Emmerdale fans will fondly remember ITV Dales busybody Betty Eagleton for her close relationships with Seth Armstrong and Alan Turner.
Actress Paula Tilbrook starred in Emmerdale from 1994 until 2015, after which her character decided to emigrate to Australia along with Sandy, whose death was announced on the show in 2020.
Though Betty lives on in Soapland, actress Paula sadly died in December 2019, at the age of 89.
To commemorate the actress’ long reign in the soap, Daily Star takes a look at her life away from the limelight, including her husband’s battle with dementia and Paula’s Coronation Street stint.
Husband’s health battle
Paula married her husband Leslie Hall in 1952, and the pair went on to welcome a son, Greg, and daughter, Gaynor, together.
They lived in Altrincham, close to Manchester, for most of their married life, though Leslie sadly died in 1985 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s.
He was just 59 years old.
Speaking to Women’s Own in the 1990s, Paula explained: “He was the love of my life. We adored each other.
“His illness was harrowing and at times I wanted to shake him. He’d get up at two in the morning and start to dress for work. Or he’d go out at midnight with nothing on.”
She added: “Logically you know what's going on but your heart is saying: 'How can you forget all those years of love?' It's like a rejection.”
Les’ battle with early onset dementia reflects that of Betty’s close pal in the village, vicar Ashley Thomas, who died after battling the condition in the soap.
Row with neighbours
They say life imitates art, and that was certainly true in Paula’s case, as she was forced to summon some of Betty’s inner strength to settle a row with her neighbours.
In 2008, she won a four-year legal battle with a neighbour who complained about her garden fence.
Her neighbour Samuel Reid asked the then-77-year-old to remove a 33ft trellis that lay between their homes – and when she refused, he brought in workmen to do the job regardless.
Paula sued her neighbour for trespass and was awarded £2,850 in damages, though Mr Reid then appealed the ruling and lost.
He commented at the time: “I feel sorry for her at the end of the day. I think she’s playing her own character.
“I think she was a bit miffed that I don’t watch her show. I tried to make an offer, but she wanted to take me to court.
“It’s cost me money and it’s cost them money. It’s been a complete waste of time.”
Coronation Street stint
It might surprise even the keenest Emmerdale fan to learn that Betty wasn’t the only soap role Paula held – as she also appeared several times in Coronation Street.
Her first appearance came in 1967, when she played a customer in the Kabin – a role she also took on in 1973.
But she later went on to play named characters, beginning with Annie Walker’s pal Estelle Plimpton in 1977, before taking on the role of pub landlady Olive Taylor-Brown in 1980.
Finally, Paula took on the role of Vivian Barford between 1991 and 1993. Vivian was a pal of Alf Roberts and a member of WARTS; that is, the Weatherfield Association of Retail Traders and Stockholders.
Along with a few cringe encounters regarding Audrey and Alf, Vivian convinced Audrey they were having an affair and was even knocked off a chair by Percy Sugden.
Paula also voiced an unseen character called Clara Regan, the lady friend of Stan Ogden – who never appeared on-screen but was frequently mentioned on the cobbles.
Across her lengthy TV career, Paula also starred in everything from Brookside to The Lenny Henry Show, along with roles in Open All Hours and Last of the Summer Wine.
Though Paula sadly died in December 2019, her death wasn’t officially announced until July 2020, when her family released a statement confirming her passing.
The statement at the time read: “The family of Paula Tilbrook are sad to confirm the peaceful passing of their beloved Paula.
"She died of natural causes a few months ago at home with her loved ones beside her.
"The family respectfully requests privacy at this difficult time."
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Emmerdale producers praised Paula at the time as “a great talent and a wonderful friend”.
And fans were loving the touching tribute to Betty in the show that July, as Bob and Lydia gathered for a charity event – with Bob comparing his cake to Betty’s.
He said at the time: “I've got the internet, a good spatula. The lightest touch with a sponge since Betty Eagleton!”
Emmerdale airs weekdays on ITV at 7.30pm
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