Emmerdale actor Sheila Mercer has died at the age of 100, ITV has confirmed.
Mercer played Annie Sugden from the soap's first episode in 1972 until 1994. She then went on to make several guest appearances until 2009.
A message on Emmerdale's official Twitter account read: "It's always sad to hear of the death of an actor who played a significant part in Emmerdale's success. Even more so when that actor was in the very first episode and around whose family the show was built.
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"‘Annie Sugden’ embodied all the virtues of Yorkshire .... she was hard working, resilient, determined, down to earth and didn’t suffer fools gladly. Sheila had many of those qualities too putting the needs of the programme above her own and always delivering a great performance come rain or shine.
"She will be greatly missed #Emmerdale."
Mercier had also been a theatre actor earlier on in her career.
Emmerdale stars have paid tribute to the soap legend upon her death, with Kim Tate actor Claire King tweeting: "RIP Sheila Mercier, the beating heart of Emmerdale, never forgotten, so many wonderful memories, love and condolences to all her family x."
RIP Sheila Mercier, the beating heart of Emmerdale, never forgotten, so many wonderful memories, love and condolences to all her family x pic.twitter.com/ysbPmukt3b— Claire King (@claireking101) December 13, 2019
Marlon Dingle star Mark Charnock wrote: "The great #SheilaMercier has left us. What an iconic character Annie Sugden was. Used to watch it with my grandparents as a boy, so to meet her in later years was a thrill. I was star struck and she was so lovely to me. RIP."
James Hooton, who plays Sam Dingle, shared: "A fond and sad farewell to Sheila Mercier. I met her a couple of times in my early Emmerdale career and it was like meeting the queen, such was her demeanour. A true Emmerdale legend. RIP. X."