Coronation Street legend Anne Kirkbride has died aged 60 after a short illness.
The actress, best known for her role as the legendary Deirdre Barlow on the ITV1 soap is believed to have passed away peacefully at a Manchester hospital after a short illness.
A statement from ITV director Peter Fincham which was posted on the network website tonight (January 19) read: ''Anne has been a truly loyal servant to Coronation Street since joining the programme in the early 1970s. She created a unique and unforgettable character in Deirdre Barlow and she'll be greatly missed on and off screen.Our sincerest condolences to Anne's husband David and her family at this very sad time."
Anne first appeared in Coronation Street in 1972, before the role was expanded in 1974. One of her long-running storylines since first appearing in the serial drama was her on-off relationship with original character Ken Barlow (William Roache).
The actress took a three month break from the soap last autumn to deal with personal issues and had not returned to work on the show before her passing.
Her colleague and on-screen husband Bill Roache said of the news: ''I feel Anne's loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years. She was such a loving and vibrant person. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away.''
''She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama.''
''We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her. Coronation Street has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed."
Also paying tribute to the actress was fellow Corrie actress Beverley Callard, who plays Deirdre's friend and pub landlady Liz McDonald. Speaking on Twitter, she wrote: ''My beautiful darling friend, Anne Kirkbride, passed away in a room filled with love. God Bless, my Darling Girl! Peace and rest!''
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of Anne's family and to all of the Coronation Street cast at this difficult time.
It has not yet been confirmed how Anne's character will be written out of the soap.