Actor Stephen Hancock dies

Stephen Hancock, 1972 Coronation Street

Soap star Stephen Hancock, who appeared in serials Emergency Ward 10, Crossroads and Coronation Street has died aged 89.

While best known as Ernest Bishop in Granada Television’s Coronation Street Hancock first came to serial fame back in the 1950s in ATV’s medical soap Emergency Ward 10 as Dr John Faulkner, a role he played for almost three years. In the same year he departed the Oxbridge Hospital he made his first guest-appearance in Corrie as an un-named Babyland store assistant. He returned a year later in 1962 as Mr Spinks; election agent for businessman Leonard Swindley played by the late Arthur Lowe.

In 1966 he switched Manchester for the Midlands arriving at Birmingham based Crossroads as motel guest Warren Haycroft. However it was 1967 that he first appeared as the character Coronation Street viewers would see regularly during the 1970s. Billed originally as Gordon Bishop (his photography professional business name) Ernie became a regular in 1969 when Emily Nugent, played by Eileen Derbyshire, began working in his shop. They married in 1972 and Hancock remained a key cast member until 1978, when he decided to take a stand over pay.

Such noble intentions rarely fare well in the world of soap opera. Richard Thorp took the Crossroads bosses to task over the low pay in 1976, his sailor character of Doug Randell was shipped abroad never to be seen again. When Stephen Hancock made issue with the pay at Coronation Street he wasn’t given such a happy ending for his character, with Ernie – now working for the clothing factory on Coronation Street following the failure of his photography business – shot dead in a robbery.

“We are saddened to hear of Stephen’s death and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. In Ernest Bishop, Stephen created a character that will always be remembered by Coronation Street fans. Ernest’s dramatic exit from the soap is still one of the most memorable moments in the show’s history.” – ITV Granada spokesperson

Other roles included a long running part in BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers from 1996 to 2000, ATV sitcom Sounding Brass in 1980, guest roles in Victoria Wood’s 1986 BBC comedy sketch series As Seen on TV, period Granada crime drama Agatha Christie: Poirot in 1990 and most recently back in 2008 a guest-role in Yorkshire Television’s 1960s-set drama Heartbeat.

Stephen Hancock was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, in 1929. His father had a music background, a route Stephen followed. Early stage work included for Theatre Royal in Richmond, later joining repertory theatre working notably in London’s West End. He also formed a long performance association with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Professionally he semi-retired in 2004, however continued to act and arrange music for local amateur groups. His late brother Christopher Hancock (1928-2004) was also a well known actor, no doubt best remembered for his role as Charlie Cotton in BBC saga EastEnders.

Philip Stephen Hancock, 1925 – 2015

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