First appeared: 9th December 1960
Last appeared: 2nd April 1980
Violet Carson played the role of hag in a hairnet Ena Sharples between 1960 and 1980.
Born in Manchester in 1898, Carson had a successful career prior to her debut in Coronation Street. Her career was mainly radio based and was a regular member of the BBC’s Children’s Hour from 1928 alongside Wilfred Pickles and Trevor Hill. Corrie’s creator, Tony Warren, appeared on Children’s Hour and that’s how Carson got the role of Ena many years later. She made her television debut in 1957 in A Job for the Boy and appeared in various programmes between 1958 and 1960.
In 1960, Violet was cast in the role of 61 year old battleaxe Ena Sharples in new serial Coronation Street – a role she would play for twenty years. Debuting in the first episode, Ena made her mark as the nosy, gossipy and moralising battleaxe of Coronation Street. Her feud with street siren Elsie Tanner dominated her early storylines, with them having slanging matches in the street and catty remarks. When not clashing with Elsie, Ena was to be found drinking milk stout and gossiping with fellow cronies Martha Longhurst and Minnie Caldwell in the Rovers snug. A staunch Christian, Ena worked as the caretaker of the Mission Hall on the street until its demolition in 1968 and then the Community Centre between 1971 and 1973 and then from 1975 until 1980.
Known for her trademark image of wearing a hairnet and a double-breasted raincoat, Ena would also clash with Annie Walker and Leonard Swindley over various matters. Having lost husband Alfred since the 1930s and driven her children away, Ena, although she didn’t admit it, was devoted to her friends. She was fiercely defendant of best friend Minnie and helped her out when she had money problems. Violet Carson’s experience of being an accompanist came out when playing Ena, who could also play the piano and would lead sing-alongs in the Rovers and taught young Tony Parsons to play the harmonium.
Playing Ena made Violet Carson a household name in Britain and abroad. She toured Australia in 1968 to visit loyal fans and was awarded an OBE in 1965. She did however admit that playing Ena had become a burden and that Ena would take over but Violet stayed loyal for twenty years. During the 1970s, Violet was plagued by ill health and suffered strokes and heart attacks. From 1974 onwards, she would only make sporadic appearances in Coronation Street. During her absences, Ena was said to be in Lytham St. Anne’s with old friend Henry Foster or visiting family in Hartlepool. Due to her frailty and affected speech, Violet Carson would only appear in few scenes and, although there were still signs of the old battleaxe still there, Ena as a character mellowed and became a grandmother figure to the residents of the street. When Minnie left for Whaley Bridge in 1976, Ena socialised and reminisced with old friend Albert Tatlock and her frosty relationship with Elsie thawed as they both grew older with Elsie even offering Ena a bed when the Community Centre was being refurbished. In 1980, Ena became fed up of the Centre still being renovated and left for St. Anne’s once more. Both the producers and indeed Violet Carson herself believed Ena would return, but sadly didn’t. Carson fell ill and all return storylines for Ena were scrapped. For twenty years, Carson appeared in 1150 episodes and at the time of her departure, was one of five members of the original cast still in the programme.
Three years after her final Corrie appearance, Violet Carson died aged 85 after failing to recover after an operation for an abscess. She had been living in Blackpool for many years and that is where she died. Ena wasn’t officially killed off, but died prior to 1989.
Violet Carson married George Pepworth in 1926 but became a widow in 1929. She never remarried and thus was a widow for 54 years.
Did you ever see or meet Violet Carson? Do you have any pieces of trivia about her? Any memories of her on Children's Hour?
Research from Wikipedia, Corriepedia and IMDB.