ALEXANDER, Jean  [1926-2016]

Born as Jean Hodgkinson in Toxteth in 1926, Jean Alexander died a few days after her 90th birthday in 2016, an actress once dubbed ‘the greatest soap opera star of all time’. To the many thousands who followed Coronation Street she became inseparable from her alter ego, Hilda Ogden, and like many of her profession, she was somewhat ambivalent about the role which brought her national celebrity status. Writing in her autobiography, The Other Side of the Street, she asserted that “she ceased to exist the moment I took out my curlers, folded my pinny, re-arranged my hair and stepped into the real world.” Despite her misgivings, she appreciated just how good the part had been to her and she played it with zeal and professionalism from 1964 to 1987, acquiring a Bafta nomination on the way. In 1977 the British League for Hilda Ogden was established, amongst its ranks such avid fans as John Betjeman, Laurence Olivier and Michael Parkinson.

Her father, whose middle name was the source of her stage name, was an electrician and when Jean was born the family was living at 18 Rhiwlas Street, one of the famous ‘Welsh’ streets of Toxteth. The family also lived in Harrowby Street and at 37 Arnold Street both of which have been demolished. She was educated at Upper Park Street Primary, Granby Street Junior and St Edmund's High School and on leaving school worked for 5 years in the Liverpool Library service.

She began her acting career in 1949 in Macclesfield, subsequently performing in repertory companies in Oldham, Stockport and York. Her earliest television roles included two of the most popular shows of the early 1960’s, Z Cars and Emergency Ward 10. After leaving Coronation Street she appeared in a number of programmes, most noticeably as a regular in the comedy series Last of the Summer Wine, portraying the junk shop owner Auntie Wainwright.

She lived for many years in Southport and it was there that she died on 11th October 2016.

18 Rhiwlas Street L8

On the left the house as it was a few years ago when the 'Welsh Streets' were threatened with demolition. On the right the house following re-development which actually saw the 'disappearance' of No.18.


There are many online biographical pieces and obituaries. The main single source is her autobiography The Other Side of the Street [1989]