Former Emmerdale star Sheila Mercier has died at the age of 100.
The actor was best known for playing Annie Sudgen in the ITV soap from 1972 to 1994.
Emmerdale bosses confirmed news of her death in a statement on Friday evening.
“It’s always sad to hear of the death of an actor who played a significant part in Emmerdale’s success,” a spokesperson said.
“Even more so when that actor was in the very first episode and around whose family the show was built.
“Annie Sugden embodied all the virtues of Yorkshire …. she was hard working, resilient, determined, down to earth and didn’t suffer fools gladly.
“Sheila had many of those qualities too, putting the needs of the programme above her own and always delivering a great performance come rain or shine. She will be greatly missed.”
Sheila was one of the original stars of the then-titled Emmerdale Farm, and appeared in the very first episode in 1972.
After she left the soap in 1994, she continued to make guest appearances as the Yorkshire matriarch, most recently in 2009 when she attended the funeral of son Jack, after actor Clive Hornby’s real-life death.
Annie is still mentioned on screen, with granddaughter Victoria even going to visit her in Spain during episodes aired last month.
Many of the show’s stars have paid tribute on Sheila online following the news of her death.
Claire King, who plays Kim Tate, called the the “beating heart” of the soap.
She tweeted: “RIP Sheila Mercier, the beating heart of Emmerdale, never forgotten, so many wonderful memories, love and condolences to all her family.”
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