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Pat Phoenix
Born Patricia Frederica Pilkington
26 November 1923(1923-11-26)
Fallowfield, Manchester, Lancashire, England
Died 18 September 1986 (aged 62)
Stockport, Cheshire, England
Occupation Actress
Years active 1948–1986
Spouse(s) Peter Marsh (1951–52) (divorced)
Alan Browning (1972–79)
(his death)
Anthony Booth (1986)
(her death)

Patricia Phoenix (best known as Pat Phoenix) (26 November 1923 – 18 September 1986) [1] was an English actress who became one of the first sex symbols of British television but is perhaps most notable for playing Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street.


Early life and career

Born in the Fallowfield area of Manchester, she was born to Anna Maria Josephine Noonan and Tom Mansfield. Her mother later left Mansfield to marry Richard Pilkington. Phoenix attended Fallowfield Central School, Manchester. As a child she nursed early theatrical ambitions, appearing regularly on the radio in Children's Hour at the age of 11, after having submitted a monologue. After leaving school, she worked as a filing clerk for the gas department of Manchester Corporation, performing in amateur dramatics in her spare time. She joined the Arts Theatre Manchester, and other Northern Repertory companies.

Her break came in 1948, playing Sandy Powell's wife in the Mancunian Film Studios' motion picture Cup-tie Honeymoon, followed by a summer season in Blackpool with Thora Hird in the show Happy Days. Exposure led to more serious work with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. She also worked as a writer for ventriloquist Terry Hall and comedian Harry Worth. Though some undistinguished film work followed in 1958 (Blood of the Vampire and Jack the Ripper), in 1960 she returned to Manchester with her ambition all but spent.

Coronation Street

Her fortunes improved when she was given her best known role as Elsie Tanner, the devil-may-care divorcée who lived at No 11 Coronation Street. By this time she had changed her name from Pilkington to Phoenix, after the mythological bird that rose from the ashes. Phoenix featured in the programme from 1960 to 1973 and again from 1976 to 1984. Her character became known for her fiery red hair, and was described by Prime Minister James Callaghan as "the sexiest thing on television". However, during her periods of absence from "The Street", she failed in her attempts to find suitable alternative roles. She finally left the series in 1984, when her character was despatched to Portugal to meet up with an old flame.

Other television and film roles

She did appear in a one-act television play, entitled Hidden Talents in 1986 (ironically playing a woman dying of cancer), and starred in a short-lived sitcom Constant Hot Water in the same year, as a Bridlington landlady. At this time, she was suffering from advanced lung cancer.

Her popularity also gained her a part in the 1963 British film The L-Shaped Room, in which she played the part of a prostitute, starring alongside actress Leslie Caron.

The Smiths' record cover

In 1985 she was interviewed for a magazine by long-time fan, the singer Morrissey, who also featured her on the cover of one of the Smiths' singles, "Shakespeare's Sister".

Personal life

Her parents divorced when she was a child and her mother later remarried. Her love life was fodder for tabloid stories. Her first marriage was to Peter Marsh, an actor. They married in Bradford Cathedral; the marriage lasted only a year. In 1972, she married her Corrie co-star Alan Browning, who had alcohol related problems. Later she married actor Antony Booth. Through this final marriage, Phoenix became the stepmother of Cherie Blair and mother-in-law of Tony Blair. She was a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Phoenix lived with Alan Browning at 33 Epsom Mews, Higher Broughton, Salford, about two miles from Granada Studios on Water Street, where Coronation Street is recorded. She was a devout Catholic.


Phoenix married Anthony Booth in Stockport, Cheshire, on 10 September 1986. Eight days later she died[2] of lung cancer, aged 62. At her request, her funeral service at The Holy Name Church, Manchester featured a large brass band; according to Coronation Street histories written by show historian Daran Little, she wished the event that marked her death to be as lively as her life.

Among the mourners at her funeral was Tony Blair (Booth's son-in-law), who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 11 years later.


She wrote two volumes of autobiography: All My Burning Bridges (1974) and Love, Curiosity, Freckles and Doubt (1983).


External links



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