Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Coronation Street actress Maggie Jones dies

Maggie Jones as Blanche Hunt

Coronation Street actress Maggie Jones, who played Blanche Hunt in the soap, has died in hospital at the age of 75.

A spokeswoman for the ITV show said the star, who had been recovering from an operation in October, had "passed away peacefully" on Wednesday morning.

William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, said she was a "brilliant actress" who had an "amazing dry wit".

She first appeared as Blanche, who is best known for her harsh put-downs and sharp tongue, 35 years ago.

'Dry wit'

Jones was admitted to hospital for major surgery in October. It is not clear what she was being treated for.

"Maggie had been making a slow recovery but her condition deteriorated early Wednesday morning and she passed away peacefully in her sleep," the spokeswoman said.

Roache, who played Blanche's son-in-law, said: "Maggie was a big part of the Barlow family and a brilliant actress.

"She was a tower of strength, physically frail but mentally strong as an ox and sharp as someone half her age.

"She had an amazing dry wit and was as funny, if not funnier, than Blanche. We were great crossword partners - we sat through Tracy's trial scenes doing the crossword together."

He added: "I don't think Maggie ever realised how much she was loved - not only by everyone on the show but by the millions of Blanche fans out there. She will be greatly missed."

Jones, who won several soap awards, only became a regular cast member in 1999 after numerous occasional appearances as Blanche.

She also played different characters in the soap on two separate occasions. Her first appearance on the show was as a policewoman in 1961.

The soap's executive producer, Kieran Roberts, called Jones a "much-loved colleague and a wonderful actress who turned Blanche into a true Coronation Street icon".

Blanche Hunt (Maggie Jones) and Deirdre Barlow (Anne Kirkbride)
Blanche became a regular in the show in 1999

He added: "She will be hugely missed by Coronation Street's many millions of viewers and by everyone who works on Coronation Street.

"Our thoughts and prayers go to Maggie's sister, Joan, at this very sad time."

Jones's agent, Katie Threlfall, said: "Maggie was a rare treasure - incredibly kind, honest and loved by so many. It has been such a privilege to work with her, and we will miss her dearly."

Scriptwriters had written her out of the show while she recovered from her operation.

But, because the show is filmed six weeks in advance, Jones was still seen on screen until recently.

In her last ever scene, which was broadcast on 20 November, Blanche got drunk and revealed some home truths at a family gathering.

Jones, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), began her career on stage, and had a number of different theatre roles before moving in to television.

She was widowed in 1999 after 28 years of marriage, when her husband, John Oliver Stansfield, died aged 72.

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