Anna Cropper

The Stage
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Anna Cropper was one of British television’s most respected actresses. She gave acclaimed performances in serious dramas by David Mercer and John Bowen, and she also appeared in several soaps including Coronation Street as Joan Akers and Emmerdale as Bella Ryland. While performing in repertory in Nottingham in 1961, she met and married William Roache, who was in the role of Ken Barlow, the longest serving actor in Coronation Street.

She was born in Brierfield, Lancashire on May 13, 1938 and studied for the stage at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

She made her TV debut as Chrysalis in The Insect Play and in 1967 played Kate, a schizophrenic, in David Mercer’s disturbing TV play In Two Minds, produced by Tony Garnett and directed by Ken Loach. Cropper’s naturalistic performance was praised by the critics and Mercer won the Writers Guild Award for the Best Television Play of 1967.

She went on to win more acclaim in Robin Redbreast, a 1970 BBC Play for Today especially written for by John Bowen and Dennis Potter’s In Two Minds (1974) in which she played a bored housewife. Other TV roles included the nurse Mary Hodgson in The Lost Boys (1978) and she was Nicky Payton in The Jewel in the Crown (1984). More recently she had made guest appearances in Midsomer Murders, The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Kavanagh QC and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries.

She returned to the stage frequently, notably taking over from Mare Ure in The Excorcism (Comedy Theatre 1975) and she was Miss Cooper in Terence Rattigan’s Seperate Tables (Apollo Theatre 1976) She also had a prolific career in BBC radio drama.

Her films included Cromwell (1970), Praying Mantis (1982) and Nanou (1988). In 1995 she appeared as Margaret in the short-lived BBC soap opera The Castles. Her final screen appearance was in an episode of Midsomer Murders (1999).

Her recent years were divided between her home in West Sussex and a holiday home she owned in Turkey. Her marriage to William Roache ended in divorce in 1974.

She died on January 22, aged 68. She is survived by her son, the actor Linus Roache, and a daughter.

Patrick Newley

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster