Tributes roll in as Emmerdale star Shirley Stelfox dies

Edna Birch
Edna Birch

Former Emmerdale stars James Sutton and Verity Rushworth have led tributes to actress Shirley Stelfox, who has died of cancer.

A statement from Associated International Management said the 74-year-old died peacefully at home on Monday, with her daughter Helena by her side.

She was best known as Edna Birch in ITV's Emmerdale, a role she played for the last 15 years.

Sutton, who played Ryan Lamb in the ITV soap, tweeted: "Very sad news about Shirley Stelfox, she was always so kind to me on @emmerdale. A lovely lady and a terrific actress. #RIP"

Rushworth, who played Donna Windsor, posted: "Thinking of the entire @emmerdale family and the loved ones of the legendary Shirley Stelfox. Taught me so much when growing up. Xxx"

Tom Lister, who portrayed villain Carl King, said: "My beautiful dear friend Shirley. How I'll miss you and the laughs that we had together."

Hayley Tamaddon, who previously starred as Delilah "Del" Dingle on the show, wrote: "Thinking of everyone @emmerdale today. Such sad news about the wonderful Shirley. I loved that lady. She taught me so much. X"

Stelfox, who trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), went on to star in numerous well-known TV shows. She was the first Rose in Keeping Up Appearances and also starred in The Bill, Coronation Street and Crossroads.

Her film credits included a role opposite John Hurt in the movie adaptation of George Orwell's novel 1984. She also starred alongside Julie Walters in Personal Services.

ITV executive producer John Whiston said: "The family here at Emmerdale are deeply saddened by Shirley's passing, it is hard to imagine Emmerdale without her.

"We offer our condolences to Shirley's family and share our feeling of loss with the millions of viewers who will miss Edna enormously."

TV and film aside, she also had a successful career in the theatre, with her stage work including Not Now, Darling, Toad Of Toad Hall and Cavalcade at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

She was married to actor Don Henderson from 1979 until he died in 1997.