Emmerdale star Paula Tilbrook dies aged 89

The TV, radio and theatre personality, is best known for her 21-year stint in ITV soap Emmerdale as Betty Eagleton. Credit: ITV

It has been announced that Emmerdale star Paula Tilbrook has passed away aged 89.

The soap star was best known for playing Betty Eagleton in the show for 21 years, from 1994 to 2015.

Paula passed away peacefully from natural causes surrounded by her relatives in December 2019 but her family only released the news on Wednesday (15 July).

Her family have issued the following statement:

The Salford actor was born in 1930 and began her career in comedy in Jack Rosenthal’s 1969 television sitcom The Dustbinmen.

Tilbrook also appeared in a number of Ken Dodd productions, before being cast in 11 episodes of another ITV favourite, Coronation Street, in 1973.

Credit: ITV

In addition to her TV work, Tilbrook was well-known for her stage and radio performances, appearing regularly at the Bolton Octagon and Oldham Coliseum.

Her long and successful career peaked in 1994 when she earned her most famous role, as the iconic Eagleton in Emmerdale.

Credit: ITV

Paula Tilbrook announced she would be retiring and her final scenes as Betty were aired on 25 May. Paula's character Betty left the soap as she planned to move away to Australia.

As well as starring in Emmerdale, the actress also appeared in Last of the Summer Wine, Open All Hours and Andy Capp.

She briefly reprised her role in Emmerdale on Christmas Day 2015, when 'Betty' appeared via Skype to speak with her former neighbours in the Yorkshire village.


Britain's Queen Elizabeth II chats to Paula Tilbrook during a visit to the set of the Yorkshire Soap opera in 2002. Credit: PA Images

Her death has come to light after her obituary was published on The Stage on Wednesday (15 July).

"Paula Tilbrook will be best remembered for her 21-year stint in ITV soap staple Emmerdale as the sherry-loving village gossip Betty Eagleton.

"Joining the show as the ex-Tiller Girl returned home in 1994, she effortlessly established Betty as an iconic, straight-talking northerner who quickly moved to the centre of many of the soap’s most popular storylines. When she retired in 2015, Inside Soap magazine remarked of her final episode: “Funny, feisty and smart as a whip. They don’t make ’em like actress Paula Tilbrook any more!”

Credit: ITV

"Tilbrook’s television debut had come a quarter of a century before in 1969 in Jack Rosenthal’s sitcom The Dustbinmenand variety show Ken Dodd and the Diddymen, and she later became a regular on Dodd’s BBC Radio 2 programmes.

Credit: ITV

"She made the first of 11 appearances in Coronation Street in 1973 and in the same decade was seen in Mike Leigh’s Hard Labour, as part of the BBC’s Play for Today series, Carla Lane’s The Liver Birds and Tales of the Unexpected.

"As well as notable contributions to Brian Glover’s Summer Season (1976) and Thicker than Water (1980), she was seen alongside Ian McKellen in the TV film Walter (1982), had spells in Last of the Summer Wine and Brookside, and played long-suffering housewife Flo to James Bolam’s titular Andy Capp (1988)."