Truly sad news to bring you this evening as it has just been announced that Coronation Street actress Anne Kirkbride passed away today at age 60.

Fans of the soap will know that she played the iconic character of Deirdre Barlow since the early 1970s, and even those that may have never watched Corrie will undoubtedly know her face so well.

All that's been said so far is that she died following a short illness. ITV confirmed the news in a statement this evening, saying: 'It is with great sadness that David Beckett has confirmed tonight that his beloved wife and Coronation Street actress Anne Kirkbride has passed away peacefully in a Manchester hospital after a short illness.

'David and the programme's cast and crew are heartbroken and deeply saddened at the loss of Anne who has been a Coronation Street icon for 44 years.'

The actress had left the soap before Christmas for a break and while there were rumours as recently as the last few days that she would retire, it was planned she would return in the spring.

William Roache, who played Kirkbride's onscreen husband Ken Barlow, said: "I feel Anne’s loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years. She was such a loving and vibrant person. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away. She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama.

"We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her. Coronation Street has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed," he added.

Watch: Corrie have released a clip of Deirdre Barlow's first ever appearance on the cobbles

Twitter tributes pour in for Corrie's beloved Anne Kirkbride after her passing