An intelligent pupil, Ken attends grammar school after passing his eleven plus exam and in wins a scholarship at Manchester University ; he lives with his parents and brother David Alan Rothwell in Weatherfield while studying and gains a second class honours degree in History and English.
Being educated and politically minded, Ken differs from his family and neighbours. This is a source of friction between Ken and his father Frank, who believes Ken is trying to distance himself from his working-class roots. When Ken writes a scathing newspaper article about his uneducated neighbours in Weatherfield, Frank and the community are outraged. In , Ken's mother dies in a motor accident. Ken turns down a teaching post to support his father, but he and Frank continue to clash until Frank leaves in David and Frank's deaths in and respectively, leave Ken as the sole surviving Barlow.
Two years later, he has a fling with exotic dancer Pip Mistral Elaine Stevens , but his marriage survives. Valerie leaves when she finds out, but is later persuaded to return. Ken continues to stand up for his political beliefs, and spends seven days in prison in March , after being arrested for protesting. Ken is left a single-parent following Valerie's untimely death; she perishes after being electrocuted in January , and Ken is left heartbroken.
Ken is supported by Valerie's uncle Albert Tatlock Jack Howarth , with whom he shares a close relationship, but caring for the twins proves too difficult and they are sent to live with their grandparents in Glasgow.
Ken has numerous flings, including a one-night stand with Rita Littlewood Barbara Knox , but his next serious relationship occurs in , when Ken marries Janet Reid Judith Barker , in the hope that she will mother his two children. Janet refuses to do this, and in they separate.
Janet flits in and out of Ken's life until , when she kills herself by taking an overdose when Ken turns down a reconciliation. In they marry, with Ken becoming stepfather to Deirdre's four-year-old daughter Tracy Christabel Finch. Ken and Deirdre's marriage suffers; the couple separate in , and eventually divorce following Ken's affair with Wendy Crozier Roberta Kerr , his colleague at the local newspaper, The Weatherfield Recorder. Ken takes the separation badly and attempts suicide by overdose, but is prevented from doing so by his friend, Bet Lynch Julie Goodyear.
Ken and Mike, who are the moral opposites of each other, remain enemies; Ken is incensed when his daughter, Susan, falls in love and has a short-lived marriage with Mike. Mike hates the thought of Ken spending Christmas Day with his son, but Ken's pride gets the better of him. He cannot handle the situation, and he and Maggie split.
Ken has a relationship with hairdresser Denise Osbourne Denise Black in and fathers her child; their son Daniel Lewis Harney is born in Denise agrees to marry Ken, but is having an affair with her brother-in-law Brian Dunkley Benny Young at the same time. She leaves Weatherfield in , leaving Daniel with Ken. It is a short-lived custody as, later that year, Denise returns and snatches Daniel; Ken's attempts to reclaim his son fail.
Ken and Deirdre remain close, despite their other relationships. They reunite in , following encouragement from Deidre's mother Blanche Maggie Jones. They eventually remarry on 8 April ; although Ken discovers that Deirdre slept with Dev Alahan Jimmi Harkishin in , he forgives her and they remain together.
Deirdre supports Ken in when he loses his teaching post for assaulting a pupil, Aidan Critchley Dean Ashton , who has been terrorising him. Marital problems arise in when, following Mike's death from Alzheimer's , Ken grows jealous of Deirdre's grief reaction; he leaves home and tries to rebuild a relationship with his estranged son Daniel.
Daniel's mother Denise, now single, gets the wrong idea and attempts to rekindle a romance with Ken; Ken rebuffs her advances and returns to Deirdre. Ken does stray in , after meeting Martha Fraser Stephanie Beacham. Ken falls in love with Martha, and in May , plans to leave with her. He cannot go through with it, and he jilts her, returning to Deirdre.
Eventually he admits to the infidelity. Although Deirdre is angry, she forgives him as he had forgiven her fling with Dev; however, Deirdre later cheats on Ken again, kissing Lewis Archer Nigel Havers. Relations are once again strained between Ken and Deirdre. The couple acknowledge their mutual unhappiness with their marriage, but remain together. In late August Norris Cole Malcolm Hebden discovers an unopened letter addressed to Ken, dating back to the s.
Susan has a son named Lawrence Linus Roache , who turns out to be Ken's child. Ken and Lawrence bond, which temporarily threatens Ken's relationship with his other son Peter. When Ken discovers that Lawrence is intolerant of the homosexuality of his own son, James James Roache , Ken severs contact. Realising that he has been unappreciative and neglectful of Peter over the years, he makes an effort to bond, supporting him through his relationship and health problems that follow.
In December , Peter is caught up in the Joinery Bar gas leak explosion, which then resulted in an unforgettable tram crash, as the explosion severed the tramline above. Ken was fearful that his son was going to die and this was almost the case when Peter went into cardiac arrest, after marrying Leanne on his hospital bed; Peter survived.
Ken supported Peter and Leanne as the former struggled to regain a sense of reality, because the explosion left him paralysed, potentially for life. When Ken discovers this, James packs his things and takes off. Ken tried to make him stay but James pushed him out of the way, knocking him unconscious.
Ken was not seriously hurt though. Ken doesn't know where his loyalties lie when Peter is found to be having an affair with Carla Connor Alison King , and he is estranged from son, Simon. Ken is then shocked to discover that Peter has been indicted for the murder of Frank Foster Andrew Lancel , who had been found not guilty of raping Carla. He tries to help but is pushed away. Eventually it is found that Frank's mother Anne was the real culprit. She is given a custodial sentence, whilst Peter is free to go.
In mid, Ken leaves the street temporarily to look after his grandson Adam in Canada. He returns in August to find his family in chaos. Peter has been imprisoned for the murder of his secret lover Tina McIntyre Michelle Keegan and Tracy is engaged to Carla's despicable brother Rob Marc Baylis , Carla had been pregnant with Peter's baby but had a miscarriage after they separated and Deirdre has fallen apart at the prospect of dealing with all this on her own.
Ken is infuriated that Deirdre did not tell him sooner about all this and sets out to clear Peter's name, only to find that the majority of residents on the street, including Simon, believes that Peter did kill Tina. Ken is not sure who to believe anymore.
He later discovers that Peter has sacked his lawyer and it becomes even more likely that he will be found guilty of the murder. Deirdre goes to stay with her friend in October , when it becomes clear the stress of the trial is destroying her.
Peter is found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. However, the verdict is quickly reversed, when it is discovered that it was actually Rob who murdered Tina. Peter is released from prison but makes the decision to leave the street, as he has hardly anything keeping him around, which hurts Simon. Ken tries to make Peter change his mind but he is adamant on leaving, so Ken respects his wishes and sees him off At this point, Deirdre should have come home but called back to say she was staying with Bev a while longer, as one of her relatives had just died.
In July , Deirdre dies and Ken is absolutely devastated by this news. Liz announces Deirdre's passing in the Rovers Return. Deirdre's funeral is held the week after. It is revealed that Deirdre would have been home earlier.
However, news of Tracy and Tony's fling reached her and she was ashamed to come home and face Liz. As a result, Ken feels animosity toward Tracy for seemingly stealing Deirdre's last two months from him, when she could have been home when she died. Ken and Nessa begin dating much to the disapproval of Emily and Rita. Tracy is deeply upset and accuses Ken of betraying Deirdre.
In early , Ken dumps Nessa after finding out Nessa had an affair with her sister Cathy's late husband. In October Ken is shocked to see his son Peter. He accuses Peter of drinking. After their argument, Ken suffers a stroke and he is hospitalised. In early , Ken's son Daniel is offered a place at Oxford University. He decides not to go choosing to support his new girlfriend Sinead, who fell pregnant.
Ken later turns on Sinead saying she has "trapped Daniel" and blames her for his son not going to university, something that he wishes he had done in He realized that he had wasted his time being with Deirdre, and wishes that he had not married her, but truly loved her more than his other wives, despite her affair with men like Adam's father Mike in He mentions to Audrey that he has chosen his adoptive daughter Tracy as his favourite, for her mother's true love, over his other children, despite her actions, and wanted to leave her in his will everything.
After pushing his family away from him and making Sinead have a secret abortion Ken is pushed down the stairs and left for dead by an unknown assailant. He recovers from his injuries in hospital. Creation and development[ edit ] Casting[ edit ] Frank left and Ken right , in the Barlows' first scene. The juxtaposition of Frank eating in his shirtsleeves, meal smothered in brown sauce, and Ken in a tie, disdainful of the condiment, was used to establish Ken's characterisation as a snob, in conflict with his parents over his rejection of his working-class roots.
He made his debut in the soap's first episode, broadcast on 9 December While auditionees for the other twenty-one original roles were drawn from casting director Margaret Morris' contacts in the north of England, Warren spotted William Roache performing in the Granada Television play Marking Time, and knew that he was the right actor to play Ken. I had my flat in London, I was getting acting parts and it all looked very rosy. Roache believes that his indifference towards being cast had a positive impact on his audition, as it enabled him to relax.
Two pilot episodes were filmed, with Ken played by Roache in one, and by actor Philip Lowrie in the other. Roache was given a six-month contract in early , followed by a one-year contract in June of that year, which he deemed amazing security at a time when he had been "leading a hand-to-mouth existence".
The soap was originally titled Florizel Street when it was commissioned. Roache reportedly could not pronounce Florizel, so the name of the street was changed to Coronation Street. Aspinall culled a variety of characters from the serial, including fan favourite Martha Longhurst Lynne Carol , and Ken was one of the characters he wished to axe: He decided who he wanted out, while others including myself were put on warning that we were likely to be given the chop at a later date.
It was appalling," recalls Roache. He ultimately decided to stay—a decision he is happy with in retrospect, as his qualms were never with the series itself, but the way he felt personally. It isn't an option and I don't want to even consider it [