Coronation Street legend Jean Alexander has died just three days after her 90th birthday.
The star, who played Hilda Ogden, passed away peacefully today in hospital.
She had been taken to hospital on Tuesday after becoming unwell.
Her niece Sonia Hearld, 64, told the Mirror how she received a phone call from the hospital breaking the bad news.
“It is such a shock”, she said.
Jean had been taken to hospital after feeling poorly a few days earlier as family and friends planned to gather to celebrate her 90th last weekend.
After a couple of days in hospital she was allowed back the care home, where she had been looked after since suffering a slight stroke in 2014.
She passed away early today in the Southport and Ormskirk hospital near her home.
Sonia said: “She had been feeling a little poorly and had gone in for some tests.
“But on Tuesday she was still not too good and it was decided she might be better going back into hospital.”
The hugely popular actress played the part of feisty Hilda for 23 years, having started her career in Macclesfield, Oldham and Stockport.
She received a 1987 BAFTA TV Award nomination for Best Actress and retired from acting in 2012.
In 1984 hundreds of fans sent her condolence cards after the death of her on-screen husband Stan Ogden, played by Bernard Youens, who had died shortly before his character was killed off.
In 1985 she received the Royal Television Society Award for her performance on Coronation Street.
When she decided to leave the programme in 1987, fans started “Save Hilda!” campaigns.
Her final touching scene in the Rovers Return attracted more than 27 million viewers.
In 1988 Jean made a guest appearance in the long-running BBC comedy series Last of the Summer Wine as Auntie Wainwright, the money-grabbing local junk shop owner but then became a regular in the show until it ended in 2010.
In 2005 the UK TV Times poll voted her as the “Greatest Soap Opera Star of All Time”.
In 2005, she was voted the nation’s favourite soap character, while in her 1980s heyday, Hilda was behind only the Queen, Queen Mother and Princess Diana in a poll of the most recognisable women in Britain.