Emmerdale actress Sheila Mercier has died at the grand age of 100...
ITV has confirmed in a statement released on Friday (13th December) that Emmerdale legend Sheila Mercier has sadly passed away.
Sheila was renowned for playing the legendary character Annie Sugden and appeared in the first ever episode - back when the soap was named Emmerdale Farm.
The character of Annie appeared as the head of the Sugden family from when the soap was first aired back in 1972 and remained so for the following two decades.
Sheila then appeared regularly as the matriarch of the Sugden family until 1994, after which she continued to make guest appearances over the years.
In 1995 Annie Sugden returned to the village to bury her son Joe Sugden, played bu Frazer Hines.
Actress Sheila then made her final appearance on the soap as Annie when she came back for the funeral of Jack Sugden, played by Clive Hornby.
Cast and fans have been paying tribute to the soap legend, with actress Claire King, who plays the Dales' Kim Tate, calling Sheila the 'beating heart' of Emmerdale.
Mark Charnock, who is better known to soap fans as pub chef Marlon Dingle called Annie Sugden an 'iconic character' while also remembering how he used to watch Sheila in the soap with his grandparents as a young child.
Dominic Brunt, who plays village vet Paddy Kirk, also paid tribute to Sheila in a social media post after hearing of her passing.
He told fans that Sheila was the 'centre of Emmerdale' and that the current cast and fans of the soap today 'owe her a debt of gratitude'.
Soap fans were also quick to share their sadness at the news Sheila had died, with one viewer calling the actress the 'Queen of Emmerdale'...
Emmerdale wasn't Sheila's only claim to fame. Before her television career took off the actress had a length career on stage, touring with a Shakespeare company in 1939.
Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV, with an extra episode at 8pm on Thursdays.
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