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Elsie Tanner

Elsie Tanner
Coronation Street character
Portrayed by Pat Phoenix
Duration 1960–73, 1976–84
First appearance 9 December 1960
Last appearance 4 January 1984
Created by Tony Warren
Book appearances Coronation Street:
The Complete Saga

Coronation Street:
The War Years
Classification Former; regular
Occupation Shop Assistant, Retail Clerk, Factory Supervisor, Machinist, Café Manageress, Barmaid, Bar Owner
Home 18 Gas Street, Weatherfield (1923-1939)
11 Coronation Street (1939-1973, 1976-1984)
Newcastle (1973-1976)
Portugal (1984-2004)

Elsie Gregory (née Grimshaw; previously Tanner and Howard) was a fictional character in the British ITV soap opera Coronation Street, played by Patricia Phoenix from the series inception in 1960 to 1973 and from 1976 until 1984. Elsie Tanner was one of the original core characters on Coronation Street and appeared in the very first episode. She is considered something of an icon in soap history and regarded as one of Coronation Street's greatest ever characters.

Her final appearance came in January 1984, when Elsie emigrated to Portugal. Actress Pat Phoenix decided to quit the series in 1983 to pursue other projects.

Three years after leaving, Pat died, and a few months later, a special video special titled "The Lives and Loves of Elsie Tanner" had the return of Anne Cunningham as Elsie's daughter Linda, hinting about Elsie's previous passing and including archive footage for flashbacks. However, 24 years later, when Philip Lowrie returned as Elsie's son Dennis Tanner, it was revealed that Elsie had died in a car accident along with Bill Gregory in 2004/2005, meaning that the video is not part of the canon of the show (on which the events have not been mentioned).

In 2011, it was revealed that she and her son Dennis were related to Eileen Grimshaw and Julie Carp as her brother, Arnley Grimshaw, was their paternal grandfather.


  • Characterisation 1
  • Storylines 2
  • Reception 3
  • Departure 4
  • References 5


Elsie is dubbed as the "siren of the street throughout the 1960s".[1] She is described as having a passion for men and got hurt by all of them.[1] In her later years she is described as struggling to keep up her glamour and has a series of sleazy one-night stands and dead-end jobs.[1]


Elsie Tanner in 1961

At the beginning of the series, Elsie had two children, both now adults, Linda and Dennis, from her marriage to Arnold Tanner.

Linda had trouble with her Polish husband and his short temper, but they eventually reconciled and had two sons, Paul & Martin. Coronation Street's creator, Tony Warren had originally planned the character of Dennis to be rather gritty and a real "bad boy", but actor Philip Lowrie's charm and knack for comedy led to Dennis becoming much more lighthearted. Dennis was shown to be sneaky and up to shenanigans, and embarked on many "get rich quick" schemes to help himself and his mother.

Elsie flirted on and off for years with Len Fairclough, but that ended when he married Rita Littlewood in 1977. Even after Len's marriage to Rita, she remained his close friend.

Elsie married an ex-lover from the war, American serviceman Steve Tanner in 1967 (played by Canadian actor Paul Maxwell). Due to Elsie's massive popularity during the 1960s, Steve was given the same surname so that Elsie would not have to change her name. Elsie emigrated to America with Steve but returned to Coronation Street after they split up. Steve also returned, attempting to win her back, but was found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs soon after his return. This led many residents to be in the frame for murdering Steve, but it was later revealed that one of Steve's former Servicemen, Joe Donelli, had committed the crime. Now a widow, Elsie married Alan Howard in 1970 (Alan was played by Alan Browning, who would become Patricia Phoenix's real-life husband). This marriage was also rocky; shortly after they married, script-writers bankrupted affluent Alan so Elsie would stay in Weatherfield. Eventually, in 1973, the two went to live in Newcastle-upon-Tyne but Elsie returned alone in 1976 as she and Alan had separated and later got divorced. Elsie was also involved with bookie Dave Smith in the early 1970s, owner of local football team Weatherfield County FC.

After her third failed marriage, Elsie surrounded herself with youngsters and acted as mother figure to Suzie Birchall and Gail Potter, who lodged with her during the late 1970s. Elsie saw a lot of herself in young Suzie, who was somewhat gregarious and enjoyed the company of men, but it was Elsie's relationship with Gail that was inevitably the strongest.

During her time, Elsie Tanner took a diverse range of jobs: including shop worker, croupier, machinist, factory supervisor, café worker and model. At the start of the series, Elsie worked in the department store "Miami Modes", before moving on to "Sylvia's Separates" dress shop in the 1970s. She also worked alongside Vera Duckworth, Ivy Tilsley and Ida Clough at Baldwin's Casuals clothing factory, where she spent some time as supervisor.

In late 1983, Bill Gregory returned to the Street (she had an affair with him more than twenty years earlier and last saw him in 1970) and confessed to Elsie that he was still in love with her. He asked her to marry him and help him run a wine bar in Portugal. After much agonising and thought, she decided to accept Bill's proposal. On the night she left, Elsie walked down the street and old memories filled her head; squabbles with Annie and Ena and fights with her son, Dennis. While clutching photographs of Linda and Dennis, she smiled knowing that her life in Coronation Street had left her with no regrets. As she got into the taxi that was to take her to the train station, the driver asked her if she was to be away for long. Giving him a knowing smile, Elsie replied: "Ah! Now there's a question!". The taxi drove off into the night as Elsie left Weatherfield forever.

In May 2011, following the return of her son Dennis Tanner, it was revealed that Elsie Tanner had supposedly died "six or seven" years previously after her car crashed off a cliff, with rumour having that she was still holding the hand of her husband, Bill Gregory. Elsie apparently died as she had lived - never doing anything by halves and had been lucky to have 20 happy years living the high life in the Algarve. She was 81. In May 2012, Dennis' gave his fiancee, Rita Sullivan, Elsie's engagement ring.


In Dorothy Catherine Anger's book "Other worlds: society seen through soap opera" she brands Elsie a "tarty woman" who has the ability to "attract men like bees to honey".[2] In Larry Warren's book "Left at East Gate a First Hand", he joked about the probability of UFO landing being "as unlikely as Elsie Tanner getting into a nunnery" and branded her as having dubious morals.[3] In the book "Women and soap opera: a study of prime time soaps", Christine Geraghty describes Elsie as having open family situations to deal with in her later years. She stated that Elsie always seemed ill-equipped to offer other characters advice on their love lives when they needed it.[4]


In 1984 it was announced that Phoenix quit her role of Elsie Tanner and was to leave Weatherfield. Pat Phoenix had later died in 1986 from cancer. Elsie, her character, died in a car crash , at the age of 81 in 2004 after leaving Weatherfield 20 years earlier.


  1. ^ a b c Little, Daran (1998). The Coronation Street Story: Celebrating Thirty-Five Years of the Street. Boxtree. p. 265.  
  2. ^ Dorothy Catherine Anger (1999). Other worlds: society seen through soap opera. University of Toronto Press. p. 56.  
  3. ^ Warren, Larry (2005). Left at East Gate a First Hand. Cosimo Inc. p. 110.  
  4. ^ Geraghty, Christine (1991). Women and soap opera: a study of prime time soaps. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 97.  
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