.

In 1968 the raincoat factory and the Mission Hall on the opposite side of Coronation Street were demolished. During the demolition, Valerie realized that the twins had gone missing from the house and, fearing the worst, ran into the street and stood in front of the wrecking equipment, bringing everything to a screeching halt. She went into the building and found Peter and Susan huddled in a corner.

A Community Centre and a new block of maisonnettes went up where the Mission and the factory had stood. Valerie saw the plans for the new maisonettes and set her heart on moving into one. No 9 was almost seventy years old and lacked modern conveniences like central heating. Ken protested; they owned their house outright and Ken didn't want to sell up and move into rented accomodations. For once, Valerie put her foot down. She told Ken that she knew all about his affair with Jackie Marsh and that she would leave him if he didn't relent. Ken gave in, and the Barlows sold No 9 to Len Fairclough for £1,000 to move across the street to one of the new maisonettes.

Shortly after moving into the maisonettes, an escaped convict named Frank Riley broke into Ken and Valerie's home while Ken was out and held Valerie hostage. Valerie was desperate to keep Riley from finding out that the twins were sleeping upstairs, and eventually managed to summon help by tapping an SOS on the pipes, claiming that it was the only way to get them to work. The neighbours heard the SOS and called the police, who rescued Valerie. While Valerie was distraught, Ken completely ignored her. He refused to believe that Riley hadn't sexually assaulted Valerie and, rather than comfort his wife, struggled with his conscience to determine what he would have done if he had been there to protect his family.

In January 1971, Ken was offered a teaching post in Jamaica and the Barlows prepared to emigrate. While Valerie was getting ready for their going-away party in the Rovers, she plugged a hair dryer into a faulty electrical outlet and electrocuted herself. As she fell, she knocked an electric heater into a packing crate and started a fire. By the time rescue came, it was too late for Valerie Barlow.

References: Coronation Street: Around the Houses, by Daran Little, Boxtree, London, 1997

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