Ida’s ideal home

– and that’s where she is this week

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 9 July 1961

IN the shadow of a 16th century thatched cottage a slim, attractive woman in slacks and sweater was spending part of her holiday weeding a bed of Spanish iris. She looked up as I approached. “Delighted to see you,” she said in a voice cultivated by years at Roedean School.

It was to this cottage on the Essex-Cambridgeshire border that I was invited to meet 43-year-old Noël Dyson of the Coronation Street cast. She is probably better known to viewers as Ida Barlow.

A woman leans through a window
Noël Dyson has roses round her window

“It’s all rather different from the industrial North West.” she said. “But I need to spend a few days away from Manchester now and again I’m sure it helps me to be a better actress.”

Manchester-born Noël is the daughter of a cotton broker. After Roedean she went to a finishing school in France, then trained for the stage in weekly repertory.

“I used to think repertory was really hard work.” she said. “But that was before Coronation Street came along.

“Working on television serials is probably the hardest job there is in show business.

Fortunately, in Coronation Street we have a great team — executives, technicians and actors. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”

A woman prunes a rose bush
…and lost more in the garden

Forty-six-year-old Frank Pemberton, who plays Frank Barlow, Ida’s husband in the show, was also taking a breather — invited down to spend the day at the cottage at Duddenhoe End, near Saffron Walden, Essex.

The sun beat down on Ida’s magnificent garden. Coronation Street was a million miles away. Frank and I stretched out in deck chairs. We were amid a profusion of flowers which would not have disgraced Kew Gardens.

Lupins, violas, peonies, oriental poppies and thousands of roses. That’s Noël’s garden. She’s got the lot.

A woman serves a man tea
Tea for Frank Pemberton, who plays Frank Barlow

Before Frank had time to tell us a tale — he’s an ex Navy type — Noël called us indoors for tea.

“’Ave a cuppa, luv.” she said. The Roedean accent had developed more than a tang of Coronation Street. She poured the tea and asked: “What do you think of it, all this like?

“Not bad, is it? Not considering it cost us only £900. That includes nearly an acre of land. ’Course, the roof needed re-thatching, but a local lad did that. He liked the look of us, thought we would take care of the old place, and charged us rock bottom.

“Then there was the garden. It was a jungle of nettles when we took it over, but you wouldn’t think so now, would you, luv?

“My husband (Noël meant her real-life husband, actor Kenneth Edwards) is a keen gardener, and so am I. We did it all ourselves. It nearly broke our backs, but it was worth it.”

I asked if the Duddenhoe End villagers knew she had become a national character on ITV.

“I don’t think the people down here realise it’s me.” she said. “In the North, of course, it’s another story.

“I dare not go into a big departmental store in Manchester — unless I’ve got the time to answer hundreds of questions. Everybody in the North seems to know me.

“In a Market-street store in Manchester a few weeks ago, a nice little woman came up and asked me, ‘You Ida Barlow?’

“I nodded. ‘Ow’s your mother, luv?’ she asked.

“‘She’s fine,’ I said. ‘Why?’ Then it dawned. The woman meant my TV mother, who had been reported ill in a recent episode.

“I recovered quickly — hiding the shock that something might be wrong with real mother — and said: ‘Oh, she’s much better, thank you, luv.'”

A woman and three small dogs
Her poodles – Lucy, Emily and Polly

Noël finished her tea and showed us round the low-beamed cottage. We were pounced upon by three madly frisky toy poodles — Lucy, six, Emily, three, and tiny Polly, nine months.

“Meet the rest of the family,” said Noël. “You know, there are few women with a family like mine. Between Coronation Street and real life I have two husbands, two mothers, two sons, a stepdaughter and three dogs. Then there are Jean Marlow, Frank Pemberton’s real wife, and their two-year-old daughter, Penny. They’ve almost become part of my own family. I’m lucky. Yes, really lucky, luv.”

Jean, who is a disc jockey with a Continental radio programme, smiled. They were like sisters.

As I drove away from Rose Cottage I felt that although the setting was in complete contrast to the late-Victorian starkness of Coronation Street the people were the same. Real, warm, homely people.

A woman and a man outside a thatched cottage
Noël walks in the garden with real-life husband, actor Kenneth Edwards

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