Former Coronation Street actress Jean Alexander dies aged 90

Former Coronation Street star Jean Alexander - who played Hilda Ogden in the soap for more than 20 years - has died aged 90.

The actress, who played one of the Manchester drama's best known and loved characters from 1964 and 1987, passed away three days after her birthday.

Her niece Sonia Hearld said she had spend some time in hospital in Southport recently and died peacefully there on Friday.

Mrs Hearld, 64, who lives in Selby, North Yorkshire, said: "My aunt died sadly earlier today.

"I saw her last week when we went to see her in hospital. She was feeling a little bit poorly but she was talking to me and my husband quite happily.

"There was nothing telling us anything was wrong - she was just generally weak and under the weather.

"We have not had the details."

In the 23 years she appeared in Britain's longest-running TV soap, the resilience of her character endeared her to the nation.

After leaving Coronation Street in 1987, she joined the cast of Last Of The Summer Wine, another hugely popular show, which she appeared in until 2010.

Her niece said that well after she retired she continued to enjoy celebrity status because the storylines she had been involved in had touched people's lives.  

Mrs Hearld said: "People used to stop her just to say hello and how much they missed her. With Hilda, the fact she was such a downtrodden person but just got on with it. She just touched a chord with people."

Originally from Toxteth, Liverpool, she became one of the most famous people in Britain due to the - at times - tens of millions of people who tuned in to 'The Street' every week.

She was known for the battles she fought with her feckless, boozy husband Stanley inside her terraced house with a painted alpine scene and a set of flying ducks on its walls. 

One of the show's highest ever viewing figures - 28.5 million people - came on the day she left the street to start a new life as a housekeeper to a long standing friend.

She was so fondly remembered that 20 years after quitting the show, she was voted the nation's favourite soap star.

Her acting career of more than 60 years began in 1949 and started on TV with an appearance in Z-Cars.

Coronation Street stars have been paying tribute to the actress who brought many fans to the show.

Sally Dynevor, who plays Sally Webster, tweeted: "Jean Alexander, RIP. What a wonderful woman, and such an amazing and talented actress #thankyouforbeingyou

She added: "All woman #legend" and "Loved Jean and Hilda #RIP".

Jack P Shepherd, who plays David Platt, said on Twitter: "R.I.P Jean Alexander"

Jennie McAlpine, who stars as Fiz Brown, added: "So sorry to hear about Jean Alexander. I would have loved to work with her. Thankful to have met her though. Rest in Peace Jean x"