Coronation Street Past And Present Wiki

Rita Tanner (nee Littlewood, formerly Fairclough and Sullivan) is a character in Coronation Street who first appeared in Ep 415 - 2 Dec 1964 for one episode then returned full time in Ep 1152 - 31 Jan 1972. She has been married 3 times since she arrived in the Street, to Len Fairclough, Ted Sullivan and Dennis Tanner. Rita once had a like of taking in foster children such as Sharon Gaskell and Jenny Bradley. Rita is Corrie's answer to Pippa Ross from Aussie soap Home And Away, or Claudette Hubbard from EastEnders. Rita was once good friends with Bet Lynch until they fell out over a possible business partnership in 1995. Rita is played by actress Barbara Knox.



Rita Littlewood was born on the 25th February 1932 to Harold Littlewood and Amy Littlewood. Her father was a grocer. He died in 1946 when Rita was 14. Rita started singing and dancing in clubs and pubs around Weatherfield. She worked at The Orinoco Club, Viaduct Street. In November 1963, Rita was with Dennis Tanner in the Orinoco Club when news came through that, in America, President Kennedy had been shot dead. By 1964, Rita Littlewood was 32 years old.


In December 1964, Rita visited the The Rovers Return, Coronation Street. She was chatted up mildly by Stan Ogden. Rita and Dennis shared a drink together in The Rovers and he let her stay the night when his mum Elsie Tanner was away. Rita did not visit the street for the next 7 years.


In May 1972, Rita returned to Weatherfield to escape her common law husband Harry Bates. Rita and Harry soon parted ways for good. In a nightclub in Weatherfield, Rita chatted with Elsie Tanner and her surname rung a bell. Rita mentioned that in the 1960s she knew a Dennis Tanner at The Orinoco Club. Elsie said that was her son. By then, Dennis was long gone from Weatherfield.

Rita begun dating builder Len Fairclough and set up The Kabin, Rosamund Street where she became best friends with

Rita in February 1988.

Mavis Riley. Rita also became good friends with Bet Lynch from the Rovers. In 1977 Rita married Len. She has to often put up with his mood swings and fiery nature. Rita was friends with Ralph Lancaster and this caused friction between her and Len. In 1980, Rita left Len, and Len even contacted Harry Bates who said he had not seen Rita for years. In December 1983, Len died in a car crash when he was on his way back from seeing another woman.

In early 1984, Rita allowed Bill Webster to run Len's old yard. In January 1986, Rita took in Jenny Bradley, a troubled teenager, whose mum had just died. Rita saw her friend Bet Lynch marry Alec Gilroy in 1987. Rita became close to Jenny's father Alan Bradley and he secretly organised their wedding but she rejected the idea. Alan later pretended to be Rita's deceased husband Len to con her. Rita even suffered abuse at Alan's hands when she exposed him. She fled to Blackpool. As Rita had absconded, people thought Alan killed her and buried her in the foundations of the building work on the new houses on the non terraced side of Coronation Street. Alec was in Blackpool with Bet and they saw Rita performing at The Strand Hotel. Alec felt guilty about accusing Alan of killing Rita so told him where she was. Bet was worried that Alan would harm Rita so she sneaked into her hotel room and waited for her to come back. Alan then sneaked into the hotel room and saw what he thought was Rita asleep in bed but it was Bet. Bet demanded Alan leave her alone. Alan saw Rita and chased after her, trying to bung her into his car. She then got out of the car and ran off, him giving chase. Rita ran across a tram track as a tram was coming but was lucky enough to make it across the track. Alan was not so lucky and the tram thwacked into him, killing him instantly. His reign of terror was over. Bet comforted a shocked and crying Rita. Rita could finally return to a normal life.

In 1992, Rita married Ted Sullivan but he died of a brain tumour soon after. In October 1993, Jenny Bradley wanted Rita to lend her £30'000 for a hair salon. Jenny felt that Rita profited from her relationship with Alan. Rita realised that Jenny was only after her money. Rita then wrote Jenny a cheque for £1000 and told her to be gone from the flat by morning. Jenny left Weatherfield overnight.

In 1995, long term friend Bet Gilroy wanted to buy the Rovers from the brewery as they were selling some pubs. However Bet kept bragging that Rita had agreed to it when all she said was she would consider it. Rita knew that Bet was not very good with money and had never offered a percentage. Bet came into the Kabin with a bottle of champagne but Rita said she has done all the sums she needs and will not back Bet in the venture. Bet accused Rita of being high and mighty all of a sudden, so harsh words were exchanged. Bet said that Rita marrying Len got her started in business. Bets aid she would be nothing but a clapped out chorus girl and Rita said that is better than being a clapped out barmaid. Their friendship was over within a minute due to this verbal altercation. Bet then left Weatherfield.

Rita was good friends with Alec but Alec was a bit of a nosey parker, and liked to meddle in Rita's life.

In June 1998, Rita started feeling queasy and she kept getting headaches. In mid July 1998 she collapsed at home and was soon found by Greg Kelly, and rushed to hospital. She was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty radiator. She said that Jim McDonald and Steve McDonald had fitted the radiator, and that Bill Webster may also get into trouble as the company was McDonald and Webster. Alec vowed to have Steve for it. Alec still hated Steve for mistreating his granddaughter Vicky. Rita took into account that Jim had an accident recently and may never walk again, and she also believed that Jim and Steve did not know that the radiator was faulty, so she asked Alec to leave things alone, and she dropped the matter against Steve, Jim and Bill. Jim was relieved, and later regained the use of his legs.

In December 1998, Alec evicted Jack and Vera from the Rovers while they were away. Rita contacted Jack and Vera in Blackpool and they rushed back to Weatherfield. Alec accused Rita of being a traitor. Alec even boarded up the connecting door to their flats. Alec felt betrayed and this ended him and Rita's friendship. Alec then moved away to Brighton, and him and Rita parted ways for good.

In January 1999, Sharon Gaskell returned to Weatherfield after 15 years away. Rita was later annoyed that Ian Bentley, Sharon's fiancee had an affair. Sharon and Ian reconciled. In November 1999, they left the area and asked Rita to be happy for them. In 2002, Bet returned to Weatherfield but was unable to bury the hatchet with Rita before she left again.

In September 2009, Rita decided to enjoy her life so decided to take a trip on a cruise. She sold the shop to Norris.


In early 2010 Rita returned from her cruise. As she was now retired she needed something to do, and ended up working with Emily in the charity shop. Rita wasn't keen and ended up walking out. Norris allowed her back at the Kabin to help out in the shop, and Rita began acting like she still owned it much to Norris' displeasure.

In December 2010 Rita was in the shop trying to get a box of chocolates off a top shelf when the Joinery Bar exploded, causing a tram to derail, with the rear end smashing into the shop and covering Rita in rubble. Miraculously she survived, although devastated by the destruction of her home. She stayed with Norris and Emily at Number 3 Coronation Street until her flat was fixed, and moved back in.

In May 2011 she reunited with old flame Dennis Tanner for the first time in nearly 50 years, and was shocked that he

Rita and Dennis in 1964.

was now homeless. She took him in and got him cleaned up and allowed him to stay with her, much to Norris' dismay. Rita and Dennis grew close and got engaged in March 2012. They planned to get married in May 2012, although Rita pondered whether or not to call off the wedding as she spotted Dennis interacting with his ex-wife from a distance and got the wrong impression. On the day of the wedding, Rita got kidnapped by loan shark and drug dealer Rick Neelan who recently got into a feud with Tommy Duckworth - the boyfriend of Tina McIntyre. Tina had stolen Rick's drugs to prevent Tommy being forced to smuggle them into Amsterdam, which lead to Rick tracking down and kidnapping Rita. Rita was saved when the police arrived and arrested Rick, and she got a special escort to the registrar office to marry Dennis.

Rita and Dennis' marriage began to fall apart, and the pair suddenly split in February 2014 when Dennis ran off with Gloria Price to go on an adventure. But two months later he was unable to put up with Gloria and returned to the United Kingdom. Rita found out about his return when she was called to a hospital after finding out he had been beaten up and mugged whilst living on the streets again. Despite his betrayal, Rita felt pity for him and took Dennis into her home until he got back on his feet.

Rita discovered in May 2014 that Tina had been having an affair with a married Peter Barlow, who she hoped to run away with. Rita didn't approve of this deceit, and begged Tina to let Peter go as he would just break her heart. Deluded that Peter would truly leave with her, Tina debunked Rita's claims and insulted her, resulting in Rita slapping her. This caused Tina to leave, unknown to Rita this would be the last time she would see her alive. Tina was found bludgeoned that night and taken to hospital, where she passed away.

Dennis began supporting Rita through her grief, and it looked like they were about to reconcile however she was unable to forgive him for leaving her for Gloria. Dennis prepared to leave Weatherfield and went to the Kabin to say goodbye to Rita, only to come face to face with a smug and victorious Norris, who put the boot in over Dennis' collapsed marriage. In anger, Dennis punched Norris to the ground and attempted to steal money from the open till, only for Rita to walk in and witness the altercation. Angered, she revealed to Dennis she planned to take him back, but his current action has helped make her mind up. She then puts Dennis out and tends to Norris. Dennis subsequently left Weatherfield for good, never to see Rita again or make much contact (apart for sending her a letter wanting a divorce the following year).

In early 2015, Rita discovered Kevin Webster was dating her former foster daughter Jenny Bradley. She didn't approve of it as the last time she met Jenny she had gotten a large sum of money out of her and their relationship was left on a sour note. But after some persuasion from Kevin, a reluctant Rita gave her blessing. Despite her negative outlook on Jenny, her attitude changed after Jenny had a mental breakdown and abducted Kevin's son Jack, after it transpired that Jenny herself lost a child a few years ago. Rita talked Jenny down from jumping from a balcony with Jack, which was successful and Jenny got taken away by police. Although Sophie Webster stated Jenny deserved all she got, Rita pointed out that Jenny is sick and needs help.

Rita and Jenny reunited at the beginning of 2016 after Rita began using Facebook and got a friend request from a recently released Jenny, who wished to make contact. Rita found out that Jenny was living in poor conditions, and decided to take her in. The Webster clan didn't approve of Rita allowing Jenny back onto the street, especially Kevin's ex-wife Sally and daughter Sophie. Despite their disapproval, Kevin was fine with allowing Jenny back on the street, as he sympathised with her situation as he himself lost a child many years before. Rita convinced factory boss Aidan Connor to give Jenny a job as a cleaner at Underworld.

Later that year, Rita took in Gemma Winter.

In 2017 Rita began to show signs of memory loss. She even thought her late husband Len was still alive and Gemma Winter could not bring herself to tell her that Len had long since died. In November, Rita was relieved to be told her tumour was benign.

As of 2019, Rita still is in work at 87 years old. Age is just a number to the "clapped out chorus girl" as Bet Lynch once said.

Behind the Scenes[]

  • Rennis1964.png
    The character was originally introduced for a one off episode in December 1964 in which she appeared as Rita Littlewood, the friend of Dennis Tanner (Philip Lowrie). Over seven-years later the character was reintroduced in January 1972, however as "Mrs Bates". At the time no connection was made that she was the same character as before, and this only became apparent when she became a permanent fixture later on. In May 1972 she gave her maiden name as "Foster", however the following month gave her established maiden name "Littlewood". Also in May 1972 she said she knew Dennis Tanner.
  • Rita was absent from October 2009 to March 2010 due to Barbara Knox taking time off for health reasons.


List of addresses[]

Address Duration

Employment history[]

Role Institution Duration

Memorable info[]

Appearances: 2 Dec 1964, 31 Jan 1972-2 Feb 1972, 24 Apr 1972-2 Oct 2009, 15 Mar 2010-24 Jun 2020, 7 Dec 2020-

Born: 25th February 1932, Weatherfield, Lancashire

Full Name: Rita Tanner (Nee Littlewood, later Bates, Fairclough and Sullivan)

Parents: Harold Littlewood and Amy Littlewood

Siblings: None

Spouses: Len Fairclough (1977-1983), Ted Sullivan (1992), Dennis Tanner (2012-2015)

Children: None

Uncles: Sam Littlewood

Aunts: May

Rita was Mrs Rita Fairclough from 1977 to her second marriage to Ted in 1992. As of 2012, she has been Rita Tanner even though she has split up with Dennis. They filed for divorce in November 2015.

See also[]

  • Mrs Bates - originally intended to be a separate character from Rita