The “Coronation Street” actress Anne Kirkbride, who played the character of Deirdre Barlow in the long-running television show, has died following a brief illness. She was 60.

ITV said the actress, who was in the show for over 40 years, passed away peacefully in a Manchester hospital, reports 

Her husband David Beckett and the programme’s cast and crew were said to be "heartbroken and deeply saddened".

Her co-star William Roache, who played her husband Ken Barlow for many years, said she would be "greatly missed".

Roache said: "I feel Anne’s loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years. She was such a loving and vibrant person. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away.

"She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama. We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her.

"’Coronation Street’ has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed."

The popularity of her character was demonstrated when a real-life campaign was launched to free Deirdre when a storyline saw the character jailed in 1998 after being duped into a mortgage fraud by fiance Jon Lindsay. 

Kirkbride started in "Coronation Street" in 1972 as Deirdre Hunt and over the years became known for her character’s large glasses and husky voice.