It may be the beginning of the end for Ken Barlow, at 80, the character is heading for a retirement home.

William Roache has played Ken since episode one in December 1960. Picture: ATV.

“This is a big decision for Ken but in some ways he thinks it is now or never. He has lived on the same street his whole life and in the same house for most of it.” – William Roache

Millions of Coronation Street fans were shocked tonight to see Ken Barlow make the heartbreaking decision to leave the cobbles for pastures new.

After much soul searching Ken decided the time has come to leave Number 1 Coronation Street, the house that has been home for most of his life. Just before the special credits rolled on the historical 10000th episode of ITV Granada’s long running television drama serial, the man who was in the very first episode in 1960 bid a fond farewell to his ‘old friend’ the cobbles to move away with girlfriend Claudia Colby.

“He feels that he had a chance to move away with Martha on the barge but he let her go. Part of him regretted that. He doesn’t want to make the same mistake again and Claudia is very persuasive. Filming that final scene of the episode was very poignant, just Ken and Eccles and the cobbles.” – William Roache

Ken, with the rest of the Barlow family.

His on-off marriages with Deidrie Barlow became legendary. He adopted Deidrie’s daughter to Ray Langton, Tracy.

But fans needn’t worry that this is the last they will see of him, actor William Roache is not leaving the show. Ken will move out of number one and away from the street but future episodes will follow Ken and Claudia’s new life at Still Waters Luxury retirement complex, whilst back in Weatherfield Tracy and Peter Barlow will battle over who gets to move into the most famous house on the street.

In Monday night’s episodes (Feb 10th) Ken and Claudia will break the news to the family about their decision to sell up and live a quieter life at Still Waters. Tracy immediately has her eye on the prize, and despite Carla’s lack of enthusiasm Peter decides to fight his sister for the house – both of them wanting it at a knockdown price.

“He breaks the news to the family next week and they are surprised but very soon Peter and Tracy start squabbling over who will be given first refusal on the house. We have already started filming at the retirement complex and I am really enjoying it, it always feels different when we film away from the street.” – William Roache

Ken was a babe magnet for decades.

He wooed several women over his years as Weatherfield’s lothario.

As Ken despairs at his warring family it confirms he is making the right decision to leave and next month viewers will see him and Claudia move into the luxurious development complete with cocktail bar, book club and even fencing lessons

Ken is delighted to discover that his old friends Norris and Freda are already settled in to life at Still Waters but when he crosses swords with fellow resident Charles played by Michael Elwyn it looks as though there may be just as much drama as there was on the cobbles.

Will Ken and Claudia take to their new life and who will be the proud new owners of number 1 Coronation Street? Viewers of course can catch up with classic Ken Barlow, vintage 1994, on the ITV3 reruns of the Weatherfield set saga.

Ken has had a number of careers, including as a school teacher and newspaper editor.

He’s also had rows, with everyone from Len Fairclough (far left) to love-rival Mike Baldwin. Elise Tanner (centre) was always able to advise on affairs of the heart.

Ken bought the house from his Uncle Albert Tatlock in 1983. Ken’s main spell away from his family home followed his affair in 1989 leaving wife Deidre and adopted daughter Tracy in the house. He initially lived with his mistress but later, when it fell apart, moved above Alf Robert’s corner shop, in the 1990s when the shop was taken over by Reg Holdsworth Ken moved into Reg’s old flat next door to Rita.

When ex-wife Deidre decided to move abroad she left the sale of number 1 in the hands of Ken’s arch enemy, shady businessman, Mike Baldwin. He bought it himself and installed wayward residents Tricia and Jamie Armstrong. Eventually Ken persuaded Mike to sell him the house in 1995 and its been back in the Barlow family ever since. The other shorter times Ken didn’t live at the house was in from 1968 to 1971 when he moved into the ‘hip’ new maisonettes built on the opposite side of Coronation Street. However when an electrical fire killed his wife Valerie he returned to the family home.

“It seems fitting that Ken makes this decision in the 10,000th episode but it will be strange not filming in number 1 after all this time.” – William Roache

The 10,000th episode ended with various shots from the opening and closing titles from across Corrie’s 59 years.

First wife, Valerie Barlow died in 1971 from electrocution.

Young, angry man, the early days of Kenneth. Here in his very first scene for the Granada Television saga.

For decades Ken has had a terrible private life but has always been a reliable friend and a supporter of the local community.

Family and friends, that is Coronation Street. Past, present and future.

William is already recording scenes at Ken’s new home with Claudia (Rula Lenska).

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