Adele Rose, scriptwriter on Coronation Street who also devised Byker Grove – obituary

Adele Rose
Adele Rose

Adele Rose, who has died of pneumonia aged 87, was Coronation Street’s first female scriptwriter, its longest-serving and the second-most prolific, with 457 episodes over 37 years. Only Peter Whalley wrote more – 601 in 35 years.

Working as a secretary in the promotions department at Granada Television, which prepared links for the continuity announcers, put her on the road to writing for the ITV soap, launched by the company in December 1960.

Jack Rosenthal, a colleague who went on to become a celebrated writer of sitcoms and single plays, was a firm friend. When their manager saw them exchanging comic messages in the guise of different characters, he locked them in a room and said they could not come out until they had written a comedy script.

Although the result was never performed outside Granada’s corridors, Rosenthal went on to become part of Coronation Street’s first scriptwriting team. He phoned Adele Rose, who had by then left to have her first child, and told her: “If I can write for it, so can you.”

She contacted script editor Harry Kershaw, noting that Tony Warren’s creation featured strong women such as the sex siren Elsie Tanner (played by Pat Phoenix) and the hairnetted harridan Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) but had no female writers. “I’m a writer and I’m a woman,” she told him.

She made her debut with Episode 40, screened in May 1961. Her all-round writing skills and her gift for giving female characters high drama came to the fore that year with a showdown between Elsie and Ena across the cobbles, in the manner of the 1952 Gary Cooper Western High Noon – but with battle by “double-barrelled rolling pins”, as one Street character described it.

Adele Rose’s other notable scripts included a 1968 episode where the whole of the second half was taken up with a two-hander between Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) and Elsie as she came to terms with her second marriage falling apart and, 10 years later, Elsie’s breakdown after being mistaken for a prostitute.

The legendary affair between Deirdre Barlow (Anne Kirkbride) and Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) began with an Adele Rose script in 1982, and there were other dramatic high points such as Brian Tilsley (Christopher Quinten) being stabbed to death in 1989 and Jim McDonald (Charles Lawson) striking wife Liz (Beverley Callard) in 1996.

“I love getting inside people’s heads and going for the real feelings,” Adele Rose said.

Adele Rose and John Finch working on scripts for Coronation Street - David Thorpe/ANL/Shutterstock 
Adele Rose and John Finch working on scripts for Coronation Street - David Thorpe/ANL/Shutterstock

She was also adept at writing comedy, notably in a Majorca holiday enjoyed by the Street’s female residents in 1974 and a trip to Blackpool by Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear), Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox) and Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) 11 years later.

But there were no laughs for the writer when a new producer Brian Park – dubbed the “axe man” – arrived in 1997 and dropped several long-running characters. The following year, Adele Rose was fired, too.

Nevertheless, Granada management acknowledged her formidable contribution to Coronation Street by giving her a farewell boardroom dinner.

She had been popular with both cast and crew over the soap’s early decades and, in 1972, was a bridesmaid at Pat Phoenix’s real-life wedding to her then screen husband, Alan Browning.

Adele Rose was also pivotal in making the long-running Byker Grove (1989-2006) a massive success after being approached by the television executive Andrea Wonfor to devise a children’s series set in an out-of-school club for junior-age pupils.

Following a pilot episode, the setting was changed to a youth club in the Byker district of Newcastle, with older characters and tackling controversial subjects such as drug addiction, teen pregnancy and abortion.

Made by independent company Zenith North for the BBC, it proved to be the launchpad for Ant and Dec, who as Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly acted PJ and Duncan.

Adele Rose wrote most of the first two series before handing over to other writers.

Adele Rose was born in Salford on December 8 1933, to Clara (née Simons) and Sydney Rose, a manager at Great Universal Stores, his family’s mail-order company, .

While studying at Broughton High School, Salford, she showed a flair for writing one-act plays performed by a local youth club and entered drama festivals.

She began her working life as a secretary in a Manchester advertising agency. When her boss moved to Granada Television’s promotions department, he took her with him.

During her long run with Coronation Street, Adele Rose also contributed scripts to seven Z Cars stories; other dramas such as Within These Walls, Angels and Heartbeat; sitcoms including Bless This House and Robin’s Nest; and two daytime serials, Rooms and Together.

Under the pseudonym Kay Stephens, she wrote for Crossroads during the mid-1980s as it approached the end of its original 23-year run.

She also created and scripted Girls About Town (1969-71), a sitcom about bored housewives joining an escort agency, and Second Chance (1981), a drama based on her own experience of divorce.

Later, she teamed up with her daughter, Carrie, to write Island (1996-97), a teenage drama set in Jersey.

In 1993, she was a member of the Coronation Street team that won the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain’s award for best original drama serial.

Four years later, she came up with the storyline for the programme’s feature-length spin-off video release Coronation Street: Viva Las Vegas!

Adele Rose’s first marriage, to her namesake Monty Rose, ended in divorce. In 2008 she married, secondly, Peter Chadwick, a newspaper executive, who survives her with a son from her first marriage. Carrie, her daughter from her first marriage, died in 2018.

Adele Rose, born December 8 1933, died December 28 2020