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Ena Sharples
Occupation Caretaker (retired)
Born 24th November 1899
Birthplace Weatherfield
Sibling(s) Alice Raynould
Tom Schofield
Spouse(s) Alfred Sharples
Children Vera Lomax (1921)
Madge Sharples
Ian Sharples
First appearance 9th December 1960
Last appearance 2nd April 1980
Duration 1960-1980
Played by Violet Carson

Ena Sharples (née Schofield) was a resident of Coronation Street for many years, and a prominent member of the community in her role as caretaker at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall and later the Street Community Centre.

A gossip at heart, Ena prided herself on knowing more about her neighbours than they thought she did. She was a fixture in the snug of the Rovers Return Inn, where she and her lifelong friends and fellow widows Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst often spent their time discussing the lives of the other Street residents.

An outspoken, forceful personality, Ena wasn't afraid to speak her mind and didn't shy away from telling people what she thought of them in person. Her interfering nature had driven her daughter Vera Lomax away. Despite this, Ena was fiercely devoted to her friends and family and saw any interference on her part as for their own good.

Having married Alfred Sharples in 1920, Ena had been a widow since the Depression but never re-married. In 1980, with the Community Centre being re-developed, and most of Ena's friends long since having died or moved away, Ena left the Street to live at St. Anne's.

Contents

Biography

Ena in 1960

Early life

Ena Schofield was born in Weatherfield on 24th November 1899. She had a brother and a sister, Alice Schofield and Tom Schofield.

In her schooling days, Ena met Martha Hartley and Minnie Carlton, establishing lifelong friendships. An attentive student with a strong Christian upbringing, Ena became devoted to her religion and developed a firm belief in the importance of rules and morals. She also quickly learned to be self-sufficient, taking on factory work when she was only 11.

In 1920, Ena married Alfred Sharples. They had three children - Vera, Madge and Ian, although Ian died from malnutrition aged 4 and Alfred died during the Depression, leaving Ena a widow with two children. As Vera and Madge grew up, they were alienated against Ena due to her judgemental and frequently interfering nature, a point of much contention for Ena who only had herself to blame.

Mission caretaker

A resident of Coronation Street, Ena lived alone in the vestry of the Glad Tidings Mission Hall, where she held the position of Mission caretaker. The community where she lived - a working class backstreet with a Elliston's Raincoat Factory close by - gave Ena plenty of ammunition for gossip, and reason to voice her disapproval, under pretension of upholding the Lord's work. Her best friends from her youth, now Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst, were both also widows by 1960, and frequently sat with Ena in the snug of the local Rovers Return Inn, criticising the lives of the other street residents (as well as each other), while drinking milk stout.

During the Blitz of World War II, Ena was an Air Raid warden, and lorded it over the other residents when they had to seek refuge in the Mission cellar.

In 1960, Ena battled the Mission's new lay preacher Leonard Swindley, who objected to her frequenting the Rovers. Ena collapsed due to the stress, but walked out of the hospital to return to her post so that Martha, who had taken on her responsibilities while she recovered, couldn't steal her job. In 1961 Ena was sacked for spreading a rumour that Coronation Street
Ena holds her own during a run-in with Leonard Swindley
was to be demolished when it turned out to be untrue, but Swindley was forced to re-hire her when a suitable replacement could not be found (Ena had bribed the other candidates to turn the job down). Still unhappy with the working conditions, however, Ena walked out of the job later in the year and moved in with Minnie, with Albert Tatlock briefly taking on the caretaker position. She was eventually offered her job back.

Ena had a health scare in 1962 when she suffered a minor stroke, brought on by hypostatic pneumonia. She quickly regained her speech and mobility but the following year was diagnosed with arterioschlerosis. Despite her willingness to gossip, Ena was very guarded about her private life and resented Martha for discussing her health problems with Vera.

In 1963, Ena reported youth Michael Butterworth to the police for stealing and cashing her pension. Later in the year, while Ena and most of the street residents were attending the wedding of Jerry Booth and Myra Dickinson, Michael broke into the vestry and robbed it, taking or trashing most of Ena's most treasured possessions.

Decline of the Mission

As congregations at the Mission Hall's services dwindled, the Hall became more often the domain of clubs and meetings. Ena didn't approve, seeing it as a misuse of a holy building and an invasion of her home. The Mission faced the possibility of closure in early 1965, but Ena was given a reprieve when she was left 11 Coronation Street in the recently deceased owner's will. As Ena barely got along with its current resident, Elsie Tanner, she had no compunctions about evicting Elsie and her son Dennis so that she could live there herself when the Mission was closed. After serving Elsie her notice, Ena argued with Elsie in the street, as Elsie was not going to give up without a fight. The argument was broken up by Swindley, who informed Ena that the Mission would stay open. With her home safe for the time being, Ena sold No.11 to Edward Wormold.

Later that year, Ena's great nephew Tom Schofield visited her and invited her to her brother's home in the USA for an extended stay. Ena jumped at the chance to go abroad for the first time and meet the family she never knew she had.

Upon her return, Ena was horrified to see the Mission converted into a Community Centre, with social worker Ruth Winter employed there full-time. She quit upon hearing the news and moved in with Minnie at No.5. Despite being out of work, Ena was soon caught up with other problems as Vera came to stay having separated from her husband Bob Lomax. Vera had debts to pay but hadn't the money to pay them, so Ena gave her the money, even though it was all her savings. A disoriented Ena was later caught accidentally stealing from a supermarket. In court, Ena pleaded not guilty, but refused to give her age when questioned, saying only that she was over 21.
Ena struggles to cope when Vera has weeks to live
She was fined 40 shillings. To offset her money problems, Ena took on the job of live-in housekeeper at No.9 for Len Fairclough, although when the Community Centre at the Mission closed down, Ena moved back into the vestry.

Vera came to stay again later in 1966, claiming to be ill. Ena didn't believe her until she spoke to Vera's Doctor, who said that Vera had a brain tumour and had a month to live, but Vera hadn't yet been told her condition was terminal. Ena watched her daughter wind down over several weeks until she died in Ena's bed in January 1967.

The Mission was closed for good a year later, when it was demolished along with the factory to make way for a block of two-storey maisonettes. Ena was offered a place at an old folk's home but unsurprisingly she declined, choosing to lodge with old friend Henry Foster at St. Anne's after briefly living with Minnie, although when the maisonettes were built Ena moved into No.6, a purpose-built OAP ground floor flat. Ena was pleased as it occupied the exact spot where the vestry had been.

Back to work

As she could no longer rely on her earnings from the Mission, Ena took on a job at the Corner Shop, although she was furious to be replaced by Valerie Barlow while on holiday.

Ena found it disconcerting to have neighbours after so many years of having one side of the street to herself. Her place next door to the Barlows was crucial in saving Valerie when she was held hostage by Frank Riley, as Val was able to tap on the pipes in her kitchen, sounds overheard by Ena in her flat. Ena was able to alert the other residents about it.

In 1969, Ena got bored with the maisonette and moved into a flat above Ernest Bishop's camera shop. With Glad Tidings gone, the closest place of worship was the Victoria Street Mission, and Ena kept close tabs on the comings and goings there. She was delighted in 1970 to meet young Tony Parsons, who shared her passion for the harmonium. Recognising his talent, Ena made him her protégé and gave him lessons, while seeing about getting him a scholarship.

The Community Centre

When the maisonettes were demolished in 1971, one of the buildings which replaced them was a Community Centre. Despite her age, Ena was determined to secure the position of caretaker, and scared off her competitor Hetty Thorpe by warning her about the violence in the area. With no one else to take the job, Ena was selected as caretaker, and she moved into a flat adjacent to the Centre.

Ena's age and ability to do the work was a constant concern to the Council. A co-caretaker, Albert Tatlock was foisted on her, though
Handel tells Ena that Minnie isn't returning
she insisted on being called Senior Caretaker. In 1973, Ena suffered two heart attacks, but refused to move away as she wanted to die in the street. When she disappeared with the Centre keys at Christmas, preventing the children from getting any presents, Ena assumed she'd be sacked and left to stay with Henry Foster at St. Anne's, although she was allowed to keep her job.

Retirement

Later in the 1970s, Ena flitted between Weatherfield and St. Anne's. Her friends gradually left her life - Martha had died in 1964, and Minnie left in 1976 to live at Whaley Bridge with their old friend Handel Gartside. In 1977, Councillor Tattersall tried to fire Ena so that his niece could take her job, but Alf Roberts fought on Ena's behalf. The Lomaxs offered to house Ena but she refused. In 1980, Ena dumped herself on Elsie, and later Albert, while the flat was being re-decorated. Grumbling about the situation, she left to stay at St. Anne's. On this occasion, she never returned to Coronation Street.

Personality

"That woman's tongue. If it was a bit longer she could shave with it." - Elsie Tanner

Ena had a domininate personality. Large in stature and almost always dressed in a large doublebreasted coat and hairnet, Ena was strong-minded and argumentative, with opinions on everyone and everything and she wasn't afraid to voice any of them. She cared for her family and friends but her tough exterior, hardened by a tragic life, many years of widowhood, and living through two world wars and a Depression, was difficult for anyone to crack, and Ena preferred it that way. Consequently, she found it difficult to express affection and felt more at ease arguing with her friends (or telling them what to do) than taking an interest in them.

Ena was formidable in an argument, usually putting her view across quickly and bluntly, barely giving anyone else a chance to speak. Although motivated by self-interest more often than she would care to admit, Ena's usual justification was that she was acting in the name of Christianity. Unfortunately, she often jumped to conclusions, assuming the worst of people, or exaggerated the truth. Occasionally Ena was innocent, but when false rumours spread through the street, fingers always pointed at Ena first.

In later years, Ena mellowed as she spent more time away from Weatherfield, her friends and family leaving her life one-by-one.

Relationships

Family

Ena clashed with many members of her family, especially her children. She cut daughter Madge out of her will upon receiving feedback from nephew Colin Lomax about what Madge had been saying about Ena behind her back. She was close to the Lomaxs', the family of her daughter Vera, and was often called upon to watch Colin. Ena occasionally went to stay with Colin and his family after Vera's death.

Ena did not have much contact with the surviving Schofields until her great nephew Tom Schofield contacted her in 1965 and invited her to stay in America. Ena's brother Tom died in 1973.

Martha Longhurst

Along with Minnie Caldwell, Martha Longhurst was Ena's closest friend and unlike Minnie, Martha shared Ena's penchant for gossiping. Despite their lifelong friendship (Ena knew Martha when they were ten years old), Ena sometimes felt threatened by Martha, especially when she proved just as capable as doing Ena's job at the Mission as Ena herself. The trio's discussions
Ena with Minnie and Martha in the snug
in the snug often consisted of Ena and Martha trying to score points off each other, with Ena baiting Martha into arguing with her.

They briefly lived together in 1961 when Ena was fired from the Mission. Ena made herself at home, making the best of a bad situation, but unbeknown to her Martha couldn't wait to get rid of her and in the meantime had considered writing to an agony aunt to ask how to deal with her overbearing houseguest.

Martha died in the snug in the Rovers in 1964, while Ena entertained the regulars with the harmonium in the select. Ena berated Martha's daughter Lily for never caring about her mother unless she needed a babysitter.

Minnie Caldwell

After Martha's death, Minnie was perhaps Ena's only close friend left. Minnie's part in the trio's conversations in the snug were usually limited to the occasional (frequently inappropriate or out-of-place) comment. Minnie was usually content to let Ena do the talking while she only partially listened. Minnie, who could be quite timid and indecisive, was often dominated by Ena, who did not appear to trust Minnie's own initiative or decisions.

In 1969, Ena's capacity to interfere almost ended in tragedy when she told off bookie Dave Smith for hassling Minnie, who had been gambling and owed Dave money. Unbeknown to Ena, Dave had decided to forgive the debt but a telling off by Ena convinced him to change his mind. Minnie was embarrassed at Ena trying to fight her battles and disappeared. Sick with guilt and worry, Ena scoured Weatherfield for anywhere Minnie might be. Minnie soon turned up, and Ena was able to turn the tables on Dave Smith by blackmailing him over his tax fraud. Minnie continued to be fond of gambling, but Ena strongly disapproved and in 1972
Ena is distressed when Minnie goes missing
tried to have her barred from the Betting Shop for her own good. Minnie was furious and told Ena their friendship was over, though she later relented.

In 1973, Minnie first sought Ena's opinion before getting engaged to Albert Tatlock. At first Ena approved, but she later advised Minnie to call it off as she would be in a better position financially as a single person. Minnie obliged.

Ena and Minnie lived with each other at No.5 several times, usually when no one else was willing to house Ena, who was reputedly difficult to live with. Ena's biggest gripe with Minnie was her cat, Bobby, who was something of an obsession of Minnie's; much to her chagrin, Ena would often talk to Minnie at length only to discover Minnie hadn't been listening to her, being preoccupied with Bobby. Minnie once accused Ena of being jealous of the cat.

Despite their difficult moments, they were always there for each other. When Minnie wanted to move to Whaley Bridge to live with Handel Gartside, she left without telling Ena as she feared Ena would talk her out of it.

Elsie Tanner

A neighbour of Ena's, Elsie Tanner lived at No.11. Ena had an axe to grind with regards to Elsie as she represented the antithesis of Ena's lifestyle: during World War II, Elsie had separated from her husband Arnold Tanner and raised two children by herself. Ena had been aware of the many men Elsie had entertained at No.11 over the years, and strongly disapproved considering she was still married and opined that she was putting her own needs above those of her children. Elsie saw Ena as an interfering battleaxe, and didn't see why her life should be any of Ena's business.

Living in the same street for many years had led them to at least understand each other. They almost always thought the worst of each other; Elsie accused Ena of writing a poison pen letter in 1961, even though Ena was innocent. When Ena believed the Mission Hall was going to be closed, she decided to throw Elsie and son Dennis out of their flat so she could move in (she owned the property). The two women rowed in the street, having to be pulled apart; Ena even broke a window with her purse. The argument only stopped when Ena learned it was to be a mission on another street which was to be closed.

Although generally dismissive of each other in public, they did occasionally put their differences aside in a crunch - in 1962, when no one else would, Ena let Elsie know that her boyfriend Bill Gregory was married. In 1965, Ena discovered Hilda Ogden was the culprit behind some threatening phone calls Elsie had received, and exposed her. She also stopped Elsie from taking an overdose in 1973. In 1980, Ena had to move out of the community centre while repairs were being made, and with nowhere else to go, accepted Elsie's offer of a bed. After a week, she moved to St. Anne's, as she realised she could not stay at Elsie's for much longer without getting into an argument.

Role in the community

"They don't need sewers round 'ere, they've got Ena Sharples!" - Elsie Tanner
Ena is not amused during the street Silver Jubilee celebrations

Ena's role among the residents of Coronation Street was one she assigned to herself. As caretaker of the Mission of Glad Tidings, it was her responsibility to act in the best interests of the Mission's constituency, as her behaviour in public reflected on them. Ena took that one step further - the self-proclaimed moral voice of the street, Ena was a law unto herself, making sure to know what went on in the lives of every resident, to the extent where they weren't sure themselves how much she knew. Yet she still frequently indulged in a glass of milk stout in the Rovers Return, unwilling to allow lay preacher Leonard Swindley to dictate how she lived her life outside the Mission.

Ena's forcefulness and argumentativeness was her key strength as well as her biggest weakness. In 1965, she acted as spokesperson for the street over the issue of a survey which almost led to the demolition of the street so that a ring road could be built through it. In 1976, she made known her disapproval of new Corner Shop owner Renee Bradshaw's decision to open the shop on a Sunday, the day of the Sabbath.

Although she rarely participated in organised street events, she was known to get involved occasionally. In the 1972 Pub olympics, when the Rovers competed against the Flying Horse pub, Ena won points for the Rovers by beating a Flying Horse regular at Dominos (winning the game by glaring at him, making him so distracted as to play a wrong domino). She also played Queen Victoria on the Coronation Street float for the Silver Jubilee in 1977.

Despite her occasionally antagonistic nature, Ena was a respected figure in the community and, although seeming at times to be a loner, had many friends in the street. It was Ena who prevented the street from being renamed in 1962 when she wrote to Prince Philip to appeal for his help. Ena was also instrumental in Jack and Annie Walker reconciling when they fell out in 1964. In 1967, Ena started a petition to have the betting shop closed down, although she was unsuccessful.

Hobbies and interests

Ena plays the harmonium as the regulars sing Christmas songs

Ena was a capable and experienced harmonium player. Her skills were regularly called upon at events in the Rovers Return and other community venues. She also enjoyed singing and sang 'Cockles and Muscles' with Emily Nugent at a 1969 Christmas concert, though she rarely participated in the street pantomine productions, being content usually to watch. She did however sign up for the Over 60s club, and agreed to play the piano. Although she criticised Minnie for having her palm read in Blackpool, Ena went to have her own palm read once she was sure her friends had left.

Other information

  • Ena's first drink at the Rovers Return was in 1918 with Lizzie Hinchcliffe. When Albert Tatlock challenged Ena's assertion in 1978 that she had been drinking at the Rovers longer than he had been, Ena brought Lizzie in to verify her story.
  • In 1967, Ena was injured when a train crashed into the street from the viaduct overhead. She was the last person pulled from the rubble.
  • Ena and other OAPs arranged a sit-down outside the council offices to protest the closure of a clubhouse in 1969. Ena was taken away by policemen and given a caution, although the OAPs were triumphant in their cause.
  • Ena was prone to hay fever. She tried to stop a flower show from taking place in the Community Centre in 1971 but was unsuccessful.
  • Conman Frank Holmes tried to con Ena in 1976 but she cottoned on in time and summoned friends Len Fairclough and Eddie Yeats who performed a citizen's arrest.
  • In 1970, Stan Ogden decided to sell some of Ena's songs, without her knowledge, and take the credit as songwriter himself. When Ena discovered his scheme she 'sold' him Onward Christian Soldiers, exposing him as a fraud.
  • When a family of Italians opened a café in 1961, Ena boycotted the café because they were Italian, however she changed her mind when she won a free meal in a raffle.

Background information

  • Although Violet Carson became synonymous with the role, she was not the only actress to play Ena - in the 1960 pilot episodes of Coronation Street, Nan Marriott-Watson played her.
  • Ena was first seen to wear a hairnet in Episode 5. It quickly became a permanent part of the character's apparel, added by Violet Carson, who refused to let the make-up department touch her elegantly-styled silver hair. The hairnet was sold at auction for £65 in 2005 to a Dutch gentleman, who had bought it for his mother, a lifelong fan.
  • Although a fixture of the programme from 1960 to 1980, Ena was only seen regularly until 1974 when Violet Carson suffered a stroke, which kept her off-screen for most of the year. Although she returned, her appearances were far less frequent due to Carson's ongoing health problems. The character was absent for several spells in the late 1970s but Carson always returned when she was able - similarly, she was expected to return after her appearance in Episode 1983 (2nd April 1980) but the actress suffered a serious bout of anaemia and could not return. Violet Carson died on 26th December 1983.
  • Ena was absent from the programme for over three months during 1965 as Violet Carson took a sabbatical and for almost two months in 1968 when she went on a promotional tour to Australia. Within the storylines of the programme these absences were explained as Ena taking a trip to the USA to visit her brother and a stay in St. Annes with Henry Foster.
  • The fate of the character was never properly addressed. In a 1989 episode, street resident Deirdre Barlow mentioned, commenting on recent events, that Ena Sharples was probally turning in her grave, thus confirming Ena had indeed died. All references to Ena since 1983 (when Violet Carson died) have been worded as if the character is dead.
  • Carson's love/hate relationship with the character was well known. In 1978 she commented to the TV Times that "Violet Carson was destroyed the day Ena Sharples first appeared in Coronation Street."
  • Ena's doublebreasted coat was the main exhibit in the costume museum section of the Granada Studios tour.

Quotes

"I'm Mrs Sharples." (First line, introducing herself to Florrie Lindley).
"I'm fast coming to the conclusion, Albert Tatlock, that the air up there is much more to my liking than it is round 'ere these days. And you can take that any way you like! I don't suppose either of you thought of puttin' the kettle on, did yer?" (Final lines spoken in programme to Albert Tatlock and Ken Barlow).

External links

  • Ena Sharples at Corrie.net
  • Ena Sharples at Corrieblog
Original characters
Ken Barlow | Frank Barlow | Ida Barlow | David Barlow | Jack Walker | Annie Walker | Elsie Tanner | Dennis Tanner | Linda Cheveski | Ivan Cheveski | Harry Hewitt | Lucille Hewitt | Concepta Riley | Ena Sharples | Minnie Caldwell | Martha Longhurst | Albert Tatlock | Christine Hardman | Florrie Lindley | Esther Hayes | Leonard Swindley

This article uses material from the "Ena Sharples" article on the Coronation Street wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.







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