AN EAST Lancashire born actress who was at the heart of cutting edge TV dramas has died.

Anna Cropper, who was born in Brierfield, died aged 68, in Tangmere, West Sussex, where she was living.

The daughter of dentist Jack and keen actress and director in amateur dramatics, Margaret, Anna grew up in Todmorden Road, Burnley.

She married soapland's longest serving actor, Bill Roache, who plays Ken Barlow in Coronation Street, in 1961, a year after the couple met while working in the theatre in Nottingham.

The couple had two children, a son Linus, and daughter Vanya, born in 1964 and 1967. The family lived in Haslingden before the couple divorced in 1974.

Joe Teasdale, of the Rossendale Players theatre group based at the New Millennium Theatre, Waterfoot, said: "I worked with her mother Margaret and got to know her quite well.

"I saw her on TV and could appreciate what a good character actress she was."

Anna trained as an actress at the Central School of Speech and Drama, in London, before she made her small screen debut as Chrysalis in The Insect Play in 1960, based on Czech playwrights Josef and Karel Capek's 1921 work about oppression.

She had a number of TV roles in the early 1960s including appearances in serial Emergency Ward 10 and appeared in Coronation Street three times in 1962.

Between 1964 and 1976 she was one of Britain's leading TV actresses and took on a number of challenging drama roles.

One of her most notorious roles was as the young schizophrenic Kate Winter in David Mercer's 1967 Two Minds, which prompted a national debate about the mental illness. Mercer won the Writers' Guild Award for the Best Television Play of 1967 for the play.

Later came the eerie Robin Redbreast in written specially for her by John Bowen. In it Anna was cast as a television script editor, ditched by her lover and rebuilding her life in a remote cottage.

In 1975 Anna who starred in the TV production of The Exorcism, took over the lead role of the stage version following the sudden death of actress Mary Ure.

In recent years she had appeared in Heartbeat, Casualty and Poirot before making her final screen appearance in Midsomer Murders in 1999.

She spent an increasing amount of time at her holiday home in Turkey before her death on January 22 .