Ken Barlow is set to leave Coronation Street – but fans need not be too worried as the long-running character is not saying goodbye to the soap.
Just before the credits rolled on Corrie’s 10,000th episode on Friday, millions of shocked viewers watched as Ken – played by William Roache since 1960 – said he was leaving the cobbles.
He is moving away with his girlfriend Claudia Colby – played by Rula Lenska – to a nearby retirement complex.
And fans can relax as Ken will still feature on the soap and Roache, 87, is not leaving the show.
Future episodes will follow his and Claudia’s new life at Still Waters Luxury retirement complex, while back in Weatherfield Tracy and Peter Barlow will battle over who gets to move into 1 Coronation Street.
Roache said it was a “big decision” for Ken, who regretted not taking earlier opportunities to leave the street.
He said: “Filming that final scene of the episode was very poignant, just Ken and Eccles (his pet dog) and the cobbles. He breaks the news to the family next week and they are surprised but very soon Peter and Tracy start squabbling over who will be given first refusal on the house.
“We have already started filming at the retirement complex and I am really enjoying it, it always feels different when we film away from the street.
“It seems fitting that Ken makes this decision in the 10,000th episode but it will be strange not filming in number 1 after all this time.”
Monday night’s episode will feature Ken and Claudia breaking the news of their departure to family and friends, leaving his children to fight for one of Corrie’s most famous homes.
Next month, viewers will see the elderly couple moving into the luxurious retirement development – complete with cocktail bar, book club and even fencing lessons.
And the veteran character will bump into his old friends Norris and Freda, who are already settled in to life at Still Waters.
Roache has played Ken since Corrie’s first episode on December 9, 1960.
The Guinness World Records named him the longest-serving male television star in a continuous role.