William Roache

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William Roache

Roache in October 2017
William Patrick Roache

(1932-04-25) 25 April 1932 (age 91)
Years active1958–present
  • (m. 1961; div. 1974)
  • Sara McEwan Mottram
    (m. 1978; died 2009)
Children5, including Linus and James
Military career
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Welsh Fusiliers
Years of service1953–1956

William Patrick Roache OBE (born 25 April 1932) is an English actor. He is best known for playing Ken Barlow in the ITV soap opera Coronation Street. Roache is the longest-serving cast member in Coronation Street having appeared in the show since its very first broadcast on 9 December 1960. He is listed in the Guinness World Records as the longest-serving television star in a continuous role.[1]

Early life[edit]

Roache[2] was born in the Basford suburb of Nottingham[3] the son of Joseph William Vincent Roache, a doctor, and Hester Vera, daughter of Albert and Mary Zillah Waddicor. Albert Waddicor was a violent drunk, but his wife was a successful businesswoman, who ran a restaurant and tea rooms at Alton Towers, which had been opened as a tourist attraction - but not at that time a theme park – after the death of the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury. Roache grew up in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, where he attended a Steiner school set up by his grandfather, a physician and surgeon, in the family's garden.[4][5][6] His grandfather was a Freemason who was interested in such things as theosophy, esotericism, hypnotism, spiritualism, and homoeopathy, as well as the teachings of philosopher and educationalist Rudolf Steiner. Roache was later educated at Rydal School.[7] He joined the British Army and was commissioned into the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1953. A year later, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He left in 1956 with the rank of captain. Due to an exploding mortar round during his military service, he suffers from tinnitus.[8]


After leaving the military, Roache turned to acting. He appeared in various stage productions, then had uncredited roles in several films, and later won small parts in television serials including Knight Errant Limited and Skyport.[9] He played the minor role of a space centre operator in the Norman Wisdom film The Bulldog Breed. Shortly before joining Coronation Street at the beginning of the programme in 1960, Roache played the leading role in a Granada Television play called Marking Time, transmitted on ITV in 1961. In an interview with the Liverpool Post in 2007, Roache recalled "I played a young soldier in Germany who fraternised with a German girl, although I can't remember now how it ended. It was highly prestigious, though, and I have tried to hunt it down but there is no trace of it."[3] He added: "But Tony Warren, who created Coronation Street, saw it and thought I was right for Ken Barlow."[10]

On 16 October 1985, just weeks before the 25th anniversary of his debut on Coronation Street, Roache appeared as the subject of TV show This Is Your Life.[11] Ken and Me, Roache's first autobiography, was published in 1993, covering his life on and off screen.[12] In 1999, Roache was the recipient of the British Soap Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for his role as Ken Barlow. In 2003, Roache appeared on Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes as Perry Como singing the song "Catch a Falling Star". In September and October 2005, he appeared as a celebrity contestant in Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon.[13] He was the winner of The Golden Shot (a remake), progressing through to Bullseye in which he was beaten by television presenter Vernon Kay. He later entered All Star Family Fortunes, hosted by Kay, but lost by two points to his competitors.[citation needed]

Roache's 2008 autobiography Soul on the Street contains a substantial amount of philosophical content in which Roache affirms his belief in the afterlife. In October 2008, he revealed on BBC Breakfast he had had a two-year feud with actress Pat Phoenix, a fellow Coronation Street player, during which they did not speak to each other: this stemmed from her changing a scene involving the two of them. However, they did reconcile and became good friends.[14] In 2010, 50 Years on the Street: My Life with Ken Barlow, a memoir focusing on Roache's work on Coronation Street, was published to coincide with his 50th year playing Barlow.[15]

On 13 April 2012, Piers Morgan interviewed Roache for his ITV series Piers Morgan's Life Stories. On 26 September 2012, Roache was featured in the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?, researching his family history.[16] He is currently Coronation Street's longest-serving actor, having been in the cast from the first episode. In 2018, the book Life and Soul: How to Live a Long and Healthy Life was released, in which Roache shares his personal philosophy and life experiences.[17]

Roache is currently the world's longest-serving television actor in a continuous role (as of March 2018) after the 2010 cancellation of the American soap opera As the World Turns, in which Don Hastings had played Bob Hughes since October 1960 without a break.[18]

Roache's biography, The Times and Life of William 'Bill' Roache: Actor for the Ages, was released to coincide with his 90th birthday on 15 April 2022.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Roache lives in Wilmslow, Cheshire.[20] His eldest son, by his first wife Anna Cropper (1938–2007), is actor Linus Roache (born 1964). The couple also had a daughter named Vanya (1967–2018). Roache and Cropper were married from 1961 until divorcing in 1974. Roache married his second wife, Sara McEwan Mottram, in 1978. She died suddenly on 7 February 2009 at their home, at the age of 58.[21] With Sara, he had a daughter named Verity (born 1981) and a younger son, actor James Roache (christened William; born 1985). A second daughter, Edwina, died at the age of 18 months on 16 November 1984. Roache dated weather reporter Emma Jesson from 2010 to 2012.[22]

In 1991, Roache won a libel action against The Sun, which had described him as boring and unpopular with his fellow Coronation Street stars. He was awarded £50,000 in damages by the jury, the same amount that he had turned down in an out-of-court settlement offered by the newspaper before the case. As a result, he was liable for the £120,000 costs incurred. Roache sued his law firm for negligence in 1998, and was declared bankrupt in April 1999.[23][24]

Roache is a supporter of the Conservative Party, in stark contrast to his character Ken Barlow, who has been stereotyped as a Labour supporter. In 2007, as a guest for Daily Politics, he championed Sir John Major as Britain's greatest post-war prime minister.[25] He backed Conservative MP Neil Hamilton in the 1997 election against Martin Bell.[26][27] Roache opposed instant-runoff voting in favour of first-past-the-post voting during the 2011 referendum on the issue.[28]

Roache became patron of the Ilkeston-based production company Sustained Magic Ltd in 2006.[29]

Roache is a vegetarian, stating that he "doesn't want animals being killed" for him.[30] He wrote about his interest in astrology in his biography, which he learned by taking a correspondence course from the Faculty of Astrological Studies. He said he had impressed members of the Coronation Street cast by the accuracy with which he read their astrological charts for them.[31]

Legal issues[edit]

On 1 May 2013, Roache was arrested by Lancashire Police on suspicion of having raped a 15-year-old girl in 1967, an allegation he denied.[20][32][33] The Crown Prosecution Service subsequently announced that he was to be charged with two counts of rape.[34] There was a preliminary hearing in a Magistrates' court on 14 May 2013[35] and a Crown Court hearing took place on 10 June 2013.[36] On 6 June 2013, Roache was charged with a further five counts of indecent assault against girls aged between 12 and 16.[37][38] Roache appeared at Preston Crown Court on 2 September and pleaded not guilty to all charges. The full trial started on 14 January 2014 at Preston Crown Court, before Judge Anthony Russell QC.[39] During the trial, one charge was dismissed by the judge citing a lack of evidence. Some details in two witnesses' accounts changed in the course of the trial.[40]

On 6 February 2014, Roache was found not guilty on all charges.[40][41] Following his acquittal, Roache gave a brief statement saying that there had been "no winners" and expressing his intent to "get back to work".[40] An image of Ken Barlow had been removed from the Madame Tussauds waxwork exhibition in Blackpool due to fears it might be vandalised.[42] The waxwork was returned to the exhibition in February 2014 following Roache's acquittal.[43] Roache resumed filming on Coronation Street in June 2014, and returned to the screen on 4 August of that year.[44]


In 1999, he was awarded the British Soap Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for his role as Ken Barlow.

In March 2007, he was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Chester in recognition of his contribution to television.[45]

Roache was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2001 New Year Honours[46][47] and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to drama and charity.[48][49][50]


Year Show Role Note
1958 Behind the Mask Uncredited
1960–present Coronation Street Ken Barlow Regular role
1960 The Bulldog Breed Space Centre operator Uncredited
Knight Errant Limited Various 2 episodes
1961 The Queen's Guards Field Radio Operator Uncredited
1969 All Star Comedy Carnival Ken Barlow
1999 Comic Relief Special - Wetty Hainthropp Investigates
2005 Comic Relief
2011 Ken and Deirdre's Bedtime Stories Coronation Street spin-off series; 10 episodes
2017 The Missing Crown Jewels Himself Part of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway


  1. ^ "William Roache free to rebuild career". BBC News. 6 February 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  2. ^ "Coronation Street actor William Roache has appeared at Preston Magistrates Court". Lep.co.uk. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  3. ^ a b "10 Totally True Facts about Ken Barlow". Inside Soap. 19 May 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  4. ^ "Featured Articles: TheGenealogist".
  5. ^ "William Roache".
  6. ^ "Spiritual soap star William Roache to give talk in city", Peterborough Today, 25 February 2006; retrieved 7 June 2008.
  7. ^ "Notable alumni - Rydal Penrhos - Alumni". Alumni.rydalpenrhos.com. 13 February 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  8. ^ "Hearing Loss News and Reviews". Tinnitus sufferers 'feel let down' by NHS treatment. EveningTimes.co.uk. 13 September 2005.
  9. ^ "William Roache". Corrie.net. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  10. ^ Johns, Victoria (14 December 2022). "Corrie's William Roache collects OBE as the longest-serving soap star in the world". Reach plc. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  11. ^ "This Is Your Life (1969–1993)". Eofftv.com. Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  12. ^ Ken and Me. ASIN 0671712136.
  13. ^ Laws, Roz (1 January 2012). "Nostalgia: Bullseye (1981-1995)". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  14. ^ Green, Kris (24 October 2008). "Corrie actor had two-year feud with co-star". Digital Spy. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  15. ^ 50 Years on the Street: My Life with Ken Barlow. ASIN 1845966554.
  16. ^ "BBC One - Who Do You Think You Are?, Series 9, William Roache". BBC. 7 February 2013. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  17. ^ Life and Soul: How to Live a Long and Healthy Life. ASIN 1781809771.
  18. ^ "Don Hastings CBS Biography". cbs.com. 2007. Retrieved 21 January 2007.
  19. ^ Goodfellow, R, Copeland J. and O'Neill, P. (2022). The Times and Life of William Bill Roache: Actor for the Ages. The End Authority Limited Publishing Auckland and Atebol Aberystwyth. ISBN 978-1-80106-283-1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ a b "Coronation Street actor Bill Roache arrested on suspicion of historic sex assault". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  21. ^ "Street actor Roache's wife dies". BBC News. 8 February 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  22. ^ "Corrie's Bill Roache cools romance with weather girl Emma Jesson?". Digital Spy. 25 September 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  23. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra (14 April 1999). "Bankrupt... but by no means boring". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  24. ^ "'Coronation Street' star William Roache sues over libel bill". The Independent. London. 10 March 1998. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  25. ^ "Your Favourite Prime Minister". BBC News. 13 June 2007.
  26. ^ "Talking Politics: Springing to Neil Hamilton's defence". BBC News. 19 October 1998. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  27. ^ "Bill Roache: His strange life and times". The Daily Telegraph. London. 15 March 2012. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  28. ^ "William Roache says 'no' to AV". officialNO2AV. YouTube. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  29. ^ "About Us". Sustained Magic. Archived from the original on 13 February 2009. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  30. ^ ITV 1, Loose Women, 1 February 2012, 12:30 (GMT), guest-starring William Roache. Roache: "I'm vegetarian because I don't want animals being killed for me."
  31. ^ William Roach, Soul on the Street, pp.165–168. (Hay House, Inc, 2008) ISBN 9781848500150.
  32. ^ Williams, Rob (1 May 2013). "Coronation Street star Bill Roache strenuously denies allegations he raped underage girl in 1967". The Independent. London. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  33. ^ "Coronation Street star William Roache denies rape". BBC News. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  34. ^ "Coronation Street star William Roache to face rape charges". BBC News. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  35. ^ Halliday, Josh (1 May 2013). "Coronation Street's Bill Roache charged with rape of 15-year-old in 1967". The Guardian. London.
  36. ^ "Coronation Street's William Roache appears in court on rape charge". BBC News. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  37. ^ "Bill Roache: Corrie Actor Faces More Charges". Sky News. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  38. ^ "Roache charged with indecent assault". BBC News. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  39. ^ "Coronation Street's William Roache in court on sex charges". BBC News. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  40. ^ a b c "William Roache found not guilty of rape and indecent assault". BBC News. 6 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  41. ^ Evans, Martin (6 February 2014). "Bill Roache found not guilty of rape and assault charges". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  42. ^ "Blackpool Madame Tussauds removes Ken Barlow waxwork". BBC News. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  43. ^ "William Roache waxwork is back on display at Madame Tussauds". Nottingham Post. 18 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  44. ^ "William Roache to resume Coronation Street role". BBC News. 21 May 2014.
  45. ^ "Honorary Graduates 2007". chester.ac.uk. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  46. ^ "Olympic heroes lead honours list". BBC News. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  47. ^ Cooper, Lorna. "William Roache, MBE - William Roache: Coronation Street's Ken Barlow turns 80". uk.msn.com. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  48. ^ "No. 63571". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 2022. p. N15.
  49. ^ "New Year Honours: Whitty, Van-Tam and Blair knighted, Lumley and Redgrave made dames". BBC News. 31 December 2021.
  50. ^ "New Years Honours 2022: William Roache 'delighted' with OBE". BBC News. 31 December 2021. Retrieved 3 January 2022.

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