Blast from the past: TV battleaxes

Remember when TV shows were dominated by battleaxes like Hilda Ogden? HELEN MCGURK salutes those fearless women who lit up our screens - and made their menfolk’s life a misery.

By Helen McGurk
Friday, 29th April 2022, 4:36 pm
Updated Friday, 29th April 2022, 4:36 pm
Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden with long-suffering husband Stan
Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden with long-suffering husband Stan

Coronation Street has had many formidable female characters over the years, starting with Ena Sharples, the prototype of the TV battleaxe.

A hard-faced moraliser in a hairnet, she ruled the cobbles with bulldog ferocity, enjoyed a milk stout, and had many’s a barney with sharp-tongued tart-with-a-heart Elsie Tanner.

Hilda Ogden was a rottweiler in a pinny. By ‘eck chuck, she was a busybody, a gossip and a nag, hair always in curlers beneath a turban-style headscarf. Workshy husband Stan often bore the brunt of her high-pitched fury or crushing disappointments when she’d have yet another loss on the football pools.

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With her cutting one-liners and withering looks, Blanche Hunt could really make anyone blanch with one swivel of her beady eye. There was one hilarious scene when Liz was hanging her washing over something in the living room and Blanche said: ‘Do you think Ken wants to stare at thongs all day? The man’s an intellectual!’

Lower down the battleaxe scale, but still a feisty targe, was bubble-permed Vera Duckworth, whose downtrodden hubby Jack often sought sanctuary in his pigeon loft.

Corrie’s Cockney cousin EastEnders had its dragons too. Tough nuts Pat Butcher, with her brassy hair and ludicrous earrings, and landlady Peggy Mitchell (Ger outtaa my pub!) certainly took no prisoners.

Nora Batty, the razor-tongued battleaxe in curlers and wrinkled stockings - and unlikeliest sex symbol - tormented the lovelorn Compo in Last Of The Summer Wine. A broom-weilding Nora would send Compo packing with a torrent of abuse and the threat: “Get off me steps!”.

There were other indomitable ladies like Fanny Cradock, famous for her man-squelching tone, whilst hen-pecked Basil Fawlty was kept in check by shrill bossy boots Sybil.

Soap stars today are like milksops compared to this glorious cavalcade of matriarchs. They just don’t make them like Hilda any more.