16 February 1930
Liverpool, Lancashire, England, UK
|Died||17 January 2002
Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England, UK
|Occupation||Stage and television actor|
|Spouse(s)||Jean (1953-1984, her death)|
Peter Adamson (16 February 1930 – 17 January 2002) was a British stage and television actor. He is best known for playing the character of Len Fairclough in the long-running television series Coronation Street from 1961 to 1983.
Life and career
Born in Allerton, Liverpool, Adamson was the youngest of six children. His father was a manager of a menswear shop. Adamson left school at the age of 14 and took an office job in a solicitor's firm, before trying for a career as a commercial artist.
After taking part in a community play at the age of 17, Adamson moved to London and attended LAMDA, but left after two months. He returned to the North West, working in repertory theatre for several years, where he met his wife Jean. He also set up his own rep theatre company, producing and performing in plays and summer shows at Weston-super-Mare. He went on to appear in London's West End, and first appeared on television in 1956 in a variety show. He then gained roles in television dramas such as Granada Television's Skyport and Knight Errant Limited before being cast as Len Fairclough in Granada's fledgling series Coronation Street in late 1960. His character first appeared onscreen in January 1961.
One of the most enduring stars of the series, the role brought him fame, wealth, a lavish home, a cottage in Wales, a spectacular villa in Majorca and a range of cars he enjoyed being seen in. His initial salary after joining the cast of the Street was £10,000 a year - a huge sum in the early 1960s - and he could quickly double his income with personal appearances. By the late 1960s, however, he owed tens of thousands of pounds to the Inland Revenue.
Off screen, Adamson gained a reputation as a hell-raiser, admitting that he had a drink problem and had become involved in pub brawls. In 1969, he was suspended from the Street for three weeks without pay after three warnings about his drinking. He then attended Alcoholics Anonymous.
In December 1981, he was celebrated in an episode of This Is Your Life.
Adamson married his wife Jean on 20 December 1953. They had two sons, Michael and Greig. Jean died on 26 September 1984 at the age of 52.
On 24 April 1983, a Sunday newspaper reported that Adamson had been arrested for indecently assaulting two eight-year old girls in a public swimming pool in Haslingden where he had assisted as a part-time instructor. One was allegedly assaulted the day before, the other on 16 April. The police complaint alleged that Adamson's hands had strayed while giving the girls swimming lessons.
He was represented by the barrister George Carman QC, who had a prominent career defending celebrities. On 26 July 1983, a Crown Court jury found Adamson not guilty. The following year, after his wife's death and still suffering financial woes and drinking problems, he was allegedly persuaded by freelance Sun reporter Dan Slater to change his story following several bottles of whisky. Adamson was alleged to have told Slater "I am totally guilty of everything the police said"...."But what I hope you will print - there was no sexual intent."
As a result, Lincolnshire Police interviewed Adamson who categorically denied the confession. No charges were made against him.
In February 1983, Adamson was suspended from Coronation Street after selling stories about the show and cast to a tabloid newspaper. Following his arrest for alleged indecent assault in April 1983, Granada Television decided not to support him financially through his legal problems. Although he was cleared of the charge in July, he was sacked from Coronation Street by producer Bill Podmore in August 1983 for breach of contract when it was discovered Adamson had sold his memoirs for £70,000 after the previous warning, in order to pay the £120,000 legal debts from his trial.
Although his last actual appearance in the series was shown in May 1983 (which had been filmed before his suspension), Len Fairclough was killed off-screen in a motorway crash in December 1983. To demonise the character, it was revealed that he had been returning home from an affair, cheating on wife Rita (Barbara Knox).
Work after Coronation Street
Adamson starred in a West End production of Dial M for Murder from November 1983 to March 1984. In the spring of 1985, he played the leading role of an actor-manager of a troupe of music-hall entertainers on the eve of the First World War in Empires by J.B. Priestley. After some stage work in Canada, he returned to the UK and played Sir Tunbelly Clumsy in a revival of The Relapse at the Mermaid Theatre in 1988, but his drinking and reputation meant that acting roles became increasingly rare after that.
He developed osteoarthritis and had surgery for bowel cancer in 1990. He was forced to sell his homes as his debts increased. In 1991 he was declared bankrupt with debts of £32,000. Left penniless, the press occasionally visited him at his rented flat in Welton in Lincolnshire, detailing his fall from fame as he was seen shuffling to his local shops in slippers, buying cut-price food to save cash, and hoarding away £5 a week towards his funeral.
- "Obituary: Peter Adamson". The Independent (London). 21 January 2002. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
- "Obituary: Peter Adamson". The Daily Telegraph (London). 21 January 2002. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
- "Peter Adamson: Other Work". imdb. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
- Perthen, Amanda. "Street's shamed Len Fairclough dies". Mail on Sunday.
- Podmore, Bill (with Peter Reece) (1990) Coronation Street: The Inside Story London: Macdonald. ISBN 0-356-17971-0