Johnny Briggs: Farewell to one of Coronation Street’s veteran cast members

PA reporters

Actor Johnny Briggs, who played Mike Baldwin, the lingerie business tycoon in Coronation Street, for some 30 years, was one of the longest-serving and most identifiable roles in the popular soap.

He left the show in 2006, with his character, normally a bombastic individual, apparently suffering from a form of Alzheimer’s. But this by no means ended his acting career.

Briggs was born on September 5, 1935 in Battersea, London. In 1947, at the age of 12, he won a scholarship to the Italia Conti Stage Academy. That year he made his first professional appearance as a boy soprano with the Italian Opera Company in London.

The following year he appeared in the hit film Quartet and made several stage appearances before becoming a stage hand at the Windmill Theatre.

He did his National Service in Germany with the Royal Tank Regiment. Afterwards, he joined the High Wycombe Repertory Company.

Johnny Briggs
Johnny Briggs in 1966 before joining the cast of Coronation Street (PA)

By 1960 he had become a TV and stage regular, with parts in The Avengers, The Planemakers and Dangerman.

He also appeared, during this period, as a lorry driver in Coronation Street and as a taxi boss in Crossroads.

Briggs subsequently appeared in scores of films, alongside such names as Norman Wisdom, Dirk Bogarde, Tommy Steele, Benny Hill and Dick Emery.

He made his Coronation Street debut as Mike Baldwin in 1976 and remained until 2006 in the role which defined his professional career.

But after leaving, he made appearances in Miss Marple and Holby City as well as in pantomime at Manchester.

Briggs won the British Soap Award for Lifetime Achievement in May 2006 and was made an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours in December 2006. He was an avid golfer.

He married Caroline Sinclair in 1961 and had two children. One of them, Karen, he disowned, after she fell into a life of crime and drugs.

The couple divorced in 1975 and the same year he married schoolteacher Christine Allsop, a marriage which produced four children.

Briggs was one of six of the longest-serving cast members who gathered together to celebrate Coronation Street’s 50th anniversary in 2010.

Johnny Briggs
Johnny Briggs outside the Rovers Return in 2001 (Phil Noble/PA)

He said at the time that despite the long service of many actors, it was Weatherfield pub the Rovers Return which was the show’s biggest name.

Briggs said: “The true strength of the Street is that there isn’t a star. The star of the show is the Rovers. People come and go and the show still carries on.”

He also returned to the show for a one-off appearance in 2012 for the “Text Santa” charity appeal set up by ITV and BBC One to support UK-based charities during the Christmas period.

Briggs led the tributes to Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow in the show for four decades, following her death in 2015, saying she was “worth an Oscar”.

Johnny Briggs death
The love triangle between the characters played by William Roache, Anne Kirkbride and Johnny Briggs captivated the nation (PA)

He insisted that for the funeral of his former on-screen lover “the streets of Manchester should be closed to traffic and she should get a standing ovation”.

In a storyline that gripped the nation in the early 1980s, Deirdre and Mike had an affair two years into her marriage to Ken Barlow and, while she eventually chose to stay with her husband, Briggs said she “chose the wrong man” but added that the scriptwriters had got it right.

A statement from his family on Sunday said he died after a long illness “with his family by his side”.