Emmerdale actress Sheila Mercier has died aged 100, ITV has confirmed.
The Hull-born star played Annie Sugden in the soap from its first episode in 1972 until 1994 and continued to make guest appearances up until 2009.
The British Soap Awards remembered Mercier – who was the sister of actor Brian Rix – as the “very definition of a matriarch”.
Claire King, who plays Kim Tate in Emmerdale, has described Mercier as the soap’s “beating heart”.
A spokeswoman for ITV confirmed Mercier’s death in a statement on Friday night.
She said: “It’s always sad to hear of the death of an actor who played a significant part in Emmerdale’s success.
“Even more so when that actor was in the very first episode and around whose family the show was built.”
Emmerdale actor, Mark Charnock, also paid tribute to Mercier.
Charnock, who plays Marlon Dingle, said: “The great Sheila Mercier has left us. What an iconic character Annie Sugden was.
“Used to watch it with my grandparents as a boy, so to meet her in later years was a thrill.”