5 Best Loved British Soap Actresses Over the Years

There is no denying how popular British Soap Operas are, with them being one of the most viewed spectacles in the world. Often attracting a high number of viewers and gaining an intense fan base.

In this article we look at some of the best loved soap actors from over the years and where they are now.


Angie Watts – Eastenders

Ever since Angie Watts walked off the Square in 1988, Anita Dobson who played the character has starred in a number of different TV and theatre roles. She has been seen in the likes of Red Dwarf, Rab C Nesbitt and even in her very own sitcom, Split End, however, after lasting just one series it’s safe to say that it didn’t go as planned.

She has also played small roles in Casualty, Dangerfield and Sunburn. More recently, Dobson featured alongside Darren Day in the musical Hello, Dolly!


Mandy Dingle – Emmerdale 

Next up is Emmerdale and there is no doubt about the popularity of Mandy Dingle played by Lisa Riley from 1995 to 2001. Since Riley’s departure she has been spotted in a variety of dramatic roles, appearing in programmes such Fat Friends, The Bill, Holby City and Doctors as well as a series of pantomimes.

Her biggest role since leaving the historic British soap was presenting You’ve Been Framed from 1998 to 2002, but her most popular appearance was also her most peculiar where she featured in Boyzone’s video for their hit When The Going Gets Tough. In more recent times she had long period with the BBC series, Waterloo Road and the nation fell in love with Riley once more when she appeared on Strictly Come Dancing.


Peggy Mitchell – Eastenders 

The iconic British actress Barbara Windsor (of Carry On films fame) first appeared on EastEnders as Peggy Mitchell in 1991 but played her more consistently from 1994 – 2010. After a fire at the infamous Queen Victoria pub in 2010, Peggy Mitchell supposedly left the Square for good, or so we thought. She would return in September 2013 for a one-off appearance on the show.

Windsor has also fronted a TV campaign for an online bingo site as the Queen of Bingo and appeared in the pantomime Dick Whittington over the Christmas/New Year period of 2010/2011.  These days she remains very much involved in being the face of a popular gaming site, encouraging the nation to play bingo games.

“Get outta my pub!” – Peggy Mitchell


Mavis Wilton – Coronation Street 

After a spell that lasted from 1971 to 1997, Mavis Wilton was one of the longest serving cast members in the history of the show. Thelma Barlow who portrayed the character has starred in a number of roles since leaving the soap. However, her most recent achievement was being awarded on honorary Doctor of Letters degree in a ceremony in Middlesbrough from the University of Teesside.

Thelma has had various parts since the Street and has starred in Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies and has had cameo roles in Doctors, The Royal and Where The Heart Is in addition to a part on Doctor Who. She also debuted on the big screen in Mrs Henderson Presents.


Dot Cotton – EastEnders

One of the last surviving matriarchs of Albert Square, the character of Dot Cotton has been played by June Brown since the first year of EastEnders (1985.) Dot has long been a fan favourite – a chain smoking, gossipy Christian not afraid to wield words of wisdom from the Good Book at the drop of a hat.

Likewise, June Brown is so well regarded for her acting skills that in 2008 her EastEnders character became the first soap character in British television history to have an entire episode dedicated to them.  In that 28-minute  episode, Dot is seen recording a very personal message for Jim Branning, her husband who had been admitted to hospital after suffering a stroke.

An award winning actress, June Brown’s sixty year career has also included appearances in episodes of Doctor Who, Coronation Street and The Bill as well as several theatrical productions.


Although some of these characters may no longer be in the soaps we love to watch, it’s great to see how much of an influence their roles in Eastenders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale have had on their careers as well as the enjoyment they have brought to British soap fans all over the world.

This post is by Paddypower Bingo.


  1. F on a says

    totally disagree, Hilda, Vera and Rita aren’t on the list and were they emmerdale ladies?

  2. Expat Mum says

    Well, if we’re going to name all the Corrie icons, a blog post wouldn’t do it justice, but you’d also have to include Annie Walker, the original landlady of the Rovers and the streets’s first bombshell Elsie Tanner. (How’s that for ageing myself?)

  3. says

    I agree that Rita Sullivan (or Tanner, or whatever last name you want to use) should be on this. I do have a soft spot for Dot Cotton though, with her cigarette in hand. I always loved when Nick would return to Albert Square, you just never knew what he was going to put Dot through. Her tough love/detox storyline was priceless. And how can we forget Pat Wicks/Butcher/Evans or Pauline Fowler.

  4. Brenda Bradford says

    When BBC America quit showing Eastenders I was very disappointed. I had so enjoyed those characters and the storyline. Barbara Windsor and June Brown were especially memorable.