Ena Sharples

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Ena Sharples
Ena Sharples 1980.jpg
Coronation Street character
Portrayed by Violet Carson
Duration 1960–80
First appearance 9 December 1960
Episode 1
Last appearance 2 April 1980
Episode 1983
Created by Tony Warren
Introduced by Stuart Latham (1960)
Susi Hush (1975)
Bill Podmore (1978)
Book appearances Coronation Street:
The Complete Saga

Coronation Street:
Keeping The Home Fires Burning

Coronation Street:
The War Years
Classification Former; regular
Profile
Occupation Mission caretaker (retired)
Home Lytham St Annes

Ena Sharples (née Schofield) is one of the original characters from the British soap opera Coronation Street, and was played by Violet Carson. Ena in the pilot episodes was played by Nan Marriott-Watson.

Development[edit]

Ena (Violet Carson), who appeared in the series for 20 years between 1960 and 1980, was the caretaker of the mission hall, and spent much of her time criticising the activities of the street's other inhabitants. She was one of the main characters during the 1960s, she was featured less regularly in the 1970s due to the declining health of actress Violet Carson, and was written out in 1980. Almost always wearing a double-breasted Ulster coat and hairnet, she spent much of her free time in the series' early years with her two cronies, Martha Longhurst (Lynne Carol) and Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant), in the snug bar of the Rovers Return Inn, drinking milk stout.

When the final episode featuring Ena was screened on 2 April 1980, it attracted little media or public attention as the producers intended her to continue in the series - the character was merely leaving her house in the street and moving to care for an ill friend, Henry Foster. Unfortunately, all subsequent storylines involving Ena had to be scrapped owing to Carson's ill health.

Violet Carson died on Boxing Day 1983 at the age of 85. Following her departure in 1980, Ena's fate was never revealed in the programme. The first reference to her was made in the 1985 spin-off video "The Jubilee Years" when Ken Barlow revealed that Ena had died a couple of years ago, giving the impression she had died sometime in 1983. Also, in 2010, a short online video titled "Ken: A Life On The Street" confirmed that she was no longer alive when Ken Barlow (William Roache) told his grandson Simon (Alex Bain) that she was "long dead now." The canonicity of the film is debatable.

Storylines[edit]

Backstory[edit]

Ena Schofield was born in Weatherfield on 14 November 1899. She had a brother and a sister, Alice Raynold (née Schofield) (1885-1965) and Tom Schofield (d. 1973). During her school days Ena met Martha Hartley (Lynne Carol) and Minnie Carlton (Margot Bryant), establishing lifelong friendships. An attentive student with a strong Christian upbringing, Ena became devoted to her religion and developed a firm belief in the importance of rules and morals. She also quickly learned to be self-sufficient, taking on factory work when she was only 11.

In 1915, Ena became engaged to Phil Moss, nephew of her mentor at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall, Gladys Arkwright. However, he enlisted and was soon after killed in battle, devastating Ena. At the start of the war in 1914, Ena had developed a gradual friendship with Albert Tatlock after Dinky Low, a local boy Ena had a crush on, asked her to write to Albert. Ena and Albert became close enough that he would stay with her family while on leave, but when he asked her if she wanted to be more than friends, she declined, stating that she was still mourning Phil.

Around 1917, Ena met Alfred Sharples, who had been sent home to heal a leg injury. There was an instant chemistry, but Ena was upset to learn he was already married and broke contact with him. When the war ended, Alfred and Ena ran into each other again and he told her that his marriage had been in name only - he'd had to marry the daughter of someone his father had owed money to. Alfred also informed Ena that his wife had recently passed away. Ena decided to give him another chance.

In 1920, Ena married Alfred. They had three children: Vera, Madge and Ian. Ian died after only two days, and Alfred died in 1937 during the Depression, leaving Ena a widow with two children. As Vera and Madge grew up, they were alienated against Ena due to her judgemental and frequently interfering nature, a point of much contention for Ena who only had herself to blame. Madge and her mother became almost completely estranged after Madge emigrated in 1950.

1960-1970[edit]

In 1960, Ena battled the Mission's new lay preacher Leonard Swindley (Arthur Lowe), who objected to her frequenting the Rovers. Ena collapsed due to the stress, but walked out of the hospital to return to her post so that Martha, who had taken on her responsibilities while she recovered, could not steal her job. In 1961 Ena was sacked for spreading a rumour that Coronation Street was being demolished, when it turned out to be untrue, but Swindley was forced to re-hire her when a suitable replacement could not be found (Ena had bribed the other candidates to turn the job down). Still unhappy with the working conditions, however, Ena walked out of the job later in the year and moved in with Minnie, with Albert Tatlock briefly taking on the caretaker position. She was eventually offered her job back.

Ena had a health scare in 1962 when she suffered a minor stroke, brought on by hypostatic pneumonia. She quickly regained her speech and mobility but the following year was diagnosed with arteriosclerosis. Despite her willingness to gossip, Ena was very guarded about her private life and resented Martha for discussing her health problems with Ena's daughter, Vera Lomax (Ruth Holden).

Later that year, Ena's great nephew Tom Schofield visited her and invited her to her brother's home in the USA for an extended stay. Ena jumped at the chance to go abroad for the first time and meet the family she never knew she had. Upon her return, Ena was horrified to see the Mission converted into a Community Centre, with social worker Ruth Winter employed there full-time. She quit upon hearing the news and moved in with Minnie at No.5. Despite being out of work, Ena was soon caught up with other problems as Vera came to stay having separated from her husband Bob Lomax. Vera had debts to pay but not the money to pay them, so Ena gave her the money, even though it was all her savings. A disoriented Ena was later caught accidentally stealing from a supermarket. In court, Ena pleaded not guilty, but refused to give her age when questioned, saying only that she was over 21. She was fined 40 shillings. To offset her money problems, Ena took on the job of live-in housekeeper at No.9 for Len Fairclough, although when the Community Centre at the Mission closed down, Ena moved back into the vestry.

Vera came to stay again later in 1966, claiming to be ill. Ena did not believe her until she spoke to Vera's doctor, who said that Vera had a brain tumour and had a month to live, but Vera had not yet been told her condition was terminal. Ena watched her daughter wind down over several weeks until she died in Ena's bed in January 1967.

The Mission was closed for good a year later, when it was demolished along with the factory to make way for a block of two-storey maisonettes. Ena was offered a place at an old folk's home but unsurprisingly she declined, choosing to lodge with old friend Henry Foster at St. Anne's after briefly living with Minnie, although when the maisonettes were built Ena moved into No.6, a purpose-built OAP ground floor flat. Ena was pleased as it occupied the exact spot where the vestry had been.

In 1969, Ena got bored with the maisonette and moved into a flat above Ernest Bishop's camera shop. With Glad Tidings gone, the closest place of worship was the Victoria Street Mission, and Ena kept close tabs on the comings and goings there. She was delighted in 1970 to meet young Tony Parsons, who shared her passion for the harmonium. Recognising his talent, Ena made him her protégé and gave him lessons, while seeing about getting him a scholarship.

1971-1980[edit]

When the maisonettes were demolished in 1971, one of the buildings which replaced them was a community centre. Despite her age, Ena was determined to secure the position of caretaker, and scared off her competitor Hetty Thorpe by warning her about the violence in the area. With no one else to take the job, Ena was selected as caretaker, and she moved into a flat adjacent to the Centre. Ena's age and ability to do the work was a constant concern to the Council. A co-caretaker, Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth), was foisted on her, though she insisted on being called Senior Caretaker. In 1973, Ena suffered two heart attacks, but refused to move away as she wanted to die in the street. When she disappeared with the Centre keys at Christmas, preventing the children from getting any presents, Ena assumed she'd be sacked and left to stay with Henry Foster at St. Anne's, although she was allowed to keep her job.

Later in the 1970s, Ena flitted between Weatherfield and St. Anne's. Her friends gradually left her life - Martha had died in 1964, and Minnie left in 1976 to live at Whaley Bridge with their old friend Handel Gartside. In 1977, Councillor Tattersall tried to sack Ena so that his niece could take her job, but Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley) fought on Ena's behalf. The Lomaxs offered to house Ena but she refused. In 1980, Ena dumped herself on Elsie, and later Albert, while the flat was being re-decorated. Grumbling about the situation, she left to stay at St. Anne's. On this occasion, she never returned to Coronation Street.

Reception[edit]

In a book written about Women and soap opera, Ena was described as "brusque and uncompromising, refusing to adjust to the changing times."[1] Ena has also been described as "a Coronation Street prototype, a strong, bossy woman."[2] In an interview Violet Carson described Ena, as the eternal busybody, the rock of ages, when things are going well, she is the old bag, when things are going wrong, she is the first one they turn to". Actor Michael Melia has claimed in an interview that he thought the character of Ena was "the most forbidding face on the street. A harridan in a hair-net with a surly expression that could stop a grown-man in his tracks."[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Geraghty, Christian (1991). Women and soap opera: a study of prime time soaps. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 82. ISBN 0-7456-0568-0. 
  2. ^ Viner, Brian (8 December 2000). "An addict's appreciation of Coronation Street". The Independent. (Independent Print Limited). Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Grant, Brigit (20 September 1996). "I was terrified by Ena Sharples; Michael Melia; INTERVIEW". Daily Mirror.