Kenneth "Ken" Barlow is the central protagonist in Coronation Street, who has appeared continuously since Episode 1 (9 Dec 1960). He has been involved in many affairs since then. Ken is the longest serving character in the show of all time, having appeared almost continuously since 1960, apart from a break from April 2013 to August 2014 due to personal issues surrounding William Roache, the actor who plays him.
The character has been involved in many storylines over the years, mostly dealing with his love life and conflicts with his family, which has been going on since the show's inception. Most recently he was involved in a big storyline involving a stroke, which then led onto a major whodunnit plot "Who Attacked Ken Barlow?", in which Ken was found unconscious at the bottom of the stairs after weeks of outbursts and alienating people. Another recurring part of his character is his frustration at being stuck on the same street, and still hopes to make something better of his life, even in old age. Ken has made many futile attempts to start a new life elsewhere, but has always found himself back on the street. He is the longest running Coronation Street resident, having lived there since his birth in 1939, although he as changed residences several times over the years. Number 1 Coronation Street has been his main resident since the 1970s, although he has moved out a few times.
A several points in his life he has wanted to be a mob boss, in order to eliminate his boring and liberal personality. After having his arse kicked by Len Fairclough in 1962 Ken decided to toughen up. Not content with just chucking his wives on beds or strangling them in a moment of frustration, Ken decided to demonstrate his masculinity by taking on other men. In his early stages of Don Ken mode he walked into the factory in 1986 and decked Mike Baldwin for seeing his daughter Susan. This personality came out briefly in 2002 when he decked Aidan Critchley. In 2018, he started channeling Marlon Brando as the next Godfather, with him making threats to Billy Mayhew for being involved in Susan's death, and making sure the Barlow's shady secrets are kept hidden from the outside world. After being a boring old fart for decades Ken probably needs a new lease of life. He will step down from his duties as don and retire, leaving the family business to his children.
Kenneth Barlow was born on the 9th October 1939 at Number 1 Coronation Street. Due to an air raid, his mum Ida Barlow gave birth to him unaided under the kitchen table. His father Frank Barlow was either at work or in service. In July 1942, aged almost 3, Ken became an older brother to David Barlow. Ken was educated at Bessie Street School. In 1957 aged 18, Ken went to university and this made him a bit stuck up and he started to shun his working class roots. In late 1960 Ken dated uni student Susan Cunningham. Ken was unaware that in November, he got her pregnant.
In December 1960, Ken was romancing Susan, who, unbeknown to him, was a few weeks pregnant. In early January 1961 Ken and Susan were involved in a "Ban The Bomb" protest. They separated just after, as he was from a backstreet and she was from a middle class family. Susan later found she was pregnant and sent a letter but it somehow was not found and was accidentally slipped behind the skirting board near the front door. The letter was to remain unfound for the next 50 years. In August 1961, Susan had a son, Lawrence Cunningham, and Ken never knew at the time that he had become a father that month.
In January 1962, budding journalist Ken slammed his roots, criticising the working class. This lead to a huge fight between him and Len Fairclough in The Rovers Return. Ken started dating Valerie Tatlock, his neighbour Albert's niece. They married in August 1962.
Ken became a father to twins in April 1965. Peter Francis Barlow and Susan Ida Barlow. Ken had an affair in January 1966. In 1971 Val was electrocuted when her and Ken moved into the new masionettes on the other side of Coronation Street. Peter and Susan were sent to live with their aunty Edith in Glasgow, Scotland. Ken briefly dated Elaine Perkins in 1973. Ken soon married Janet Reid in 1973. In January 1977 Janet died of an overdose. Ken grieved for Janet. He soon started romancing Deirdre Hunt once her husband Ray Langton emigrated after cheating on her. Deirdre and Ray later divorced.
Ken often locked horns with neighbour Mike Baldwin who was a bit of a spiv, the flash wheeler dealer. In July 1981 Ken married Deirdre and he became a much better father to her daughter Tracy Barlow (formerly Langton) than Ray ever was. But Deirdre saw Ken as a boring old man who liked reading books when not teaching. Deirdre started to seek comfort in Mike Baldwin who was much more fun than Ken. In early 1983 the truth emerged and Ken said "With a spiv like Baldwin!!!". But Ken and Deirdre agreed to give their marriage another go, saying it was a catalyst for him to change and be a better husband. But Ken and Mike carried on being arch rivals. In 1984 Ken was in charge at The Weatherfield Recorder. Somehow Billy Walker found out about Ken and Deirdre. The only other person to know outside Ken, Deirdre and Mike was Emily. Billy tried to use what he knew to get Emily and Deirdre to do favours for him but Mike had something on Billy, he heard about Billy's dodgy dealings in Jersey and shut him up. Deirdre worried that Ken was too friendly with his secretary Sally Waterman and she worried it was payback for Mike.
In January 1986, Kenb found out that Mike Baldwin was dating his daughter Susan Barlow who was 23 years younger
than Mike. Ken thumped Mike in his office at Baldwin's Casuals. But Ken soon became Mike's father in law when Mike married Susan. The marriage was short lived.
In 1989, Ken cheated on Deirdre with Wendy Crozier. This ended his marriage to Deirdre. In 1990 Ken and Mike had another altercation in the pub where Mike won, getting his own back from Ken punching him 4 years earlier. Ken later started to date Denise Osbourne. In 1994 she fell pregnant with his child and in January 1995 Ken became a father again at 55 to Daniel Albert Osbourne, the middle name was given after Ken's late uncle by marriage Albert Tatlock. But Denise was unfaithful to Ken and Ken attacked the man Denise was seeing. Denise left, leaving Daniel with Ken but she soon took him back.
Ken and Deirdre remain close and in 1999 they reunite. Ken gives up teaching and works for Freshco's as a trolley dolley but has to wear a staff name badge that says "Kenny". Ken turns 60 in October 1999 and gets a call from a friend he knew back in 1962. Plans to tarmac Coronation Street take place in 2000 and Ken and Duggie Ferguson try to stop it. They find out about a preservation order and the tarmac plans are abandoned. In February 2001, Ken is devastated when his daughter Susan dies in a car crash.
Ken returned to teaching in 2002 but found himself out of his depth due to the modern pupils being a lot more rowdy. He especially had problems with troublesome pupil Aidan Critchley, who caused Ken a lot of grief in the classroom. Aidan's trouble came to haunt Ken at home as Aidan was dating Sarah Platt, and he stole Ken's car to go for a joyride with her. Aidan ended up crashing the car and left a badly injured Sarah behind, although she eventually recovered. Aidan gleefully taunted Ken over ruining his car and the fact he got off with it, causing Ken to angrily strike Aidan in the classroom. Ken was suspended from his job although he faced no charges, and he decided to finally retire from teaching. Despite his conflicts with Aidan he didn't believe Aidan was responsible for killing neighbour Maxine Peacock, which the lad was accused of. It later turned out to be Richard Hillman, who used the murder to stitch Aidan up as revenge for putting his stepdaughter Sarah in hospital. Richard later died when he tried to kill his whole family after being exposed for his crimes, although they survived.
In 2007 Ken and Deirdre's marriage was again tested when Tracy was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing boyfriend Charlie Stubbs. Ken met up with Denise again and tried to bond with his son Daniel, although Daniel was embarrassed by his father and claimed Ken was his "granddad" when a friend asked Daniel who he was. Realising things weren't going to work out with Denise, Ken returned back to No.1 and reunited with Deirdre and they embraced. The reconciliation even moved his acid-tongued mother-in-law Blanche Hunt, who was pleased they were back together again.
In 2008 Ken began to work for his friend Roy Cropper at his cafe, and came to enjoy the experience and got along with Roy's surrogate daughter Becky. When Ken attended a university reunion in July 2008 he came to realise what little he had done with his life, and planned to finish up a novel which he started writing in his youth. He packed in his job at the cafe, which he failed to mention at his reunion was now his current occupation. This put a strain on his marriage to Deirdre, and she felt he was no longer interested in her and just longing for the past and what it could have been. She wasn't impressed when secretly reading the novel and a character resembled her, and she believed Ken regretted marrying her. Ken gave up on the book and ended up burning it in the back yard, deciding to finally move on and stop reliving his youth. Ken returned to work for Roy at the cafe.
In October 2008 Ken found out from Peter that his estranged wife Lucy had died from breast cancer. Peter returned to Coronation Street with him and Lucy's son Simon and introduced the boy to his family. That evening Ken went for a drink with Peter in the pub, in which Peter got drunk and asked some people if they wanted to buy Simon, feeling he couldn't cope with a child. As the months passed it came clear that Peter was suffering with alcohol issues, which became apparent when he turned up drunk at Simon's nativity and was thrown out. That evening Ken and Deirdre looked after Simon and Ken had to fight off a drunken Peter who tried to barge his way into the house.
In January 2009 Ken met actress Martha Fraser when walking Eccles down by the canal. Martha saved the dog after she fell into the canal, and invited Ken and Eccles into her barge. Ken bonded with Martha as she shared his interests in theatre and the arts, and even had talents in cooking great meals. When he discussed his problems with Peter Ken mentioned how Peter's mother was dead. As he failed to mention he was remarried Martha assumed Ken was alone and dealing with the problems. Ken didn't correct her on this mistake. He later confessed to Martha that he was still married and she threw him out, heartbroken.
He later tracked Martha down when she was taking part in a play and reconciled his relationship with her, and they ended up sleeping together. Martha planned to move away to travel the world and asked Ken to come with him, although she wanted him to tell Deirdre the truth. Ken returned home but unable to face Deirdre he wrote out a letter for her. Peter caught Ken about to leave with suitcase packed. Peter was aware of what Ken had been doing and begged him not to throw his marriage away, but Ken was adamant he was leaving. Peter wasn't convinced Ken would have the bottle to move away, and ordered him to leave. Later on when on the barge Ken did indeed have second thoughts and left, not informing Martha of his departure. As she sailed away she spotted Ken standing on a bridge. He returned home and was relieved that Peter had taken the letter. Fearing Peter would let slip about the affair, Ken gave the letter to Deirdre which informed her about what he had been up to. He told her that he wasn't going to leave her after all, but she wasn't impressed but decided to let him stay. When Blanche began to have it out with Ken, Deirdre threw her interfering mother out of the house. Blanche eventually returned when Ken got the pair of them to make up.
In August 2010 Norris and Emily found a letter behind the skirting board of Number 3 from 1961, which was addressed to Ken. Ken read it and found out it was from his first girlfriend Susan, and that she was pregnant to his child. He attempted to track down his first love but discovered she had died years before, although met his adult son Lawrence Cunningham, who was now a lecturer and doing well for himself. Lawrence had two children named James and Chloe, although Ken only met the former. Ken discovered James was gay and that Lawrence didn't approve of his homosexuality. Ken attempted to reconcile the pair and make Lawrence see the error of his ways, but Lawrence refused Ken's advice and felt it was too soon for him to start interfering in their problems. Ken ended up disowning his long-lost son, but kept in contact with James, who was grateful for Ken's support.
Later in the year Ken discovered that Peter's fiancee Leanne was having an affair with her ex-husband Nick Tilsley. Leanne begged Ken not to tell Peter as she still loved him and the affair with Nick was just a mistake. Ken believed Leanne and didn't tell Peter, so the wedding would still go ahead. In December 2010 Ken and Leanne discovered that Nick intended to tell Peter the truth. As Ken headed to The Joinery to stop Nick, it exploded due to a gas leak, and led to a tram derailing from the ruined viaduct and crashing into Coronation Street. The incident caused Ken to become so frustrated as he couldn't do anything. Nick and an injured Peter were recovered from the joinery, although Peter's friend Ashley Peacock perished helping the pair escape. As Peter believed he was dying he quickly wedded Leanne in hospital. Peter made a recovery but was left wheelchair bound as a result.
Peter's injury led to him going off the rails and he started drinking again to cope, which wasn't helped by Nick who encouraged it in hopes to breaking up Peter and Leanne. Peter cleaned himself up and was able to start walking in February 2011 in time for his wedding ceremony to Leanne. But Peter revealed Leanne's affair to Nick and wanted to divorce her instead. Leanne planned to leave the street, but Ken convinced Peter to forgive her and get her back, which Peter did after seeing the error of his ways.
In April 2011 James returned to the street and asked Ken if he could move in, which Ken accepted. Deirdre and Tracy (who was recently released from prison) weren't too happy, but Ken was happy enough to have him there. James worked at a soup kitchen, which led to Ken's former neighbour Dennis Tanner (who was homeless at the time) to return to the street after Rita crossed paths with him. Ken was delighted to see Dennis again when Rita brought a cleaned up Dennis to the Rovers Return, and the pair agreed to catch up after being so long.
In transpired that James wasn't as nice as first thought, as he was actually a conman running a scam at the soup kitchen with two other people. James had convinced volunteer Sophie Webster to transfer her father Kevin's money to the charity's account to help them out, but the two owners ran off with it. A furious Kevin turned up at No.1 to have it out with James, but he denied any knowledge of the scam and Ken jumped to his grandson's defense, forcing Kevin to back down. In secret James was left some money from the scam, but no enough to satisfy him. In July 2011 he attempted to remortgage No.1 and claimed to a surveyor that Ken was going into a home. Ken caught onto the scam and confronted James, which led to a brief struggle and James knocking Ken out. With nothing else left James packed his bags and fled the area for good. Ken didn't want to report James for his scam, although Kevin ended up phoning the authorities when finding out what happened.
In 2013, Ken was disapproving of Tracy's new boyfriend Rob Donovan and felt she was too good for him, failing to realise that she didn't have the most appealing personality either. In April 2013 he spoke with Peter on the issue and compared Rob to Mike Baldwin, Ken's late rival.
Ken left the street in July 2013 to take care of Adam in Canada, due to the young man falling seriously ill. Ken left the family duties to Deirdre, who then randomly started disliking Rob despite previously liking him. Ken ended up living in Canada for an extended period of time, and Deirdre would occasionally visit him.
Ken returned in August 2014 after over a year away, unaware of the high drama in his family's life over the past year at that his son Peter was in prison accused of murdering his lover Tina McIntyre. Ken was angry that Deirdre didn't inform her and yelled at her, but eventually mellowed and the pair of them went on a short break in Wales after making up once again.
Due to the high tensions and family issues Deirdre left in October 2014 for a break, which Ken was fine with as he realised how upset she was. Much to his devastation Peter was found guilty for Tina's murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison. But it soon turned out Tracy's fiancé Rob Donovan was the true killer, and he got exposed on her wedding day and later arrested. Peter got released, but chose to leave Weatherfield as he still faced stigma for his affair with Tina and got blamed for her death.
Ken was widowed for a third time when Deirdre passed away in July 2015 on the day of her 60th birthday. She was expected to return that same day but suddenly died, with her friend Bev Unwin coming to see Ken. When Bev revealed that Deirdre intended to return sooner but didn't due to the shame of Tracy having an affair with Tony Stewart, the partner of Deirdre's friend Liz, Ken was angry and blamed Tracy for depriving him of having Deirdre back before she died. On the day of Deirdre's funeral Ken was further stressed due to Peter failing to arrive due to being delayed. He gave a speech at Deirdre's funeral, but got into conflict with Tracy at home, which spiraled out of control when Peter finally turned up. The three eventually calmed down and made up with each other, and spent the evening reminiscing about Deirdre's life and had a laugh. The following morning Peter returned back to Portsmouth.
Shortly after losing Deirdre, Ken developed feelings for Audrey Roberts. In October 2016, Ken's wayward son Peter came back to Weatherfield after 2 years in Portsmouth. He denied that he was drinking again and he had a row with Ken and Ken the suffered a stroke. Peter helped him and Ken was taken to Weatherfield General. Tracy blamed Peter for Ken's stroke. Feeling guilty, Peter told Ken that he would leave again if that's what he wants, but Ken built up the strength and told Peter to stay.
In November Ken was visited by his estranged son Daniel. Daniel became a part of the Barlow household as he was willing to help with Ken's care and do his part, although Tracy was mistrusting of Daniel. Ken soon recovered but throughout late 2016 and early 2017, Ken became more arrogant and judgmental. This may have been due to his stroke. Ken locked horns with Pat Phelan over his renovation works, as Phelan was being slow and lazy. Ken also harshly judged Sinead Tinker over being pregnant with his grandson. Also Ken alienated his grandson Adam Barlow. Ken also said he never loved his wife Deirdre. This angered Peter and Tracy.
In late March Ken was pushed down the stairs by a mystery assailant. The list of suspects was Pat Phelan, Sinead Tinker, Peter Barlow, Tracy Barlow, Adam Barlow and Daniel Osbourne in a Who Attacked Ken Barlow? plot. All suspects gave evidence and Phelan was arrested but he had an alibi. Daniel was revealed to be the one who pushed Ken, as he had done it out of anger due to Sinead aborting their child. Daniel had been suffering problems psychologically due to being abandoned by his mother for years, and Daniel barricaded himself in him and Denise's old house and began self harming. Ken arrived to help support Daniel and stop him doing anything hasty. Denise made a surprise return six years after abandoning Daniel and talked her son out, although he felt sick seeing her again after so long. Daniel reconciled with Ken, but wanted nothing further to do with his mother due to her actions, and she left, although informed Ken she would always be close by if Daniel needed her.
In late 2017, Ken found out that Billy was involved in the death of Susan in 2001 when he asked the driver to drive away and not call for help. Billy did not know the woman was Susan until 2017. An angry Peter decided to get revenge on Billy by kidnapping him on Christmas Day and dangling him off a cliff. The incident caused Billy to accidentally fall from the edge and was badly injured. Peter panicked and came to Ken to tell him what he had done. Ken watched the scene of the crime and witnessed Billy being taken away by emergency services, realising he had survived the large drop. Ken later informed a relieved Peter that Billy was still alive.
Ken confronted Billy in hospital and put on his Don Corleone act when he menacingly told Billy to say that he simply fell and that Peter was not involved. At 78, Ken felt he wanted a new lease of life after being a boring old fart up to then. Billy kept quiet about what happened, but soon became a junkie when a vengeful Adam got him addicted on medication, which was worsened when Billy turned to hard drugs to cope. Billy eventually made a recovery and Adam felt bad for it spirally out of control, and forgave Billy for his past actions.
Following the death of his former friend and neighbour Dennis Tanner in February 2020, Ken made the decision to finally leave the street after living there 80 years. He allowed Tracy to stay at Number 1 and Ken moved into a luxury retirement home with new girlfriend Claudia Colby. During his stay at Stillwaters retirement home he had crossed paths with former neighbour Norris Cole, who had moved away from Coronation Street the previous year. But overtime (and in typical Ken fashion) he began to miss Coronation Street and decided to move back. This caused his relationship with Claudia to end as she wanted to remain in the sheltered accomodation. Ken returned to Number 1, and was still owner as he hadn't sold to Tracy yet.
- In the "Weatherfield" subsection of the Guinness World Records, Ken proudly earned himself as the top shagger, having had over 20 girlfriends, something he continued to do until his old age. Although most of the current residents are now contending for the prize by constantly switching partners on a whim. Although Ken hoped to clock up the most marriages in Weatherfield by getting wedded four times, his record was broken by Steve McDonald who has married seven times, with Gail Rodwell coming in at second place with six marriages. Ken needs to up his game.
- Ken was nearly axed from the show in 1964 by Tim Aspinall, who had already axed a large amount of cast members including his father Frank and controversially Martha Longhurst whom was killed off. Other characters planned to be axed was wife Valerie and Albert Tatlock, but the three of them were eventually spared.
- In April 1975, Ken said his father Frank was no longer alive when he was talking about him to his son Peter. However, the 60th anniversary book written by Abigail Kemp in 2020 does not give Frank's death date, not even a circa year, as Frank died sometime between February 1971 and April 1975. The Barlow Family Tree actually implies that Frank is still alive at the grand old age of 107. All other Barlow family members who have died have been given a death year. It seems unlikely that Frank is still alive as Ken would mention his very elderly father, and visit him. The book did not give a death year for Frank as it is unknown, and could be any year from 1971 to 1975, as an actual death date for Frank has never been given.
- Ken was absent on-screen from April 2013 to August 2014 due to real life personal issues surrounding William Roache. In that time the character's absence was explained by him traveling to Canada to tend to his sick grandson Adam Barlow. This marks the longest period of time for the character of Ken since his debut in the first episode.
- Ken always saw his uncle in law Albert Tatlock as more of a father to him than his real father Frank.
- In late June 1984, Ken was left the only remaining original character after the departure of Albert Tatlock and the brief return of Linda Cheveski. This remained for 27-years from Ep 2424 - 25 Jun 1984 to Ep 7598 - 9 May 2011 as in the following episode, Ep 7599 - 12 May 2011, Dennis Tanner was reintroduced after a 43-year absence, making Ken not the only original character. But Ken became the only surviving original character again when Dennis was axed and left the show in July 2014, only three-years since his return.
- Although Ken made the decision to move on from the street in Episode 10,000/10,001, William Roache will continue filming for the show. This is not too surprising, as Roache has made clear in the past he is willing to remain on the show as long as he can still do it. Ken later returned to the street not long afterwards, such is not unusual as Ken hasn't been able to bring himself to leave the street for too long in the past.
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic which halted filming, this meant that Roache and other older cast members had to go into shielding, even taking time off when filming resumed. He returned to film on the show later in 2020 just in time for the 60th anniversary celebrations.
- "No, no thank you" (First line to Ida Barlow when she asked if he wanted sauce on his food)
- "Do you think I haven't tried? Do you think I haven't dreamed of it? But life happens!" (Ken to Deirdre)
- "Aw, Peter's in there" (Ken when discovering Peter was trapped in The Joinery after it blew up, but said it in the most unemotional way, almost as if he accidentally left the fridge door open instead)
- "It's so frustrating not being able to do anything!" (Ken when the tram crash happened)
Appearances: 9 Dec 1960–29 Apr 2013, 4 Aug 2014–24 Jun 2020, 7 Dec 2020–
Full Name: Kenneth Barlow
Siblings: David Barlow