William finds out who he thinks he is

9th December, Ken barlow (corrie) william roach Opening advent fair at michael house school, the field shipley

9th December, Ken barlow (corrie) william roach Opening advent fair at michael house school, the field shipley

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One of Ilkeston’s most famous sons – and a national treasure – has told the Advertiser about a TV programme’s look into his family history.

William Roache – familiar to millions as Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow, who he has played for a record-breaking 52 years – is to appear in the current series of Who Do You Think You Are.

Mr Roache, 80, was born at Rutland House in Heanor Road, where the Weleda factory now stands, and spent his childhood in Ilkeston when home from boarding school.

But the producers of the BBC show, he said, decided to focus more on his mother’s side of the family, which took him out of Derbyshire.

“I was hoping they would go down the Ilkeston route,” he said.

“It’s a bit sad that there’s so little mention of it.

“I have wonderful memories of cycling around the canals in the holidays.

“I would have liked to tell that story but they need lots and lots of information to make it happen.”

Instead the programme focusses on his maternal grandmother Zillah Waddicor, an entrepreneur who ran Alton Towers as a stately home between the world wars.

But it does take a look at his mother Hester: “She was a very strong character,” he said.

“She was a JP in Ilkeston and set up an amateur dramatics society – she made something of her life after a very tough childhood from her father.”

Look out for the show due to air in the next eight weeks.

Mr Roache’s father, also called William, was a GP whose surgery was based at the family home.

His grandfather set up a Rudolf Steiner school in the garden, which became Michael House and which has since moved to Shipley.

His parents retired to a bungalow in Trowell.

William said he sometimes returns to Ilkeston ‘for a nostalgic drive’.