Interview with Edna Walker
The lady who dressed the Coronation Street icons
by Glenda Young, Coronation Street Blog

Written by Glenda Young, editor of the Coronation Street Blog

Coronation Street fans who watched the ITV programme Goodbye Granadaland a few weeks ago will have seen a lady by the name of Edna Walker interviewed on the show.

Edna was the original Head of Wardrobe when Coronation Street started in 1960. She's the lady who dressed the women - and men - who went on to become some of our best loved and well known Coronation Street icons.

Edna Walker on ITV's Goodbye Granadaland
June 2013

Edna Walker's role as Head of Wardrobe in Coronation Street was very different from her background and training in the glamour and colour of the theatre stage. Edna had worked in wardrobe at the Opera House in Manchester, for ballet and D'Oyly Carte. From the theatre, Edna joined Granada TV and worked on shows such as Shadow Squad, which Corrie creator Tony Warren had written episodes for. And when Coronation Street was commissioned, Edna was promoted to Head of Wardrobe for this new show from the north where she led a team of five in the Street's wardrobe department.

Edna Walker at work in 1960.
On the set of Coronation Street
with actress Christine Hargreaves
who played Christine Appleby.

Edna Walker in the
Coronation Street production office 
circa 1960.

"I'd always had a strong sense of what outfit suited a character," she says. "Even as a child, I would lose myself watching film stars at the cinema. I was very interested in films and clothes, concentrating on the costumes and outfits, on what was worn by whom. I would judge the character based on what they wore."

Edna's keen sense of the importance of what a character wore, and how they wore it, was to stand her in good stead at Coronation Street. Her trained eye knew instinctively when she spotted an item of clothing that was just right for a character.

"I grew up knowing older ladies who were exactly like Ena Sharples and Annie Walker," Edna explains. "I knew how they dressed, what they wore and what they looked like. The characters on Coronation Street were just like the people I knew when I grew up in a working class area of Manchester. I knew these people, these characters. And I knew how special Tony Warren's new television programme was, because I thought if I knew the characters, then the people out there watching it, the audience, they'd feel they would know them too.

"For instance, Ena Sharples' grey coat actually belonged to my husband's grandmother," Edna says. "I knew it was right for Ena, so I paid for it and I brought it in and Violet Carson wore it as Ena's."

Violet Carsons as Ena Sharples

Edna worked as Head of Wardrobe on Coronation Street from 1960 to 1963 and in that time, she became good friends with Pat Phoenix, the actress who played Elsie Tanner. "Pat and I were the very best of friends," Edna says.

In the BBC Four film made to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary in 2010, The Road to Coronation Street Edna Walker is portrayed in the film, played by actress Tara Moran. In the very first scene of the film, Edna is seen running down a corridor at Granada TV. She's chasing Pat Phoenix, dressed as Elsie, who's ready to go live to the nation in Corrie's first ever episode and Edna's putting Pat's costume straight. It's a lovely scene.

Actress Tara Moran in BBC Four film 'The Road to Coronation Street' playing Edna Walker, 
tending to Pat Phoenix's costume as Elsie Tanner, played by Jessie Wallace.

Edna's words also appear right at the very end of The Road to Coronation Street. As the first episode is just about to go live to the nation, Lynda Baron as Violet Carson (Ena) turns to Celia Imrie as Doris Speed (Annie) and whispers conspiratorially: "Edna in wardrobe thinks it could run as long as The Archers."

Doris Speed as Annie Walker

Pat Phoenix as Elsie Tanner

Edna revealed that when Doris Speed, who played Annie Walker, came into wardrobe for the first time, she took a fancy to Edna's own shoes she was wearing. "I like your shoes," Doris told Edna. "May I try them?" and with that Edna's shoes became part of the wardrobe for the first landlady of the Rovers Return.

Left of picture: Margot Bryant playing Minnie Caldwell, wearing 'that' hat

The actresses would sometimes contribute to their character's wardrobe. "Minnie Caldwell's hat belonged to one of her aunties," Edna says. "And Pat brought in a coat and dress once for Elsie Tanner to wear." But did an actress ever wear any of their character clothes outside of the show? Edna replied without missing a beat: "Oh no, I wouldn't let them."

In the time that Edna worked as Head of Wardrobe at Coronation Street, she dressed three weddings on the show. The first Street wedding was when Rovers Return barmaid Concepta Riley married Harry Hewitt in 1961. The second was Ken Barlow marrying Valerie Tatlock in 1962 and the third when Jerry Booth wed Myra Dickinson in 1963.

Two of those weddings saw the bride dressed in a wedding gown bought from a bridal wear shop. But the wedding dress worn by Valerie Tatlock when she married Ken Barlow in 1962 actually belonged to Edna's sister and was borrowed for the wedding on the show. Again, this was Edna knowing instinctively what was right for the character at the time.

Within six months of the first episode shown on ITV on December 9th 1960, Coronation Street was the most popular programme on British Television. Fan mail started to come into the show for the actresses and actors. Fans were even starting to write in to Granada asking where they could buy the clothes they'd seen on the show. So, as well as sourcing the clothes, doing all the ironing, laundry and repairs, Edna and her team had to reply to fan letters too.

But clearly she loved her work. "It was like wearing a good fitting pair of gloves to go in and do Coronation Street," she says. "I always knew I was doing it right and I was very proud of what I was doing".

Did she keep any mementos of her time on Coronation Street? "I have pictures," she says, "and memories."

After leaving Coronation Street, Edna continued to work in wardrobe for Yorkshire TV and the BBC on shows such as the Saturday night plays, and the Good Old Days, filmed at Leeds City Varieties.

We ended the interview with Edna saying that not only did she still enjoy watching Coronation Street, she continued to watch it with a professional eye to the wardrobe and character outfits. "How could I not?" she laughed.

I asked her if, when she first started working at Coronation Street in 1960 if she ever could have imagined, almost 53 years later that a fan of the show would ring her up to have this chat and find it fascinating to hear her stories? Without hesitation, she replied: "Well, I knew Tony's show was special. I just knew. It was a show that people would care about and want to watch."

And here we are, almost 53 years later - and Coronation Street remains a show that people still care about and still want to watch.

With thanks to Edna Walker.

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