Emmerdale actress Shirley Stelfox has died after a short battle with cancer. The 74-year-old, who is best known for playing Edna Birch in the ITV soap, passed away peacefully on Monday at home, with her daughter Helena by her side.
"The family here at Emmerdale are deeply saddened by Shirley's passing," ITV's executive producer John Whiston said in a statement. "It is hard to imagine Emmerdale without her.
Shirley Stelfox - Emmerdale's Edna Birch - has passed away at the age of 74
"We offer our condolences to Shirley's family and share our feeling of loss with the millions of viewers who will miss Edna enormously."
Shirley played Edna for 15 years, making her first appearance in Emmerdale in May 2000.
She made her screen debut aged just 12 in the David Lean film Hobson's Choice, went on to play leading roles in Common As Muck, Civvies, Pat and Margaret, and was the first person to play Rose in Keeping Up Appearances.
The RADA-trained actress appeared in soaps Coronation Street, EastEnders and Brookside, and also starred opposite John Hurt in the film 1984. Her stage work included Not Now Darling at The Strand and Toad of Toad Hall at The Duke of York's.
Thinking of the entire @emmerdale family and the loved ones of the legendary Shirley Stelfox. Taught me so much when growing up. Xxx ❤️RIP❤️
— Verity Rushworth (@VerityRushworth) December 8, 2015
Verity Rushworth was among the first to pay tribute to the actress
Shirley was married to actor Don Henderson – the love of her life – from 1979 until he passed away in 1997.
Following the news of her death, she was remembered by colleagues and fans alike.
Verity Rushworth, who played Donna Windsor in Emmerdale until last year, was among the first to offer her condolences. "Thinking of the entire @emmerdale family and the loved ones of the legendary Shirley Stelfox. Taught me so much when growing up. xxx RIP."
Viewers also took to Twitter. "RIP Shirley Stelfox," wrote one. "You were a joy to watch on screen as Edna, a character who will be missed. Thoughts with her family & friends."